FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Since signing a record-setting contract with the New York Jets in March 2019, linebacker C.J. Mosley has collected $29 million even though he has yet to play a complete game. He knows there are naysayers out there.
"There's a little added chip [on his shoulder] because you've always got your fans that are going to heckle," Mosley said Thursday in his first interview since opting out in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. "When I get back on the field, I definitely want to make sure they respect the name again."
Mosley was a big name after making four Pro Bowls with the Baltimore Ravens, a status he parlayed into the richest free-agent contract ever for an inside linebacker -- five years, $85 million. He suffered a severe groin injury in the 2019 opener, aggravated the injury in his comeback game a few weeks later and that was that. He eventually had surgery.
The injury and the opt-out resulted in "a two-year hiatus," as he called it. Now he's trying to regain his old form under a new coaching staff and with a new defensive scheme. Mosley, who turns 29 on June 19, is confident he can regain his Pro Bowl form.
"Yeah, I don't have any doubts in myself," he said after the team's third OTA practice. "I mean, Gronk took two years off [one, actually] and won a Super Bowl, so it is what it is. I'm here, so we'll let the play do the talking."
Mosley didn't give a specific reason for why he opted out, except to say it was "a tough decision." He consulted with family members and coaches, even the Jets' team psychologist. In the end, he felt it was best for his family that he sit out.
A lot happened while he was gone. The Jets finished 2-14, and coach Adam Gase was fired. The first free-agent signing under new coach Robert Saleh was middle linebacker Jarrad Davis, the 2017 first-round pick of the Detroit Lions. That sparked immediate speculation about Mosley's future. At the time, the Jets were open to trading Mosley, sources said, but his contract is immovable. He's still owed another $14 million in guarantees.
Saleh called Mosley a "very powerful mover. Obviously, we can't tackle, but you can see a lot of power -- his movement, and he eats up a lot of ground."
The plan is to start Mosley and Davis in their 4-3 front, although their exact positions haven't been determined yet. The Jets don't have many impact players on their roster, so they could really use the old Mosley, circa 2018.
"My body feels great," he said. "I'm mentally happy, I'm physically happy, I'm emotionally happy. I'm just happy to be back on the field.
"When you're out for a while, you're always in your head, thinking, 'When I get back, how's it going to feel? Am I going to be able to move like I used to?' After finishing this week, I feel great."