FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Devin Smith can laugh now.
The Jets rookie wide receiver's sleep routine is returning to normal, which is one way of measuring the progress he's made after suffering broken ribs July 31.
"The first couple weeks was kind of tough,'' Smith said Sunday, when he spoke to reporters for the first time since he was injured. "I'm just now starting to be able to sleep on a regular bed, so it's getting a lot better.''
The second-round pick out of Ohio State was hurt while making an acrobatic catch on the second day of practice. In a non-contact drill, Smith leaped for a pass and fell backward into safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, slamming his back into Jarrett's knee. Besides broken ribs, Smith suffered a small puncture in a lung.
He said the pain was so bad for the first week and a half that it hurt to laugh, and that he couldn't sleep lying flat in a regular bed. Up until three days ago, he slept in a hospital bed with his upper body elevated. But his punctured lung has healed, and he can laugh now.
Doctors initially told him he'd be out of action four to six weeks, making his status uncertain for the regular-season opener Sept. 13 against Cleveland. Right now, he said he can't do much more than ride a stationary bike.
There's a little pain sometimes when he wakes up, but generally, he's feeling better. Still, there's nothing he can do to speed up his recovery. All he can do is rest and wait for the ribs to heal on their own. In the meantime, he is attending meetings and watching practices to take mental reps.
"I watch a lot more film now, on my own,'' he said. "I watch defenses. I watch our practices to see what guys did wrong. When I'm in the meetings, I listen to what Coach corrects our guys with, and then I watch them and see why he said that.''
The timing of his injury was unfortunate for the 6-1, 199-pounder. He had been excused from the three-day minicamp in June for personal reasons and probably was behind in learning new coordinator Chan Gailey's offense. But with the Jets looking for a third receiver behind Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, Smith's speed (4.38 in the 40) and athleticism gave him a legitimate shot to compete for that role.
"I felt I was practicing good,'' he said when asked if he thought he had a chance to be the third receiver. "I knew my assignments; I was making plays. But then again, that's not up to me. That's for the coaches to make that decision who they want out on the field. My job is to come out here and play football.''