- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Braylon Edwards opened his big right hand and gave a guided tour. He revealed a perma-curled pinky and a middle finger aspiring to be a question mark.
"This pinky is destroyed -- a ripped ligament -- and my middle finger is going the wrong way," he said. "Broke it twice."
With a battle-scarred right hand, Edwards leans to the left when it comes to catching passes for the New York Jets. His left hand is stronger than the right, a disparity that affects him on passes over his right shoulder. Eager to correct the flaw, Edwards is working hard in training camp, trying to dispel the widespread notion that he has bad hands.
"I'll be OK," he said. "I've been doing good at it this year, trusting the fingers, trusting the hands. So far, it's been working for me."
Edwards is an immense physical talent, but he was dogged last season by the dropping issue. Part of that was reputation; he led the league in drops in 2008 as a Cleveland Brown. In 2009, his total wasn't outrageous -- five, according to STATS, LLC -- but they were ill-timed. The most egregious drop came against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto, where he pulled a Luis Castillo, dropping an easy, no-one-around-him pass that should've gone for an 80-yard touchdown.
After breaking down plays from last season, Jets wide receivers coach Henry Ellard determined that most of Edwards' drops came on passes over his right shoulder. As Ellard put it, "He has a block on that side," suggesting the issue is mental as well as physical. So on most days in practice, Ellard runs over-the-shoulder drills, hoping repetition solves the problem.
"If you want to be in the elite five, you have to make a play every time the ball comes in your direction," Ellard said.
Edwards exudes confidence, talking like he expects this to be his signature season. One of his new partners, Santonio Holmes, said Edwards "could be the No. 1 receiver in the NFL -- this year." Edwards has tasted individual glory (1,289 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in 2007), which might explain why he's focusing solely on team goals.
He loves the big-play potential of the Jets' receiving corps.
"You won't be able to stop us," Edwards said. "Wherever the ball goes, there should be a play."
He also loves the attitudes of his fellow receivers -- especially Holmes, one of only three players on the team with a Super Bowl ring.
"We just want to win a championship, that's all we care about," Edwards said. "At the end of the day, when we retire and we're playing with our kids and grandkids, to have that ring on the mantle to say, 'I did that in 2011' that's why we're here."
Edwards was known in Cleveland as a diva, and there are those who wonder how he and Holmes -- another No. 1-caliber receiver -- will get along. From the early indications, Edwards seems determined to recast his image and make himself a team guy. On Thursday, he made a cameo on special teams, blocking a field goal.
"Hey, you have to do a lot of stuff to stay around," he said. "Lot of studs around here."
It will be fascinating to see how offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer uses his big three receivers: Edwards, Holmes and Jerricho Cotchery. Edwards, a split end his entire career, is learning the flanker and slot positions. That flexibility should help create problems for opponents.
"We're causing chaos, play to play, for the defense," Edwards said, referring to practice.
Curiously, Edwards was one of the least efficient receivers in the league in '09. He had 45 receptions, but was targeted 94 times -- a ratio (47.9 percent) that put him 76th out of 83 players who were targeted at least 75 times, according to STATS.
Edwards, who signed a one-year contract for his tender amount ($6.1 million), will be a free agent after this season. There is financial incentive to have a monster year, but he insisted that doing so isn't his primary motivation.
"All I care about is winning a championship," he said. "It would be the culmination of so many things that have gone on in my career and my life. That's all I want: Win a championship and be on the best team there is."
37mEric D. Williams