Denzel Mims did not hesitate.
The Jets rookie receiver was asked if he would be ready for the team’s Week 1 game against the Bills on Sept. 13.
“Most definitely,” Mims said.
The 22-year-old took a step toward playing in that game Wednesday when he participated in his first practice of training camp. A hamstring injury has sidelined Mims for three weeks and kept him out of a valuable learning period for the second-round pick.
Mims eased his way back into practice Wednesday. He participated in the wide receiver drills but remained a spectator during the team portion of practice.
“It feels amazing,” Mims said. “It felt real good to go out there and compete. Just getting back into a rhythm, get my feet wet a little bit, catching balls and being out there with my teammates.”
The Jets selected Mims with the 59th overall pick in April. They knew they were adding a speedy receiver who can be a red-zone target and is known for catching contested passes. But it was also clear he had a lot to learn at the NFL level after playing with a limited playbook at Baylor. The Jets believed training camp would be huge for Mims, but now must give him a crash course in NFL life with all of this missed time.
Jets coach Adam Gase said the Jets will now try to accelerate his learning curve.
“Just kind of getting him some reps in practice and seeing how far we can take him as fast as possible,” Gase said. “The fact that he’s been doing as much cardio as he’s been doing and trying to make sure he’s in the kind of shape we need him in – we’re going to have to build it up, but we need him to put things on fast-forward mentally.”
This has not been easy for Mims. He hurt the hamstring during the ramp-up period to training camp. He was running a route one day, took an awkward step and felt pain in his hamstring. The Jets have been very cautious about bringing him back, fearing that he could make the injury worse if he returns too quickly.
Mims has had to watch practice each day, unable to participate.
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“It’s been very frustrating,” Mims said. “I’ve never had to sit out this long. I’ve never had anything like this. I can’t control everything.”
Mims said he has tried to do everything he can to learn the offense without those physical reps.
“I did extra meetings, extra meetings with the coaches trying to make sure I’m ready when I come back and the time is right,” Mims said. “On the field, I was going through every play that they were saying. I had a script. I was doing everything I could to make sure I’m ready.”
While he’s been injured, Mims has stood near wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson and assistant wide receivers coach Hines Ward during practice, going over things. He has also asked quarterback Sam Darnold about how he likes certain routes to be run.
“I feel real comfortable,” Mims said of the offense. “I’ve been studying it extra hard and doing extra to make sure that I know everything in the playbook.”
Mims had 66 catches for 1,020 yards and 12 touchdowns last year for Baylor. The Jets are counting on him being a big part of their offense this season. They finally got to see their prized pick on the field on Wednesday.
“It was good, it’s the first time I’ve seen him get to run routes live,” Gase said. “It was good to see him moving around, he looked like he was running well. I know we didn’t do anything crazy, but just moving around and hitting the routes we hit in individual, that was good to see.”