FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - With mounting frustration and little leverage, Muhammad Wilkerson finally showed his face at the Jets facility.
After skipping voluntary workouts and organized team activities because of stalled contract talks, Wilkerson returned for the first time Tuesday for Day 1 of mandatory minicamp.
"It felt good to be back in the building and meet the new faces and new coaches and everything," he said.
His absence the past few months was his not-so-subtle way of getting the attention of new general manager Mike Maccagnan. But unlike his employer, Wilkerson has little leverage in his quest for a long-term deal. He's under contract for 2015 and the Jets could put the franchise tag on him in 2016, keeping him under their control. Plus, he ran the risk of facing a daily fine for skipping mandatory minicamp sessions.
Wilkerson, 25, said he "wasn't concerned" about the $30,000-a-day fine. He also said he plans to attend Wednesday's and Thursday's minicamp practices (though he said his toe injury from last season still is bothering him). But Wilkerson made it clear he is not pleased with his current situation.
"I am frustrated, yeah," he said. "I thought that a deal would be made, but at the end of the day, it's a business and these things take time."
A 2011 first-round pick, Wilkerson has been seeking a long-term extension since last season. He's set to earn $6.969 million this season, well below the going rate for top defensive ends.
Shortly after it was reported last week that Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan signed a five-year, $60-million deal that included $33.8 million guaranteed, Wilkerson tweeted: "Yup I see how this works."
On Tuesday, though, Wilkerson said he was "happy" for guys like Jordan, who has 29 sacks in four seasons. "It's good to see that their teams are taking care of them," said Wilkerson, who has 241/2 sacks in four seasons.
Although there's "no timeline" for his new deal, Wilkerson said he's "very confident" he'll get that long-term contract. And if he doesn't?
"If I have to play under my contract, then so be it," he said.
Wilkerson wouldn't say if he'll consider holding out during training camp if he doesn't get what he wants. "I'm not answering that question," he said.
In an emailed statement to Newsday, Wilkerson's agent, Chad Wiestling, said: "Mo is and has always been a team-first player, and is willing to put the team ahead of his own contractual status. Mo loves being a member of the Jets and would prefer to finish his career in New York."
But only time will tell if the Jets feel the same way.
"That's something you need to ask the people upstairs on the business side," Wilkerson said, when asked why he thinks he deserves a long-term deal. "I feel that way. I guess you have to ask them if they feel the same way upstairs."
Despite his absence, he hasn't lost a step on the field.
"It looked like he moved pretty good to me," coach Todd Bowles said. "Muhammad is a pro . . . He understand what his job is, he understands what he has to do. He's ready to go."