Holmes returns to Jets practice, 'ready to get season started'

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Santonio Holmes arrived at the New York Jets' facility before the sun even rose, eager to start his day.

After four weeks of no practice while serving an NFL-mandated suspension, the wide receiver was downright antsy to be on the field again Wednesday. Even if it was only 6 a.m.

"I was a little upbeat this morning," Holmes said. "I was up early, walking the dog, got myself situated, driving to practice ready to go. I sat in meetings at attention. Everything was a little bit different."

Holmes, whom the Jets acquired in April from the Pittsburgh Steelers, is expected to make his regular-season debut in Monday night's game against the Minnesota Vikings. He was forced to sit the first four regular-season games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

"I'm ready to get the season started for myself," he said.

Although he hadn't practiced since camp ended, Holmes was able to attend meetings during his suspension. He used the rest of the time to stay in shape -- not to reflect on what he had done to put him in that situation.

"To look in your eyes and be honest with you, not 1 percent," Holmes said. "I've been the same person since I stepped foot in the NFL. I'll continue being the same person until I leave. I didn't have anything to think about. Everything was already done in the process. It's time to play football now."

Holmes, a former Super Bowl MVP, came to the Jets with some off-the-field issues other than the suspension. He was arrested in 2008 for possession of marijuana and involved in a domestic-violence incident in 2006; the misdemeanor charges were later dismissed.

Holmes said those incidents had no impact on his performance on the field.

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"I made it to the Super Bowl and won it, didn't I?" Holmes said. "That's all I had to do with myself. I didn't have anything to think about. I'm a football player. What happens off the field happens off the field. It doesn't affect anything I do or what I'm capable of doing."

Holmes joins a Jets offense that has been solid through four games, with Mark Sanchez throwing eight touchdown passes with no interceptions.

"I think he's going to be a huge thing for us," Jets coach Rex Ryan said of Holmes. "He looks like he hasn't missed a beat. He looked good."

Not that being away was easy for the receiver.

"It's a totally different mindset," Holmes said. "You can't be in the same mindset as a player. It's tough, you know, being an outcast."

Holmes was welcomed by his teammates and coaches whenever he was at the facility, when he wasn't working out in Florida four hours per day. Holmes still needed to think of himself as someone who wasn't a true part of the team.

"It's a mindset that I had to use," Holmes said, "that I'm not playing, can't think like I'm on the field yet. Go to meetings, learn and keep moving."

Holmes isn't concerned where he'll be used on the field. He's just happy to be back, as are his teammates.

"He's just somebody who has big-play potential," Sanchez said. "He catches an underneath route and has the ability to run by people. He'll be perfect for our group."

Once Holmes returned to the field, it didn't take him long to feel comfortable.

"It's football," he said. "I've been doing this since I was 7 years old. It's not like I became a professional football player yesterday or five years ago. I've been playing ball since I was a kid. I've learned the ins and outs, the ups and downs of the game. The media, the different aspects, whatever it is, I'm on top of everything."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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