The Jets cornerback has been sidelined with a concussion suffered on a special teams play in the Week 10 win at Cleveland and this past Monday was the first time he was able to practice. Because of the nature of the injury, Lowery was held out of any contact drills for the last three weeks. After his head cleared up from the fog of the hit a few days after the Browns win, he began with light stretching and then began a comprehensive rehab process.
With the rehab process ongoing, last week Lowery progressed to on the field action including cutting and sprinting on the field, all done on the team's auxiliary field and away from normal drills and game prep. Finally three days ago, he took the final step in the process and put on pads. During the entirety of the time he was held out, Lowery did extra lifting and training, specifically targeting his neck and shoulder muscles with shrugs and other exercises. He calls them an "oft-neglected" part of his body but the condition staff told him that strengthening those muscles will help prevent him from a future concussion.
Head coach Rex Ryan said that Lowery got "tattooed" on the play and that he was willing to wait to get the player back on the field when he was healthy.
"I watched the play. He got hit," Ryan said, then adding with emphasis. "I mean, he got hit."
It was bad enough for Lowery, who has played 29 games the previous two seasons, to miss consecutive games. In addition to the rehab and healing process at the team's practice facility, Lowery was instructed to avoid sunlight and was advised against being in front of the computer and television for too long. For a man who describes himself as a lover of technology, it was a bit of an adjustment. He said when he arrived to the practice facility the day after the hit, "Everyone said I looked out of it."
And part of the problem for Lowery was a constant sense of fatigue.
"It's hard to know with a concussion if you're just tired or if it is the concussion that is making you feel that way," Lowery said. "And during the NFL season, you often feel tired, so it makes it even more difficult to tell."
Like teammate Jerricho Cotchery, who suffered a groin tear in the same game, this Thursday's practice will be a key one for the two players who are trying to get back and ready for Monday night at New England. Being back on the field on Monday was odd for Lowery, who had to transition back after an extended time away from playing and practicing.
"I felt like I haven't been there in a long time, being there on the field. It felt longer then the couple weeks I was away," Lowery said. "When you get back onto the field, in those situations, you feel like everything is a bit slow for you as everyone else is going around you fast. It's then that you rely on technique till you get back into that rhythm."
He won't call himself a lock to play on Monday night, but Lowery feels good that he will be available against a New England offense that is averaging 38 points over the past three games.
"It's hard to say if I'm 100%, I don't think anyone feels 100% during the NFL season," Lowery said. "But I feel good and I feel better, so we'll see."
And with that, Lowery simply shrugged.