It has been a long road back for Jets wide receiver David Nelson, who was too tired after Sunday's 30-27 overtime win over the Patriots to do anything but stand at the middle of the field and smile.
Nelson, though, liked what he saw as he stood there.
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Nelson missed all but one game of last season for the Bills with a torn ligament in his right knee. After spending training camp with the Browns, he was cut when it was determined he wasn't all the way back in his recovery. But after four catches for 80 yards on Sunday, Nelson appears to be back and as good as ever.
It was the most receiving yards he's had since Sept. 25, 2011 and Nelson joked – and perhaps rightly so – that Sunday represented his highest snap count in over two years.
“I was out there exhausted. I got a little emotional after the game – not just the victory but just knowing how far I've come in the past year and how many obstacles I've had to overcome in my career and my personal life,” Nelson said. “This past year has been the hardest year of my life. To stand there at that the 50-yard line after beating the New England Patriots and playing a full game and playing the way I did, it was very satisfying for me.”
Undrafted out of Florida, Nelson was always a hard worker in college and it is that work ethic that not only got him to the NFL, but also got him back on the field when the Bills and Browns turned their back on him.
The Jets brought Nelson in for a workout a couple weeks before he signed with the team in Week 5. There were questions about his knee and his durability, things he says are no longer an issue.
Nelson blocks well and runs relatively good routes. If he is healthy, he can help an offense that has been without wide receiver Santonio Holmes for the past three weeks and tight end Kellen Winslow, who is halfway through his suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
The Jets also lost Clyde Gates for the season with a shoulder injury.
Head coach Rex Ryan called Nelson “a great pickup for us.”
“The fact that he's come in and contributed the way that he has is really impressive,” Ryan said.
Nelson is a big body with fairly reliable hands, something the team hasn't had in a dynamic wide receiver since Plaxico Burress. And with a rookie quarterback in Geno Smith, Nelson has the frame to provide a big down-field target.
“That's been my niche, to be that guy when a play has to be made or a first down needs to be made or a quarterback looking for somebody. It has been my niche to be a reliable receiver,” Nelson said. “As Geno becomes more comfortable with me we will be able to continue that chemistry [and] build that camaraderie. I'm really just here to do whatever this coaching staff needs me to do to win games.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.