LINDEN, N.J.- Sheldon Richardson would like to assure all he's perfectly fine. He'd like it if he could say his absence from practice Monday and listing on the Jets injury report is nothing more than precautionary. He'd like it if he could guarantee he'd be on the field for New York this Sunday when the team takes on the Houston Texans.
Actually, he wouldn't like, he'd love to do all of the above. There's just one issue: He can't yet.
"I don't wanna say that's not even a thought right now," Richardson said Wednesday on if he's nervous he'll miss a game. "But, I'm staying optimistic about it."
Since returning from a suspension that cost him the first four games of the season, Richardson, who gave himself a day-by-day timetable when speaking at teammate Muhammad Wilkerson's charity event, has been a welcomed addition to the Jets defense. The defensive end, who earned the first Pro Bowl honors of his career a year ago, has recorded 18 tackles, one forced fumble and two sacks in five games. He's fitting in well, even though the Jets have yet to really figure out how to use him.
While Richardson is listed as a defensive end/defensive tackle on the Jets depth chart, he's been moved around quite a bit since he's returned. New York is still searching for the best way to use Richardson, Wilkerson, rookie Leonard Williams and veteran Damon Harrison all at the same time. Richardson has seen some reps at defensive end and defensive tackle in a 4-3 front, defensive end in a 3-4 front, and, last Thursday, even lined up as an outside linebacker.
While some players would be a little off continually being moved around, Richardson loves it.
"I appreciate (the coaches) acknowledging my athleticism," Richardson said. "Why limit yourself? Be different. I like to think of myself as a guy that's able to play different spots... Most guys get out of their comfort zone and don't like it so they play different.
"[To me] it's fun. It's just like high school again, except I'm not on offense."
It might not be long until the Jets throw Richardson over on that side of the ball. With New York ending up on the losing end of things in three of its last four games, anything that can be used as a potential spark, might have to be. But while those outside of the Jets locker room are panicking and envisioning another collapse, Richardson said none are anxious on the inside.
There's still a lot of football left, he says, and the Jets control their own destiny.
"It's not too late," Richardson said. "Lucky for us, other teams are losing too. We have a chance to get our ticket to the playoffs. We just gotta win out. That's how we feel."