Jets' Whitehead having foot surgery, return duties uncertain
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By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets will have to try their luck at finding a new returner.
Wide receiver Lucky Whitehead will have surgery this week on his broken foot, leaving the team's kickoff and punt return duties uncertain.
"I'm not sure about the timetable, though," coach Todd Bowles said Wednesday, "but he'll be out some time."
Bowles did not rule out Whitehead potentially returning this season.
"Yeah," the coach said, "it's possible."
Whitehead was the front-runner to serve as the Jets' primary kickoff and punt returner. He was injured during practice Monday and watched Tuesday from the sideline on crutches.
The injury is the latest in a string of bad news in a strange summer for Whitehead. He was waived by Dallas last month after two seasons following a shoplifting incident that turned out to be a case of false identity. New York claimed Whitehead off waivers on July 26.
Now, the Jets will use the next few weeks of training camp and the final three games of the preseason to determine whether they have someone in-house or if they'll have to look elsewhere.
Here's a look at the contenders for the job on New York's current roster:
- Jalin Marshall: He was the Jets' main returner last season as a rookie, but is suspended the first four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancers. He also struggled at times with consistency. He averaged 24.9 yards on kickoffs and 5.6 yards on punt returns.
- Frankie Hammond: He was signed by New York in January after four seasons with Kansas City. He spent last year on the Chiefs' practice squad, but has return experience. Hammond has averaged 10.9 yards on 29 career punt returns. The former University of Florida wide receiver has just two career kickoff returns - both in 2014 - and averaged 37 yards.
- Romar Morris: The speedy running back from North Carolina was a versatile presence in the Tar Heels' offense for four years and returned kickoffs. He was in camp with the Jets last summer before suffering a shoulder injury in late August.
- Chris Harper: The former Cal wide receiver has returned three punts in his career, during his rookie season with New England in 2015, for an average of 5.7 yards. He spent last season with San Francisco, which waived him in May.
- Marcus Murphy: In two seasons with New Orleans, the running back returned 34 punts for a 9.4 average - including a 74-yard touchdown in 2015 - and averaged 21.3 yards on 19 kickoffs.
- Elijah McGuire: The Jets' sixth-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette was a four-year starter at running back with the Ragin' Cajuns, but also returned punts and kickoffs in college.
NOTES: RB Matt Forte remains day to day with a tweaked hamstring. ... WR Marquess Wilson sat out for the second straight day because of a sore hip. ... LB Lorenzo Mauldin practiced in the afternoon after appearing in court in New York for his scheduled arraignment on a misdemeanor assault charge. He is accused of punching a man in a nightclub in April. ... WR Kenbrell Thompkins participated in practice after being signed earlier in the day.
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Updated August 16, 2017