Abraham to join conditioning program next week

Updated: May 18, 2005, 11:12 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Rumored for the past month to be contemplating retirement, New York Jets cornerback Donnie Abraham has apprised team officials that he will play in 2005, and the nine-year veteran will report next week to join the offseason conditioning program.

The NFL's top coverage defender over the past decade, Abraham was excused by coach Herm Edwards from the first six weeks of the offseason program, reportedly because he was considering retirement. But agent Jack Reale indicated that those reports were overplayed, and that Abraham actually needed the time to arrange for the schooling of his three young children.

Abraham, whose permanent home is in the Tampa area, did not want his children to have to switch schools. It appears that the Jets will accommodate Abraham's needs, in part, by permitting him time off following games.

Reale emphasized that Abraham remains committed to the game and to the Jets. Edwards said earlier this week that, in a conversation with Abraham, the nine-year veteran did not raise the possibility of retirement. Both sides acknowledged weeks ago that Abraham's absence was not contract-related.

The standout cornerback is under contract through '07, with base salaries of $1.4 million (2005), $1.7 million (2006) and $2.1 million (2007).

With Abraham returning, and set to start at his familiar left cornerback spot, New York likely will no longer pursue free agent Ty Law, the former New England Patriots star in whom the Jets had indicated some interest. Law had spoken to Edwards, but probably will not be able to run hard or cut for another month.

The Jets' starting right corner, David Barrett, is coming off a strong '04 performance, and the team invested a second-round choice in Clemson cornerback Justin Miller. Longtime nickel cornerback Ray Mickens is expected to be fully recovered from a knee injury that sidelined him for the entire 2004 season.

Abraham, 31, started all 16 games last season and posted 53 tackles, two interceptions and 13 passes defensed. The former East Tennessee State standout, who began his career in Tampa Bay as a third-round choice in 1996, is one of the leading active players in the NFL in interceptions, with 38. He has intercepted four or more passes in six seasons.

For his career, Abraham, who joined the Jets in '02 after the Bucs released him for salary cap reasons, has 442 tackles, 131 passes defensed, two sacks, two forced fumbles and eight recoveries. In 1999-2000, he had seven interceptions each season and totaled an amazing 48 passes defensed. Abraham has played in 132 games and started in 112.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.