Sports

After emotional 2 weeks, Jets’ Wilson in camp

New York Jets prized rookie Zach Wilson made his training-camp debut Friday, saying he’s eager to learn his craft and lead the Jets to a Super Bowl one day.

But his return to the team after a brief contract dispute contained a twinge of sadness.

On July 22, Wilson’s coach — passing-game specialist Gregg Knapp — died from injuries suffered when he was struck by a motorist while biking near his home in California.

“At first, it was shock — complete shock,” Wilson said after his first practice. “I’d just been talking to him the day before, right before the incident happened (on July 17). It was almost like I didn’t believe it. I felt like I just could’ve called him right then on the phone and he would’ve answered.

“It really hit later on when I was like, ‘Jeez, this is rough.’ I was just praying for him and his family and everyone involved. You kind of get through this together. It’s tough, man. Life is a precious thing.”

Knapp, 58, was in charge of coaching the quarterbacks.

Wilson experienced a wide range of emotions over the last two weeks. The second overall pick and presumptive starter was the last first-round pick to sign. A dispute over language in the contract caused him to miss the first two days of practice. He was in Southern California, training with his personal coach, former NFL quarterback John Beck.

On Thursday, the two sides finally came to an agreement. Wilson, who landed in New Jersey Thursday morning after a red-eye flight, signed his four-year, $35.15 million contract, which is fully guaranteed. He will receive his full signing bonus ($22.9 million) within 15 days.

You can purchase a lot of things with that kind of wealth, but what he wants is priceless.

“You can’t buy a Super Bowl,” he said. “So I guess I have to work for that. We’ll go get one of those.”

Barring injury, Wilson will be the Jets’ opening-day starter. Coach Robert Saleh wouldn’t confirm the obvious, saying only, “Call it the inside lane. It’s his to lose.”

The only other quarterbacks on the roster are Mike White and James Morgan, former late-round draft picks of the Dallas Cowboys and Jets, respectively. The Jets decided against bringing in veteran competition for Wilson.

Not surprisingly, Wilson took all the first-team reps on Friday. His first pass was a long completion to rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore, but he struggled the rest of the way. There was an interception, plus a handful of errant throws.

“I wouldn’t say I’m behind,” he said, explaining the rust. “It’s just my first live bullets again.”

Saleh took the glass-half-full approach, complimenting the defense for creating tight windows for Wilson. “Just like any rookie,” he said, “there’s going to be ebbs and flows.”

While sweating out the contract stalemate in California, Wilson tried to stay current by downloading new plays and watching practice video on his tablet. But as he said, “You can do only so much on an iPad, right? It’s not simulating a real game.”

Wilson has 17 practices and three preseason games to get ready for the Sept. 12 opener against the Carolina Panthers. If there are bumps along the way, the Jets are confident he can handle it. Saleh said he admires Wilson’s ability to “deal with adversity and shut people up.”

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