Sports

C.J. Mosley returns to the Jets with something to prove

Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley admitted Thursday he is motivated to show people he can still be the linebacker people remember from three years ago.

That player earned four Pro Bowl nods in Baltimore and received a five-year, $85 million contract from the Jets in March 2019 to be the leader of their defense. Since then, he has earned $29 million from the Jets but played in only two games. Injuries in 2019 and a COVID opt-out in 2020 kept Mosley off the field.

Now, he is back and eager to show he can recapture his old form.

“I would say there is a little added chip [on my shoulder] just mainly you’ve always got your fans that are going to heckle,” Mosley said in his first comments since opting out last year. “When I get back on the field, I definitely want to make sure they’re respecting the name again. As fans, you want your players to play. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to. They have the right to do that. I’ve just got to make sure I do my job.”

Mosley turns 29 on June 19 and has barely been on a football field over the last two years. He was in the middle of Robert Saleh’s defense on Thursday during the Jets’ third OTA practice. Mosley moved well and there were no visible signs of rust.

New York Jets inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (57) takes running drills
C.J. Mosley is at Jets OTAs with a chip on his shoulder.
Corey Sipkin

“When you’re out for a while, you always get in your head like, ‘When I get back, how’s it going to feel? Am I going to be able to move like I used to?’ ” Mosley said. “After finishing this week, I feel great.”

Mosley believes he can be a Pro Bowler again, like he was with the Ravens in 2014, ’16, ’17 and ’18.

“I don’t have any doubts in myself. Gronk took [a year] off and won a Super Bowl,” Mosley said, referring to Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski. “It is what it is. I’m here. We’ll just let the play do the talking.”

The Jets had big plans for Mosley when they signed him in 2019. Former coach Adam Gase had Mosley at the top of his wish list, and former GM Mike Maccagnan handed Mosley what was at the time the biggest contract an inside linebacker ever received. Mosley had a dynamic first game against the Bills in 2019 with an interception returned for a touchdown, a fumble recovery and six tackles. He injured his groin near the end of the third quarter, though, and then made the injury worse in a game against the Patriots five weeks later.

Mosley was expected back last year after core muscle surgery but decided to opt out just before training camp began. Mosley said it was a tough decision and one that he consulted many people, including the team psychologist, about.

“It was just the best decision for me and my family,” Mosley said. “That’s ultimately what it came down to.”

Mosley watched every game from his home in Alabama as the Jets went 2-14 without him and Gase and the entire coaching staff were fired.

“That’s my first time not playing football since I was 5 years old,” Mosley said. “That was the biggest difference. When your team’s losing and you can’t play whether you opt out or you’re injured, it’s just frustrating because you want to be on the field to help. Whether I would have been there and we won one game or not or won more games, you just want to be with the team. I think that was the toughest part.”

Saleh called Mosley a “very powerful mover” and is clearly looking to him for veteran leadership on a young team. When the team signed Jarrad Davis in March, Mosley’s name surfaced in trade rumors. The Jets were open to moving Mosley, but his contract makes that nearly impossible.

Now, Mosley is back on the field and could be a critical piece for the Jets. He was asked if he feels pressure to live up to his contract.

“Pressure? I don’t feel too much pressure. I’m a football player,” Mosley said. “That’s what I’ve done my whole life. I’m going to steal the Stephen Curry quote, I don’t have a lot to prove, but I’ve got a lot to accomplish. That’s how I feel coming into this season.”

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