By: Jenny Vrentas/The Star-Ledger
Kris Jenkins, wearing a gray Jets Dri-Fit and twin scars on his left knee, spoke his motivation out loud.
“It’s only pain,” he grunted during a workout this week.
Later: “You’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t work.”
The Jets nose tackle has embraced the rare challenge of coming back from consecutive anterior cruciate ligament tears in the same knee, sustained just 11 months apart.
For weeks, he recovered and rehabbed. Now, he has begun the daunting process of reconditioning and rebuilding his body to be ready when — and if — training camp begins in six months.
Training at TEST Sports Clubs in Martinsville, Jenkins gulped from a red aluminum water bottle and characterized this as a “tortured experiment” to build back the muscle mass he lost in nearly two full seasons spent on the sideline.
But in another breath, he also called it a “vacation,” though the sweat-soaked 31-year-old acknowledged that might not seem to make sense.
“This is a celebration of my life, and what I want it to be,” Jenkins explained. “This is what we consider leaving on your own terms.”
That’s why Jenkins made the decision to return, instead of retire, in the weeks after tearing his knee in last season’s opener against the Ravens.
He has been in the NFL for 10 seasons, faced the mortality of his football career and believes if anyone can make it back onto the field, it’s him. He says so even though his knee is sore, and he’s still at the point where he must evaluate daily if he’s strong enough to jog, or if he should walk.
Jenkins is also aware enough to understand the flip side: That he’s due to earn a base salary of $3.75 million this year, that the Jets must consider if they can count on him staying healthy, that general manager Mike Tannenbaum admitted the team will “take a long look” at his situation.
Jenkins said he and coach Rex Ryan had a “good conversation” about his future before the season ended.
“I’m not even going to lie and act like that’s something I don’t think about,” Jenkins said. “When you’re looking at (the team’s) big strategy, I’m just one person. I’m not going to walk into a situation and be so arrogant to be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to be fine because I’m Kris Jenkins.’ I wish.
“I like what I’m doing; I know when I’m healthy, I can play with the best of them. But I did get hurt two years in a row. It’s a decision they have to make.”
So Jenkins is focusing on the part he can control. Last week, he began an intense regimen at TEST five days a week — including yoga and recovery on Wednesdays — designed to build gradually in two-week intervals until the start of camp.
The first two weeks have been dedicated to stability, mobility and balance. His workouts rely on “cadence reps,” done more slowly to build a base, with 20 to 30 percent of the weight he might normally use. On a scale of 1 to 10, TEST founder Brian Martin explained, the intensity of these workouts is 2.
In the next two weeks, Jenkins will train at a quicker pace and build endurance. The following phase focuses on growing muscles, particularly those in the lower body around the knee, and change-of-direction running and agility. Then, he will move into explosive training, with jumping and bounding, before reevaluating his progress at the two-month checkpoint.
Jenkins did not disclose his current weight, but his goal is 350 pounds — nine fewer than when he reported to camp last year. To that end, he has also refocused his diet, including replacing night snacking with fruits or protein drinks and fueling at the right times so he burns fat during workouts.
Martin says he speaks with Jets head athletic trainer John Mellody every few days about Jenkins’ progress and his next steps. Jenkins is committed enough that he did not travel to Dallas to watch his younger brother, Packers defensive end Cullen Jenkins, play in Super Bowl XLV, because he didn’t want to veer off his routine.
He watched at home in West Orange, though, screaming and cheering like a crazy fan. When Cullen won his Super Bowl ring, Jenkins admitted “a lot of pressure came off.”
“My brother brought a Super Bowl ring into the family,” Jenkins explained. “It kind of put the icing on the cake for everything we’ve been through as a family. We all felt like we were a part of that.”
In the days before the game, Cullen Jenkins revealed he hadn’t heard from their father since Christmas and worried he was missing. Kris Jenkins explained that Darome Jenkins, who raised the boys as a single dad, needed to retreat into his own space in Hawaii to confront some personal issues, and that it was a good thing for him.
Jenkins says he is proud of where his family members are in their lives, and his role in helping them get there: His brother, his father, his wife, his three sons. For the next six months, the four-time Pro Bowler is committed to his own journey, to doing himself and his career proud.
“I still have hurdles,” he said, looking down at his left knee. “I will jump them, or duck under, or walk around. Any way of getting past them.”
By: Greg Bishop - New York Times
Fitter and More Technically Sound, Kris Jenkins Remains One of the League's Best Run Stoppers
CORTLAND, N.Y. — Riding on a Bobcat vehicle across the track at SUNY...
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The Cookie Monster is back.
After missing the first...
CORTLAND, N.Y. - The Jets have spent the better part of the offseason sharing...