- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan said Santonio Holmes was at the New York Jets' practice facility at 6 a.m. Wednesday, the first day he was allowed to fully practice with the team during the regular season.
As the wide receiver served the four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, Holmes was allowed to come to the facility and attend meetings.
"Guys welcomed me every day I came in," Holmes said.
Holmes said that he has used the time to learn plays, attend meetings and work out with the team. He wouldn't play this off as a chance at redemption. In Holmes' eyes, he has nothing to atone for, and said he hadn't spent his time off trying to change.
"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 this NFL, I'll [continue] being the same person until I leave."
Holmes was as unapologetic as he was the day the Jets brought him to the team, after Pittsburgh unloaded the receiver in April despite the fact that he'd been the 2008 Super Bowl MVP. In October 2008, Holmes was cited for marijuana possession and received a one-game suspension. He could have triggered the four-game penalty with a positive or missed drug test, which happened with the Steelers. Another violation, and Holmes would face missing an entire season.
Asked if any of those things had been a wake-up call, Holmes was forthright.
"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, doesn't affect anything I do or what I'm capable of doing."
Last season with Pittsburgh, Holmes had 79 receptions for 1,248 yards and and five touchdowns in 16 starts. He said that to stay focused, he had the frame of mind that he was an outcast on the Jets, even though everyone was nice enough to him at the facility.
"It's a mindset that I had to use," Holmes said, "that I'm not playing, can't think that I'm on the field yet."
During the time off, he worked out each day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting with lifting and then some kind of cardio such as basketball.
"He's going to open it up even more," receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "We're still going to do our thing as far as the running game, but another option like that on the field is tough for defenses."
LaDainian Tomlinson said he is looking to see Holmes fit into the offense, and to see if he can help the Jets on special teams with punt returns.
"Talk about a big-play threat," Tomlinson said, "Santonio has been that his whole entire career. We're excited about that; we've got some good things up for him in the game plan."
Jane McManus covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.
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