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Jets’ Chris Herndon looking to rebound after lost season

Chris Herndon’s 2019 season consisted of 18 snaps.

The Jets’ tight end entered his second season with high expectations. But his season began with a four-game suspension from the NFL for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He then injured his hamstring just before his suspension ended and missed another four games. Herndon returned to face the Giants in November, but after one catch for 7 yards, he left the game with broken ribs that ended his season.

The 24-year-old now calls the missed season a learning experience.

“It really taught me how fast this all can be taken, not to take it for granted and just have an extreme amount of appreciation to be out there,” Herndon said on a Zoom call Thursday.

Herndon is now back on the field, working with his teammates. The expectations the Jets had for him last year now transfer to this year, although he was careful not to make any predictions.

“Right now, I don’t want to look too far ahead,” Herndon said. “I kind of just want to take things day-by-day, get into camp, start getting reps on the field and go from there. I don’t want to put too much in the air right now.”

Chris Herndon
Chris HerndonAP

Ryan Griffin filled in admirably last year in Herndon’s absence, but Herndon certainly will return to his role as the No. 1 tight end now that he’s healthy again.

The Jets official Twitter account put out a clip of him catching a long pass from Sam Darnold recently, offering fans a tantalizing glance of the potential those two could have. They had great chemistry as rookies in 2018. Herndon had 39 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns after the Jets selected him in the fourth round out of Miami.

Herndon sounds ready to go, saying how grateful he is to be back on the field.

“It feels good,” Herndon said. “My body’s feeling good. I’m in a good space mentally. I’m just excited to be back with my team and putting in work with them again.”

Last year, Herndon faced setback after setback.

“It was tough,” he said. “It didn’t go exactly as planned, especially coming off suspension. It was definitely a big learning year from me, kind of a chance to step back and watch from the outside and also made me appreciate it even more. That was just a quick view of how fast it can be taken from me. It wasn’t the best year, but I definitely learned a lot.”

Herndon said it was particularly tough to accept when he was told his season was over after just one game.

“I felt like I was doing the right things to come back after the suspension ready and then had a little fluke accident,” Herndon said. “Then, the first game back getting injured. It was definitely tough at first, the first couple of weeks, accepting for me the season was done and I couldn’t be out there with my team.”

The Jets are doing strength and conditioning work. They are scheduled to put helmets on next week and begin light practices before putting pads on the week after that.

Herndon said he thinks the NFL can pull off a season despite concerns about COVID-19.

“A lot of people have been putting in a lot of work. I’m sure they want to put that out for display, for the world to see,” Herndon said. “I feel like as long as we’re all doing what we have to do around the whole league, then this can be successful. Once again, there’s a lot of unknowns with all that’s going on right now. We just got to play it day by day.”

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