Commentary

Joe McKnight tunes out 'Hard Knocks'

Jets rookie running back prefers not to watch his training camp struggles on HBO

Updated: August 19, 2010, 10:21 PM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- It says a lot that rookie running back Joe McKnight knew he would be a major storyline on Wednesday night's episode of "Hard Knocks" and, even though the Jets get HBO in the dorm, his television wasn't on.

"I just didn't feel like watching it," McKnight said.

McKnight said it like a rookie who understands his performance at training camp didn't make him want to break out the popcorn. In the episode, his coaches get on him for a lack of focus and intensity, for an inability to run the routes assigned to him.

"The [bleeping] details are slipping," running backs coach Anthony Lynn said.

Adding to the indignities, a narrator details McKnight's lack of fitness for the rookie minicamp and his failure to pass his initial conditioning test before camp. He's no John Conner, the rookie FB who is getting praise heaped on him for his hard hits.

"I have some good days and I have some bad days," McKnight said. "I just have to be more consistent. That's what I heard was said. I know for a fact that I have to be more consistent. You have to be more consistent."

McKnight was the player the Jets traded up to get in the fourth round of the draft this year, a deal that also sent RB Leon Washington to the Seahawks as he recovered from a career-threatening compound fracture of his right leg. Washington was a favorite in the Jets' locker room, respected for his work ethic and ability to outperform his size.

With Washington back on the field, healthy and impressing the Seattle staff, the Jets' decision to allegedly get younger and healthier at the spot isn't paying off.

Still, Jets coach Rex Ryan defended McKnight on Thursday, saying that he has a ton of potential and it's too soon to write him off.

"Let's let a season happen or a couple of seasons, and see how that trade works out," Ryan said.

McKnight had 13 carries for 32 yards and a 2.5-yard average when the Jets lost to the Giants on Monday night. Ryan said he was particularly disappointed with the second string players like McKnight. On Wednesday night on "Hard Knocks," clips of his performance were overlaid with audio of coaches lamenting his errors and inability to get by defenders with his speed.

McKnight is growing a beard, and on the very first day of camp, McKnight said he wasn't going to cut it until he was able to get himself right with the team.

"I just left it like this until I prove myself, and then I'll cut it off," McKnight said.

It's the last day of training camp in Cortland, and McKnight still has that beard.

Jane McManus is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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