FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Carl Lawson spends his Sundays on the couch, just like you, rooting for his New York Jets. During the week, he roams the team facility, attending meetings in the morning and rehabbing his surgically repaired Achilles' the rest of the day. The defensive end dispenses advice and technical tips to teammates, but takes as much as he gives. It's a symbiotic relationship that, frankly, keeps him going.
"It’s crazy to say, but as I’m out, I’m still improving as a player," Lawson told ESPN.com this week. "I kind of live through other players. Every rep they take, I take, whether it’s a practice or a play (in the game). I'm fortunate to be blessed with the ability to improve while watching. They get stuff from me, but I’m also learning from them."
Lawson, injured during a joint practice with the Green Bay Packers in August, is convinced he will return next season better than before. Modern medical technology and an old-fashioned work ethic will get him there, but he also credited his fellow defensive linemen and position coach, Aaron Whitecotton, for providing a positive environment.
The days can be long and lonely for a player in injury rehab, but Lawson, a marquee free agent who was supposed to galvanize the Jets' pass rush, sounded upbeat. His Achilles' tendon was ruptured, but not his spirit.
"I really don’t have any interest in getting back to my previous condition," he said. "My mindset is to be better than I was before. Anything I’ve put my mind to, I've gotten. So, until further notice, I don't really see that changing."
Lawson got a charge out of watching last Sunday's 21-14 win over the Houston Texans, a game controlled by the Jets' front four. John Franklin-Myers, who spends a lot of behind-the-scenes time with Lawson, led the way with two of the team's five sacks, plus an interception. He tipped a pass, snatched it out of the air and rumbled 32 yards before veering out of bounds.
"Pure excitement," said Lawson, describing his couch reaction to Franklin-Myers' interception. "We’re so happy for him. We just keep giving him crap about not scoring."
Franklin-Myers became the first Jets' player since linebacker Lance Mehl in 1985 to record two sacks and an interception in a game.
"Ten years before I was born," Lawson said with a laugh. "That's wild."
The Jets, hungry for an edge rusher, gave Lawson a three-year, $45 million contract in March. He impressed in training camp, looking as if he were on his way to double-digit sacks, but it all ended on a Green Bay practice field. It was crushing, easily the team's most impactful injury of the year.
"Of course, you go, 'Why me?'" Lawson said. "But there’s never any doubt that I won't come back from this."
Some players with season-ending injuries leave the area to go home, where they rehab with their own trainer and isolate themselves from teammates because they can't stand the idea of hanging around the team and not being able to play. It's understandable. Lawson, who had two major knee surgeries in the past, is taking the opposite approach. He wants to be close to the team. He needs to be close.
"I want to help everybody and I try to learn from everybody," he said. "I like to bounce information back and forth, so if they need anything from me, I tell them what I see from my perspective. If I want to learn so I can get better at my game, I ask them what they’re doing. That’s our give-and-take relationship.
"We have a lot of good things that are going to happen here and I want to be part of, as much as I can, every part of the process. The future is extremely bright, so I definitely want to be around the guys."
Lawson, 26, wouldn't give an exact timetable on his return, except to say he's ahead of schedule. He has done plenty of research on the injury and how it impacts players at his position. He mentioned three elite pass-rushers who made successful comebacks from Achilles' surgery -- Terrell Suggs, Robert Mathis and Cameron Wake. Teammate Sheldon Rankins also battled back from the injury.
"I won't be able to do my job for a long period of time, but there’s never been a time in my mind where I'm like, 'I can't come back from this,' especially nowadays," Lawson said. "Other than concussions or back injuries, I don’t think there’s any way you can’t come back with a conventional rehab and be better than you were before.
"Technology has advanced so much over the last couple of years. I'd be a little more worried if I was in a different era, but thankfully I was blessed to be born at a time when medicine and technology are so much better. People have gone through it before me and, not to say they’re test dummies, but they’ve gone through the process and it helps my process go faster."