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2018-09-14
By: hongwei28
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FLORHAM PARK Saquon Barkley Jersey , N.J. (AP) — Darius James was pretty sure he was OK, even though he was sprawled face-first in the grass and his neck wouldn’t budge.

He wiggled his fingers and toes and had feeling in his arms and legs, giving the big offensive lineman some reassurance that he wasn’t paralyzed.

James was the starting right tackle for Auburn when his football career — and possibly much more — flashed before his eyes. It was Sept. 16, 2017, and the crowd of more than 80,000 packed into Jordan-Hare Stadium to watch the Tigers take on Mercer was silent.

“I actually was pretty scared out there because I couldn’t move my neck,” recalled James, who’s in camp this summer with the New York Jets. “When they rolled me over, I was good again.”

While blocking on a short run by Kamryn Pettway in the second quarter, James fell and teammate Mike Horton landed on James’ head. Doctors and trainers rushed out to treat James, who showed no movement initially. His neck was stabilized before he was flipped onto a backboard, strapped down and lifted onto a stretcher.

“They were like, ‘Just in case. It’s all precautionary. Don’t be scared,'” James said. “So, I wasn’t as scared when they came out there and talked to me. But it was a scary moment when it happened because nothing like that ever happened to me.”

It turned out to be a severe spasm in James’ neck, and it was relieved through treatment and massages. He was taken to a hospital and released after an evaluation.

James was back on the field for Auburn a week later for the Tigers’ game at Missouri.

“I feel like injuries, obstacles Lee Smith Jersey , anything like that helps you be a better player because once something happens to you, people think it’s the end,” James said. “But, nah, you can still come back from all that stuff.

“I like to think of myself as somebody who comes back, know what I mean?”

James proved his resilience just over a month later when he went down with what appeared to be a serious leg injury at Arkansas. Again, he was surrounded by doctors and trainers — and carted off the field in front of nervous teammates.

“I was just like, ‘Ahh, it keeps happening again, man. Just something else to bounce back from.’ And I always bounce back.”

Sure enough, X-rays were negative and James returned in time to play in Auburn’s next game at Texas A&M two weeks later.

“Darius has had a rough ride,” said offensive lineman Austin Golson, who was James’ teammate at Auburn and is now his roommate during camp with the Jets. “Every time he got hurt, he’d get back up and fought to get better. He’s just worked his tail off to get where he is today.”

James grew up in Killeen, Texas, and was considered one of the top high school offensive linemen in the country despite only playing in two games as a senior because of injuries.

He flashed remarkable versatility as a five-star prospect — playing center, offensive tackle Lyle Alzado Jersey , guard, defensive tackle and defensive end. Several scouting services rated him the No. 1 center in the country, while he was ranked as the top guard by another.

James ended up going to Texas and played in six games for the Longhorns during the 2014 season, including starts at right tackle against Baylor and Oklahoma. But he struggled and was pulled by coach Charlie Strong, and then James suffered a season-ending knee injury.

“I tore my ACL right before the OSU game and (Strong) was trying to bring some of his young people in and he said, ‘You can stay here and go to school or you can leave and play football,'” James recalled. “I thought it was the best opportunity for me to leave and play football.”

James transferred to Auburn and sat out a season, but then played in every game as a junior and senior — despite those two scary moments in his final year.

“The injuries I had, they weren’t that bad,” he said. “I came right back from them. I’m just ready to start this new journey.”

The 6-foot-4, 324-pound James signed with the Jets in May as an undrafted free agent. With New York, James faces a difficult path to stick on the active roster. There’s lots of competition for depth spots, and both he and Golson will need to have some standout performances in the preseason to impress coach Todd Bowles.

“We’ve been playing together for three years,” Golson said, “and hopefully we can keep it going, playing for the Jets.”

James has been used primarily at right tackle by the Jets during practice, but his versatility could help him. Bowles has typically kept backups who can be plugged in at various spots.

“It’s still early and I’m still feeling out the ropes Cameron Erving Jersey ,” James said, “figuring out where I fit in, figuring out how I’m supposed to play, figuring out the speed, the playbook. Everything’s going so fast and nobody’s waiting for you.

“To me, it’s fun because nobody else really gets this opportunity. You can’t take anything for granted.”

Long after the final joint practice between the New York Jets and Washington Redskins wrapped up, the quarterbacks kept chatting.

Apart from the on-field workouts, those moments gave Alex Smith a chance to get to know Jets rookie Sam Darnold a little bit. But rather than dole out advice from one high draft pick to another after 12 NFL seasons, Washington’s veteran starter wants Darnold to chart his own path as a rookie.

“All these situations are different,” Smith said. “He’s got some good guys in his QB room to lean on that have played a lot of ball, so he certainly didn’t need to hear me tell him anything. I think my rookie year’s probably more of an example of what not to do as opposed to what to do.”

Before he can potentially earn the Jets’ starting job, Darnold could get the nod against Smith in the teams’ next preseason game Thursday night. Coach Todd Bowles would only say, “All of our quarterbacks need to be ready to play,” but Darnold took the majority of first-team snaps this week and impressed the Redskins.

Cornerback Josh Norman compared Darnold’s decision-making skills to Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz and Dallas’ Dak Prescott and found out firsthand that Darnold doesn’t throw like a rookie.

“This little kid is not mistakes and he’s really accurate,” Norman said. “It’s kind of like, dang. You get rookies in here, you’re trying to like mess with them and bait them a little bit into thinking that he was going to throw a route that you know you could make a play on Ryan Fitzpatrick Jersey , and he’s not having it. And it’s so crazy to see that at an early age.”

Fully aware of his early age, Darnold wants to be faster at calling plays and breaking the huddle. Bowles wants to see the USC product catch up on the playbook and knows the best experience comes from game action.

“He studies his playbook and he goes out and tries to execute on the field and he tries to learn, which is great,” Bowles said. “You can’t see growth until years pass by, to a degree. I’m not going to measure him day-by-day from a growth standpoint in three weeks.”

Smith doesn’t feel qualified to judge Darnold’s game cover to cover but liked what he saw at workouts this week.

“Just from afar, I thought he looked good,” Smith said. “He has a great skillset, can really throw it. He moves around well. I think he has good eyes.”

Darnold, the third overall pick, actually looks a lot like Smith after the 49ers took him first in the 2005 draft. But it’s not on Smith to tutor Darnold; that’s up to veteran Jets Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater.

The 39-year-old McCown is competing with Darnold for the starting job but has nothing but nothing but positive early impressions.

“More than anything (he) does a good job of taking the classroom to the grass pretty efficiently. It doesn’t take him multiple meetings and walkthroughs and different things,” McCown said. “So far everything you look for to play the position, whether it’s just the desire and the want to and all that, all of those things are there and you have to have that in order to have a chance in this league.”

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