- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The Cookie Monster is back.
After missing the first two days of the New York Jets training camp with a sore hamstring, a slimmed-down Kris Jenkins returned to practice Wednesday morning -- a 359-pound addition to a defense that already considers itself a heavyweight.
Jenkins, in full pads for the first time since undergoing major knee surgery last October, admitted to being rusty. No one was worried. His mere presence -- considerable -- changes the complexion of the defense. The Jets expect big things out of the former Pro Bowl nose tackle even if ... well, he's not as big as he once was.
Employing Dr. Sanford Siegal's cookie diet, Jenkins dropped 34 pounds in the offseason, checking into camp at a svelte (for him) 359. Starting in late May, he substituted two meals per day, usually breakfast and lunch, with cookies. His favorite, if you must know, is oatmeal raisin.
Hey, it worked. It helped him win the ballyhooed "Biggest Loser" contest against coach Rex Ryan and right tackle Damien Woody. It also should help Jenkins to regain his old form, circa 2008, when he was a dominant nose tackle. Jenkins thanked Dr. Siegal, whom he met in Miami before trying the diet.
"It's basically a supplement to your daily diet," Jenkins said after the morning practice. "It's not something where you're fasting or trying to starve yourself. It's not some type of gimmick. It's something that actually works."
Jenkins is such as believer that he may sign an endorsement deal for the diet. Ryan, who has his own weight issues, laughed when asked about the Cookie Monster -- Jenkins' new nickname among teammates.
"I really can't comment on the cookie diet," Ryan cracked. "I ate a bunch of cookies and it's not working for me."
Jenkins began camp on the active physically unable to perform list because he was still concerned about his hamstring. During surgery in October to repair a torn knee ligament, the doctors removed four strands of tendon from his left hamstring and grafted them into the ligament repair. They could've used a ligament from a cadaver, but Jenkins didn't want to go there.
"I don't do dead people," he said.
The surgically repaired knee is fine, Jenkins claimed. So, too, is the hamstring, as he passed the team's conditioning test at 6 a.m. -- about 2½ hours before practice. The new objective is to keep him healthy, and they will do that by limiting his reps in camp and using him in a rotation once the season begins.
"We won't use him too much [in camp]," Ryan said, "because we don't want him to disrupt our entire offense."
The coach was only half-kidding.
The Jets finished No. 1 in total defense last year without having Jenkins for most of the season. Ryan can only imagine what the group will do with a healthy Jenkins anchoring the middle of the defensive line.
"I tell you what, this is the best defense I've ever been around," said former San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who played with terrific San Diego defenses that included Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison.
But they never had a Cookie Monster.
Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins arrives at camp a lot smaller, but hopefully better.