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Santonio Holmes expected to return vs. Bills

Santonio Holmes celebrates a reception for a first

Santonio Holmes celebrates a reception for a first down early in the second half of a game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. (Sept. 22, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Santonio Holmes' eyes glowed a bright red Wednesday, but the Jets' top receiver is expected to get the green light on Sunday.

Holmes, sporting blood-red contacts as he spoke to reporters, wouldn't go so far as to say he's definitely facing the Bills. But Rex Ryan took care of that.

"He's ready to go,'' the Jets coach said of his No. 1 receiver, who hasn't played in a game since Sept. 29, the fourth week of the season, because of a hamstring injury.

Holmes, who was limited in practice, was far more cautious about his game-time status. The wideout initially said the decision would be left to the training staff, but he later hinted he would have final say on whether he plays.

Although he stressed his desire to help the Jets (5-4) on their playoff push, Holmes added: "Hopefully, the coaches understand that it's a seven-game stretch, that we're going to need all of our guys and all of our hands on deck. So I'm definitely not trying to go out there and jeopardize me being on the field these next seven games.

" . . . I definitely have to continue to take it one day at a time and be smart about the decision I want to make for the team and not just for myself.''

Ryan said Holmes' hamstring injury was "major'' and "the worst we've had this year by far.'' When questioned later about the extent of his injury, Holmes was -- as always -- evasive. "It was a hamstring injury,'' he said repeatedly.

Ultimately, his progress on the practice field will be the deciding factor. If he does return, it couldn't come at a better time. In Week 3, the last time the Jets faced the Bills, Holmes, receiver Stephen Hill and running back Bilal Powell had breakout performances to lead them to a 27-20 victory.

The Bills are only 3-7, but they return two key members of their defense -- safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Stephon Gilmore -- who missed that game.

The Jets will counter with three healthy tight ends -- Kellen Winslow Jr. (suspension served), Zach Sudfeld and Jeff Cumberland, who was limited in practice Wednesday but expects to play after missing the Saints game because of a concussion.

Although Holmes and Geno Smith still are working on their chemistry, the rookie quarterback said he's eager to have his savvy receiver back.

"It just makes our receiving corps and our team better,'' Smith said. "He sees coverage so well. He's so smart. He has a great feel for the game. I see him all the time, even when he wasn't active, coaching guys.''

Holmes is just as "excited'' to return to the field, but he still appears to be playing the waiting game. At least, publicly.

"At this point, it's still day-by-day,'' said Holmes, who caught five passes for a career-high 154 yards and a touchdown against the Bills.

"I'm [inching] a lot closer to playing,'' he said. "I just have to get the green light from the trainers. I can say, yeah, I want to play. But the production on the field, the practice and the rehab stuff has to be drastically improved for them to give me the green light.''

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