FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — New York Jets right tackle Mekhi Becton will “more than likely” miss the entire season because of another injury to his surgically repaired right knee, coach Robert Saleh announced Tuesday.
Becton was having a second evaluation after suffering a chip fracture to his kneecap, Saleh confirmed, during the second play of 11-on-11 team drills Monday. The initial prognosis was optimistic, but an MRI later in the day revealed more damage to the knee than first expected.
“It’s probably the inevitable,” Saleh said of the severity of the injury. “I’m just sick for Mekhi.”
When asked to clarify if Becton’s season appears over, Saleh said: “Yeah, it’s more than likely.”
The 6-foot-7 Becton, entering his third NFL season, injured the same knee last year in the opening game at Carolina and missed the rest of the season. The latest injury is new and not related to the one last year when he suffered a dislocated right kneecap and cartilage damage.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Becton wrote on his Instagram page. “I know God and my Grandma got me up there I JUST KNOW IT! TRUST!#IMSTILLHIM.”
Becton was run-blocking at right tackle Monday when he went down on the grass and immediately grabbed at his knee. The 2020 first-round draft pick was down a few moments before trying to get up, but needed assistance from trainers to walk off the field.
He took off his pads and eventually walked very gingerly on his own to the locker room with a noticeable limp.
“It just sucks, man,” quarterback Zach Wilson said.
It’s another major setback for Becton, who was adjusting to moving to right tackle this season after previously playing on the left side. George Fant, who slid over from right tackle and played well in Becton’s place, is slotted as the starter on the left side.
Becton appeared to be making strides at right tackle in recent practices, but began wearing a brace on his right knee late last week. His weight — he’s listed at 363 pounds after reportedly ballooning to 400 last year — was also a popular target of criticism for some fans and media. That only increased when Becton chose to not report for voluntary offseason workouts, instead opting to stay with his pregnant girlfriend and work out with his personal trainer.
Becton attended mandatory minicamp in June, predicting he’d make critics “eat their words” and showed up for training camp noticeably slimmer.
“These are young men and I think sometimes with social media and this world, we dehumanize these athletes in the worst way imaginable,” Saleh said. “Mekhi has walked in this building and he has taken every single punch you can get from every which way, and he shows up and he works his tail off and he grinds every single day.
“He shows up to camp and he’s fighting to get himself back into shape and he’s got videos of him vomiting and people are throwing shade and he’s limping and he’s doing all those different things. And he’s fighting for his family, for himself, for his teammates, for this organization, for this fan base. And he’s doing everything, and then everyone wants to drop him like a wet rag.”
Saleh insisted that is not the case as far as the team is concerned, despite all the outside criticism of Becton.
“We love Mekhi,” the coach said. “We appreciate everything he’s done and his ride is not over. His story is not over. He’s got full support of this organization.
“And if you’re a fan that wants to support him, you’re more than welcome. Otherwise, just keep it moving.”
Becton saw video of Saleh’s comments posted by the team and expressed his appreciation in a quote-tweet.
“I appreciate you more than you know coach!!” Becton wrote. “Love you coach!!! ITS NOT OVER!!!”
With Becton out indefinitely, the Jets now must focus on who’ll replace him at right tackle.
The versatile Chuma Edoga, a third-rounder in 2019, appears to be the front-runner — for now. Conor McDermott is dealing with a lower-ankle sprain that will sideline him a week or two. Max Mitchell, a fourth-rounder this year, Grant Hermanns and Derrick Kelly are other options.
New York also hosted free agent Duane Brown over the weekend and general manager Joe Douglas said during an interview on WFAN that “the wheels are in motion” for potentially adding him. Brown, who turns 37 on Aug. 30, was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time last season with Seattle.
Brown, a first-round pick of the Texans in 2008, has been a left tackle his entire career. So Fant would likely have to slide back over to the right side if Brown is signed.
NOTES: The Jets signed guards Caleb Benenoch and Chris Glaser, and waived OL Parker Ferguson and DL Hamilcar Rashed Jr. … CB D.J. Reed, RB Ty Johnson and DE Vinny Curry all sat out practice with hamstring injuries. … CB Brandon Echols (undisclosed) also didn’t practice.
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