Jets WR Quincy Enunwa not giving up on playing again despite career-threatening neck injury

Rich CiminiESPN Staff Writer4 Minute Read

Why Jalen is feeling confident in his Lions over Greeny's Jets

Jalen Rose emphatically guarantees to Mike Greenberg that the Lions will be better than the Jets this year.

New York Jets wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, battling a career-threatening neck injury that will keep him off the field in 2020, still hopes to play again one day. But that decision, he said, no longer is in his control.

In an interview with ESPN, Enunwa said Wednesday it was "devastating" to learn recently he had been ruled out for the season. Now, he said, the only thing he can do is play the waiting game.

"If I'm capable of playing, then that's what I'll do," he said, making his first public comments since the end of the season. "If it comes down to the fact that the doctors say I can't, there's not much I can do. There's really nothing I can do there, but if I have the ability to [play], the passion will always be there, the want-to will always be there.

"I think, aside from obviously my neck, the physical ability will always be there. It's really just about me going for the ride, I guess, because I'm not in control of that part anymore."

On May 5, Enunwa was placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, making him ineligible for 2020. The move came as no surprise; the team had expressed no optimism about his chances for a return.

Enunwa, who missed the 2017 season because of a neck injury that required surgery, reinjured it in the 2019 opener and missed the final 15 games. He didn't have another surgery. By the end of 2020, he will have missed almost three full seasons out of the last four.

Enunwa said he has no regrets.

"There's really no one to blame," he said. "It's one of those things. If I could've had a crystal ball and told myself ... this was going to happen, I probably would've done it the same way. There's nothing really I regret or I'm upset with anybody about.

"I think everybody tried to handle it the best way that we could. There's no way to have prevented this other than not play football, and I don't know if I would've been as happy if I made that choice."

Enunwa remains on the Jets' payroll, earning a fully guaranteed $6 million for 2020. He has a $4.1 million injury guarantee in 2021 as part of the four-year, $33.4 million extension he signed in December, 2018. If he opts for voluntary retirement, he'd jeopardize his salary.

Asked about his future with the Jets, Enunwa said, "I'm under contract. I want to be a Jet for life. I saw Eli Manning say something. On his Twitter page he wrote, 'Once a Giant, always a Giant, only a Giant.' It would be cool to say that as a Jet."

Enunwa, who turns 28 on Sunday, admitted the time away from football has taken an emotional toll.

"The simple word is just depressed, I guess," he said. "If I'm being completely candid, there were times where it was tough to navigate what I was going through and then trying to figure out how to be comfortable coming into the facility, knowing there's a possibility this whole game could be taken away from me. It's been tough and it was tough, but I'm definitely handling it much better now than I was before."

Enunwa said the low point came last November, when he was fined $27,900 by the team for missing two mandatory rehab sessions. He ripped the organization in a series of tweets, saying the fines were "excessive." He blamed it on a lack of communication, adding the communication in recent months with general manager Joe Douglas and coach Adam Gase has improved.

He hasn't been able to work out at the Jets' facility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Enunwa, who lives in New Jersey, said it hasn't affected his rehab because he can do it at home. He hopes to be around the team when it returns.

Before the second injury, Enunwa was considered one of the Jets' top young players. His best season was 2016, when he caught 58 passes for 857 yards.

"The passion I played with, that's never left," he said. "I think if everything goes the way I hope it goes, it's still going to be there for me. My physical ability has not left. I've just been kind of like slowed down, hampered, you know? I'm doing my best to work around those limitations that I have. Again, that passion is not gone."

Take ESPN Everywhere

Download the #1 sports app