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Muhammad Wilkerson regrets not having better rehab game plan

New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96)

New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) looks on before a game against the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 5, 2016. Photo Credit: Lee S Weissman / Lee S. Weissman

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Muhammad Wilkerson doesn’t regret pushing himself to be ready for Week 1 of the 2016 season. But he did admit that there “should have been” an actual plan in place for his rehab early this season.

“We didn’t have a game plan going into the season,” Wilkerson said Thursday, when asked if it would have been more beneficial to play less early in the season.

Wilkerson broke his right fibula against the Bills in last year’s season finale but vowed in July to be ready by Week 1. He kept his promise. But he’s looked like a shell of himself in 2016, as he’s dealt with a right ankle injury that’s related to his surgery. He has only 3.5 sacks after registering a career-high 12 in 2015.

“We didn’t really get one until, maybe, halfway into the season,” he said. “So I’m happy that we did find a plan and it’s working and we’re going to continue through the offseason.”

Asked what that plan should have entailed, the defensive end said: “As far as rehabbing and making it feel better and be prepared to play better on game day.

“ . . . There should have been one, but there wasn’t,” he added. “But there’s one in place, so that’s all that matters. It’s in the past, so it’s not like we can go back and change it.”

Wilkerson, who signed a five-year, $86-million deal in July, maintained that he isn’t using the ankle injury as an excuse. But it’s clear that it has greatly limited his production.

“The doctor who did the surgery told me it would take about a year to feel better and get back to being the player that I am, so I’m happy about that,” said Wilkerson, who coincidentally will face the Bills again in Week 17 on Sunday. “Just looking forward to finishing on a good note, keep rehabbing my ankle in the offseason and getting ready for a strong year next year.”

He said it was a “mutual” decision between him and the training staff to figure out a rehab plan for his ankle, “but it was too late. I guess I thought that it was good to go, and maybe I just needed more time, more rehab.”

Wilkerson stressed that he still trusts the team’s medical care, saying: “We’ve got the greatest training staff in the league.”

And he guaranteed that he’ll be a lot healthier in 2017. “I know it’ll definitely feel better next year. But you’ll see my play next year.”

Wilkerson also brushed off the criticism of his mostly ineffective play.

“At the end of the day, people know who I am. People are always going to criticize me regardless,” he said. “I’m really not concerned with that. I know the player I am and the player I’m capable of being, People in this building know who I am and what I can do. It really doesn’t matter what other people say or feel about me. I’m not going to let that get me down or anything, because at the end of the day they didn’t go through what I went through.”

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