Stephen Hill back on practice field for Jets

Stephen Hill was back healthy again on Tuesday. Credit: Getty Images
Stephen Hill was back healthy again on Tuesday.
Credit: Getty Images

The Jets received some welcome news on Tuesday with the return of wide receiver Stephen Hill to the practice field. Hill had been held back during the latter part of organized team activities (OTAs) with a knee injury.

During OTAs, Hill dove for a pass and landed the wrong way, injuring his knee. He told Metro fluid built up in the knee had to be drained, along with subsequent rehab. The injury didn’t bother him much on Tuesday, as he looked sharp and active, making catches and participating in team drills.

“It feels good. It was a lot of swelling but feels good now,” Hill said.

He expects to be out on the field Wednesday for the middle day of minicamp as well.

“I don’t think it’s going to be bad. I didn’t feel anything wrong with it,” Hill said. “We didn’t tape it up to the point where we were preventing anything, just making sure everything is good.”

Hill, a second-round pick in last year’s NFL Draft who was viewed as a project, was more refined in the first day of minicamp than at any point last year. His route running has improved and he is getting off the line better. Hill was was in the option offense at Georgia Tech and utilized more for his blocking than his pass-catching ability. Now he is trying to be a better and more well-rounded wide receiver.

During his rookie year, he struggled in the finer points of being a receiver and was much-maligned for bad drops at key points.  He played in 11 games and had just 21 receptions. He never developed into the red-zone threat the Jets envisioned, with just three touchdown catches.

His offseason was spent getting healthy but also working on the finer points of his game.

“[I am] making sure I’m paying attention to detail when I have a lot of pressure. Other than that, I’m still working on it. Still have a lot to learn,” Hill said. “More polished? Now from last year, yes, but overall? I’m definitely not polished overall.”

He also wasn’t ready to pan the quarterback rotation for the struggle of the receivers to make plays in OTAs and now minicamp. The Jets return a starter in Mark Sanchez who has struggled much of the past two seasons and a rookie in Geno Smith who is learning a new offense.

Hill was unwilling to make excuses for a group of receivers who have failed to consistently make big plays so far this offseason.

“We got to work on ourselves as receivers first before we talk about anything about quarterbacks — making sure we’re in our right spot, making sure we’re getting off the jams and running the correct route and knowing the plays,” Hill said. “Other than that, we can’t say anything about knowing the quarterback. We’ll get that down pat during training camp.”

Jets notes …

» Wide receiver Santonio Holmes did not participate in minicamp and doesn’t look like he will be ready until training camp. Wide receiver Clyde Gates was held back with a hamstring injury.

» Linebacker Garrett McIntyre participated in Tuesday’s minicamp after walking off the field last week with an injury.

» Head coach Rex Ryan was very high on Jeff Cumberland, who is atop the roster of a very thin group of tight ends. Cumberland is entering his fourth year in the NFL and has the inside track on the starting role.

“Jeff Cumberland, I think, is a big, fast guy [who] I think has improved over the years. I think he has really improved. I’ll be excited to see how he progresses,” Ryan said.

Cumberland, known as a pass-catching tight end, has worked on his blocking this offseason to become more versatile.

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for live updates and photos from minicamp.


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