If you can make it in New York, as the saying goes, you can make it anywhere.
Well, A.J. Edds has not only made it in New York, he’s made it back — against seemingly impossible odds — to the NFL.
The New York Jets are his new team.
Signed to the Jets’ 53-man active roster Monday, the former Greenwood Community High School star will — barring something unforeseen — be on the field for Sunday’s regular-season opener, likely on special teams and possibly a few snaps on defense, against the visiting Oakland Raiders.
For Edds, a 6-foot-4, 256-pound linebacker, the opportunity is a fitting reward for three years of working toward a goal that an athlete of lesser mental and physical fortitude would have given up on long ago.
A fourth-round draft choice of the Miami Dolphins in 2010, the former Greenwood Community High School star is technically a fourth-year pro. But he hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2011, when he was a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
In 2010, an ACL tear on the fourth day of training camp wiped out his rookie season in Miami. On the first day of Colts training camp in 2012, an ACL tear derailed that season. Indianapolis did not re-sign him for 2013.
A seemingly last-ditch attempt to resurrect his career fizzled in 2013 when he was released by the New England Patriots (who he briefly played for in 2011) in training camp. Yet it would not be his last attempt, after all.
Despite sitting out two full seasons, Edds — at age 26 — wasn’t finished trying. He spent the downtime rehabbing and working out, clinging to the thin hope that he would get one last chance to make it in the NFL.
Opportunity knocked in May, when the Jets invited him for a tryout. Completely healthy for the first time in his pro career, Edds impressed coach Rex Ryan and was signed after the audition.
But the journey was far from over.
One of 90 players at the start of training camp, Edds’ next task was to turn enough heads during four preseason games to survive the final cut. He accomplished the former but not the latter.
Released Aug. 30, the final day of cuts, Edds’ unlikely bid to return to the NFL appeared to be over. But it wasn’t.
In the aftermath of the NFL’s busy weekend of roster slashings and practice squad assembling, the Jets re-signed Edds — the team’s leading tackler in their first two preseason games — on Monday.
He wore No. 47 in exhibition games. He’ll wear No. 55 in games that count.
What follows is an interview with Edds, who spoke Tuesday to the Daily Journal from New York.
Q: This is something you’ve worked for for three years. What does making the active roster mean to you?
A: It’s very day-to-day, but to be put on the roster coming out of training camp, basically to have earned a spot on the final 53 when the team has the ability to kind of pick and choose after everybody’s made their cuts and other guys are let go by other teams, it means a lot, to me, to have done enough to impress the decision-makers and the coaching staff and everybody involved to have earned a spot, and to be a guy that factors into the game plans on Sundays.
Q: What have the past three or four days been like for you? I’m guessing that’s been quite the emotional roller coaster.
A: Yes, there’s definitely been ups and downs, the major down being the initial release. It was interesting; I was told a long time ago as a rookie that you can’t try to rationalize what the decision-makers do. All you can do is go out and put your best foot forward and just worry about what you can control, that being your play. That’s something that’s easy to say but kind of tough to comprehend until you’ve been through the business a little bit.
So that was the one factor that I didn’t get really too hung up with. What I felt really good about was how I played in this preseason and in this training camp, and once I was released I knew that if it was the end of the road I had nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hang my head about. But I still felt that I did enough to garner a spot somewhere this year on an NFL team. I really wanted it to be New York, and I’m ecstatic that it is New York, just because I feel like I’m a good fit as a football player and in the locker room as well. We’ve got a really good group of guys, and I feel that I mesh pretty well with the group we’ve got.
And most importantly, I feel like I’m in a position to help on the field.
Q: Obviously, you’re resilient. What is your confidence like going into the opener?
A: I feel really good. This is my first training camp where I’ve been able to go out and practice and play every single day, and that was a point of pride for me, staying healthy and staying on the field this year during training camp and give myself a chance.
So I’ve been able to do that, and this training camp in my mind is kind of the initial foundation of what I want to be able to do this year, whether my role is only on special teams of whether I get a chance to play defense as well, I want to look at what I’ve been able to do and just build on it and continue to build that confidence. Confidence comes through preparation during the week in practice and just knowing that you’ve done enough to get ready for games on Sundays.
So I would say my confidence is high right now just because I was able to play and perform and do enough to basically earn a spot, so as far as where my football game is right now, I’m feeling pretty good about it. Hopefully, the games I’ve played so far are a stepping-stone, and that every game I play I need to continue to get better and continue to improve. Basically putting myself in a position where the Jets, every day when they have their personnel meeting, say, hey, this is a guy they’ve got to have on the field.
Q: So, have you reserved a room for your parents at The Plaza for the opener on Sunday?
A: No. Mom and dad have been notified that any travel, any accommodations in New York City, will be on them (laughs). They’re looking for some of the road games a little closer to home, as much as anything.