FLORHAM PARK: He dodged left and right, hid behind 6-5 Brandon Marshall and did everything he could to make himself invisible in between reps. It was actually some pretty impressive elusiveness displayed by Chris Owusu.
Throughout the individual and special teams portion of Jets practice, the receiver looked no different than any other player on the field. He had a helmet, jersey, shorts and shoes.
That's how Owusu wanted to keep it, too.
Until the trainers tracked him down, and handed him a red don't-hit-me pinnie.
"It was inevitable," Owusu said with a chuckle. "They're gonna get you."
For the last three weeks, Owusu has been slowly working his way back from a concussion suffered in practice. On Aug. 8, Owusu collided with two teammates on an out route and immediately fell to the turf. The wideout said he was aware of everything, but knew exactly what had happened. Having previously suffered three concussions while in college at Stanford, he didn't need tests to confirm this was No. 4.
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Since then, Owusu has been stuck in the 'concussion protocol,' or in other words a series of tests a player must pass to prove he is "symptom free." Until the player passes that protocol, he can't return to the field. Every day since the injury, Owusu has taken baby steps to return to the Jets.
First, it was just getting back on the practice field. After that, Owusu stretch with his teammates. Then, he stretched with pads. Eventually, he progressed to running on the side, then caught passes from a trainer, returned to the individual portion of practice and finally, on Monday, took part in team drills.
All that's left for Owusu to do is what he says he's on track to this Wednesday: Return in full capacity.
"I should be a full go," Owusu said. "The protocol requires you to take your time, make sure you're good to go and the trainers did a great job with me. I'm ready. Wednesday should be the day I no longer have that red jersey."
While Owusu is ready to get back on the field, when he does, it won't be without the trainers holding their breath. Having already suffered four concussions, another could put Owusu's career in jeopardy.
While the wideout insists he's fully aware of his past injury issues, he says that's never something on his mind. If Owusu starts playing not to be injured, instead of fast, well, "that's when you set yourself up for another."
"There's a trust with (Ryan) Fitzpatrick, Geno (Smith), (Bryce) Petty), (Jake) Heaps and now (Matt) Flynn," Owusu said. "There's a trust with those quarterbacks that they won't leave you out to dry. They're gonna trust you to be in a spot. When you don't do that, that's when you'll set yourself up."
Owusu isn't the first receiver to deal concussions. Former New England Patriots and Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker dealt with, according to ESPN, three in a 10-month span. In order to prevent further issues, Welker changed his helmet drastically. The wideout sported a helmet that was a size bigger than the one he had played with for the majority of his career, and was specially designed to provide extra protection.
(Broncos receiver Wes Welker in his concussion helmet)
While he's given it thought, Owusu said he has to do more research on Welker's helmet before changing his own. From what he's been told, no helmet could have prevented the concussion he suffered in practice. Still, if changing his head gear could prevent further issues, he's fully willing to make the switch.
For now though, Owusu is just happy to be gearing up to return to the field, and so are his teammates and coaches. The final step in the concussion protocol is the one Owusu is ready for on Wednesday: Taking a hit
"He's running well, he's running fast and his whereabouts are good," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "But he's gotta get hit. We're not allowed to hit him right now. I don't think you can really tell where he is until he takes his first hit."
On Saturday, the Jets will face the New York Giants in the team's third preseason game. Having sat out the previous two, Owusu hasn't been ruled out just yet. In fact, he said he's expecting to play.
The way he views it, if taking a hit in practice is a good 'test,' one on Saturday against the Giants would be the equivalent of getting a perfect score on the SAT.
"Oh yeah," Owusu said. "I'll be ready (for the Giants)."