There was a time two years ago that John Conner was admittedly hurt by the Jets, a team that had cut him after making him a fifth round pick in 2010. He had a reputation as a solid blocker, in part earning him the nickname "Concrete" by head coach Rex Ryan.
Now back with the Jets since late September, Conner is finally having that full impact on the offensive side of the ball that the Jets had imagined when they drafted him five years ago. He has been on two teams since the Jets and cut each time. But now in New York, he seems to be finding a home, at least for now.
The Jets signed Conner four weeks into the season when second-year fullback Tommy Bohanon went down with a shoulder injury. There was a collective eye roll from Jets fans about his return but he's been nothing but sharp in his second stint with the Jets.
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His first stint with the Jets was greeted with glee by fans, who fell in love with reports of his hard blocking and his tenacity. But that initial wave of optimism led to some displeasure his second and then during the injuries of a third year (Conner was cut early in the season). He hadn't developed beyond being a blocker and he became a lightning rod for criticism for several weak drafts by the organization.
All that seems like a distant memory now.
On Sunday, in the Jets 17-16 loss to the Patriots, Conner had one carry for two yards but had a 26-yard reception in the fourth quarter, the longest of his career. While his numbers aren't gaudy, there are signs of a more prolific player now with the ball in his hands, someone who can do more than just block.
In fact, Sunday's reception was more than double the receiving yards during his first two seasons in the league.
“I felt like I've fit in well with this program, this organization. Obviously things didn't work out to well with the injury and being cut,” Conner told Metro.“Now it's on the up for me. That was an unfortunate situation but I'm working hard. The performances haven't been good but we're full of fighters.”
Surprisingly, he has been one of the few bright spots on this 3-12 team.
He admits to being surprised when he was first cut.
“I was expendable at that time, they needed more personnel on the defensive side," Connor said. "[But] I thought I was going to be back."
Connor would find his NFL odyssey take him to stops with the Bengals and more recently the Giants. He never stuck in either of those places but now back with the Jets, back with the team that cut him in 2012, he is finally having that impact.
With Bohanon out for the year, the Jets turned to Conner who was available and was familiar with the locker room. Truthfully, he might be the Jets fullback heading into next year, such has been the solid showings through 11 games this season.
“It's definitely a motivational factor for me, being cut, and feeling like I shouldn't have been cut. I was down at one point but I used it to fight and come back,” Conner said.“It's not a whole lot different now. I'm expected to clear the ball for the runners, get the ball in short yardagesituations. It hasn't changed as much. We're spread more, certain sets I'm not a part of in the West Coast but the role is very much the same. I'm loving what they're asking me to do right now.”