FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Staying healthy is a big part of NFL success, and the New York Jets take it very seriously. They employ massage therapists and yoga instructors at their facility, providing players with ways to maintain their bodies beyond the usual hot and cold tubs.
Dee Milliner, whose body has betrayed him in recent years, decided to partake in the spa-like activities -- specifically, yoga. He has been doing it three times a week and he likes the results.
"I think it helped me," the 2013 first-round pick said Tuesday at minicamp. "I feel more flexible. [My] body just feels better."
Since being drafted ninth overall in 2013, Milliner has suffered a litany of injuries -- a high-ankle sprain, a pulled hamstring, a ruptured Achilles' tendon, a torn wrist ligament and a strained quadriceps. He has missed 27 of 48 games, inviting some people to call him a bust. The Jets, concerned about his injury history, declined his fifth-year option, meaning he will be a free agent after the season.
This could be a make-or-break year for Milliner, who has impressed the coaches this spring. With Darrelle Revis (wrist) sitting out the offseason, Milliner has received extensive work. On Day 1 of minicamp, he played in the starting nickel package, lining up outside with Marcus Williams. Buster Skrine was in the slot.
"The big thing is, he's healthy," coach Todd Bowles said of Milliner. "The more reps he gets, the better. I guess his confidence will grow because he hasn't played in a while. I'm hoping that continues once training camp starts."
A few other takeaways from Tuesday's practice:
Quarterback Geno Smith was sharp for most of the day, especially in a red zone period when he hit Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker for touchdowns on back-to-back plays, but there still always seems to be that one big mistake. He threw a deep ball to a well-covered Decker and it was intercepted by rookie safety Doug Middleton. Smith is in a tough spot. No matter how well he does, he won't unseat Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting job if Fitzpatrick returns. The Jets have repeatedly stated that the starting job belongs to Fitzpatrick.
Marshall was in midseason form. In the red zone period, he ran a fade into the corner of the end zone and made a leaping grab over undersized cornerback Dexter McDougle.
Quarterbacks Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg experienced their share of hiccups. Hackenberg had two straight passes batted down at the line and also a near-interception. Hey, he's learning. Petty was intercepted on a deep seam to tight end Zach Sudfeld. Cornerback Kevin Short made a nice play to get the pick, peeling off his man and making the play on the ball. Petty never saw him.
Rookie linebacker Jordan Jenkins continued to run with the first-team defense, trying to win a starting job in the revamped corps. The Jets were slow at outside linebacker last season; that won't be the case with Jenkins and Lorenzo Mauldin.
The list of players who didn't practice included cornerback Darrelle Revis (wrist), tight end Kellen Davis (thumb) and running backs Zac Stacy (leg) and Khiry Robinson (leg). Backup center Wesley Johnson suffered a fracture in his hand/wrist area early in the offseason and has been sitting out. Bowles said he's "hoping" Johnson is ready for training camp. With Nick Mangold resting for many of the reps, Dakota Dozier continued to get the bulk of the work at center. Bowles was vague when asked about Mangold, saying the veteran center has "sore legs."
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who has dropped close to 15 pounds, stood out because of his hustle. You can't say the man doesn't practice hard.