Jets wide receiver Brad Smith (16) prepares to take a...

Jets wide receiver Brad Smith (16) prepares to take a snap from center Nick Mangold (74) in the first half against the Bears in Chicago. (Dec. 26, 2010) Credit: AP

Before the first team bus began motoring from their Providence, R.I. hotel to Gillette Stadium for Sunday's big clash with the rival Patriots, Brad Smith already knew he wasn't going to be suiting up.

"Rex came to me probably the night before," Smith said, "and said what they’re thinking. He told me that, 'We are going to get it done, you just get better for next week.' And since then the plan kind of took shape."

Smith's groin injury is healing nicely now, and even though he was limited in today's practice, the versatile wide receiver/kick returner/Wildcat specialist has every intention of playing in Sunday's AFC Championship game against the Steelers. 

"I’m very confident," said Smith, who was initially injured covering a punt in the first quarter of the Jets' wild-card win over the Colts. "I’m very encouraged by practice today. Went out and did a lot more, got to return a few kicks, did a lot on offense and things like that. So I’m just happy to be back on the field."

Still, that doesn't mean Smith isn't feeling a little bit of pain. "I’m probably not going to be pain free," he said, "but I don’t care what it is. I’m going to get out there."

Does he expect to return kickoffs, a chore handled mostly by Antonio Cromartie since he's been out?

"That's the plan, to try to be smart this week and not to do too much and have a setback," Smith said. "They had to pull me out today because I just felt like I could keep going. But [we're] just taking it one day at a time, and hopefully, I can do a little bit more tomorrow."

Smith watched the Jets' 28-21 win over the Patriots from the sideline, and found himself awed by his teammates' inspiring performance against Tom Brady & Co.

"It was unbelievable, man," Smith said. "But I saw it from a different perspective and how those guys played was unreal. I just want to get back and be a part of it. If I sat at home, I probably wouldn't have even turned it on. But being there, I could actually help guys out."

He'll do so again this week -- except he'll be on the field this time.

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