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Garnes confident he'll play in opener

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Sam Garnes looked at the cast on his left
hand, turning it slowly as if it was a work of art. Then he held up
his arm for everyone in the locker room to see.

"This won't slow me down,'' Garnes said Wednesday of the broken
left thumb he suffered in Tuesday's practice. "This will
definitely not stop me from hitting people. I am really excited
about the season and I am in the best shape and I can't wait to get
started.''

He won't start, or even play, in the preseason finale against
Philadelphia on Friday night. But on Sept. 8 at Buffalo, when the
regular season opens, expect to see Garnes at strong safety.

And, he says, expect to see him doing everything a healthy Sam
Garnes can do. Such as providing devastating run support, being a
leader in a secondary with three new starters -- including Garnes --
and supplying some ballhawking, too.

"I tell everybody I am not worried about interceptions,'' says
Garnes, who signed a three-year, $2.7 million deal with the Jets in
the offseason. The native New Yorker left the Giants as a free
agent. "But you do get focused more on looking the ball in and
catching it like a wide receiver when you have an injury.

"It also makes you a lot tougher. When I get hurt, I start to
have better games. I become more of a technician and don't rely on
athleticism.''

Garnes and cornerbacks Donnie Abraham and Aaron Beasley are the
new starters in the secondary. Damien Robinson is in his second
season at free safety. The only veteran holdover is Ray Mickens.

While Mickens recognizes the importance of a defensive backfield
getting lots of work together, he isn't overly concerned that the
Jets' secondary has been slowed by injuries in the preseason.

"There is nothing like experience as a unit,'' Mickens said.
"Every snap helps us out more toward our goal of getting good
chemistry.

"But we have a lot of talent and we've got to use it to be able
to function with each other. It helps out a lot that we're all
experienced in the league and there isn't a dropoff in performance
from one spot to another. And we have players who are familiar with
this system and play it well.''

Garnes will be replaced by Nick Ferguson on Friday. Ferguson, in
his third season with the Jets, knows he is a fill-in, but that's
fine.

"To have a great team and defense, you must have quality
backups,'' Ferguson said. ``I dig my role on this team. I'm not
saying I'm settling for second best, by I understand and embrace my
roles.''

Notes
WR Santana Moss returned to practice after sitting out two
days with sore hamstrings. He looked very sharp ... The Jets
claimed QB Todd Husak off waivers from Denver. He was on the Jets'
practice squad for much of last season. ... New York also waived TE
Daniel Wilcox.