Rishard Matthews didn’t like his diminished role in Tennessee’s new offense, so the wide receiver gambled on himself.
He asked to be traded or released — and the Titans cut him. Matthews then waited for a team to sign him.
It took four weeks to find another job. Now he’s a member of the New York Jets , eager to help his new squad in any way he can.
“I fully understand the position I’m in,” Matthews said. “I put myself in this position. I expressed that as well. I played special teams to make it in this league. I don’t mind doing that, I don’t mind taking reps off the guys throughout the week so they could be fresh for the game. Whatever I’ve got to do to get their trust and contribute, I’m all for it.”
The 29-year-old Matthews comes to the Jets to provide a potentially big boost to a receiving group that needs some help.
Quincy Enunwa will miss his second game in a row with a sprained ankle that could keep him out a few more weeks.
Robby Anderson hasn’t practiced this week, also because of an ankle injury that coach Todd Bowles described as “kind of in between” a high and low sprain. Terrelle Pryor was released last Saturday with a groin injury.
That leaves only veterans Jermaine Kearse and Andre Roberts, who’s New York’s primary returner, along with youngsters Charone Peake and Deontay Burnett.
“No. 1, he’s a veteran,” offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said of Matthews. “He really likes the game. He’s been here studying his tail off, and he’s got great size, got great length, he’s been productive in the league and he just understands the professionalism of the sport.”
Matthews signed a one-year contract extension with the Titans in August after leading them with 1,740 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns combined over the past two seasons.
An undisclosed injury caused him to miss offseason workouts, minicamp and the Titans’ first three preseason games. He was activated from the physically unable to perform list before the regular season, but never found a consistent role in new coordinator Matt LaFleur’s offense. He had just three catches for 11 yards in three games before Tennessee released him when it couldn’t deal him.
“That’s just a situation that’s in my past now,” Matthews said. “It is what it is. That situation happened and I wish nothing but the best for those guys.”
Matthews had workouts with the Jets, Browns and Cardinals in the weeks after he was released, but wasn’t immediately signed. He said in an interview that he thought he probably wouldn’t be signed by anyone this season.
“I wouldn’t say surprised,” Matthews said of joining the Jets. “I guess I was just letting my feelings out at that given moment. Yeah, that was last week and I’m happy to be here and I’m just trying to learn as much as I can so I can contribute right away.”
Matthews has been putting in extra work on the field with Sam Darnold, trying to quickly build a bit of a rapport with the rookie quarterback.
There are some familiar faces for Matthews in New York. He and Kearse were roommates at the NFL combine in Indianapolis in 2012 — Matthews was a seventh-rounder by Miami; Kearse went undrafted before signing with Seattle.
Jets linebacker Avery Williamson played with Matthews for two years in Tennessee, and is happy to have the receiver on his side.
“He had a lot of great catches, man,” Williamson said. “You put the ball in his area, he’s going to go up and get it. I’m definitely glad to have him out here. Once he gets back and used to playing again and continues to learn the system, I feel he’s going to be a great asset for us. I mean, he’s a tough guy. I’ve seen him make some catches where he takes some tough hits and he holds onto the ball well.”
Matthews has 228 catches for 3,147 yards and 21 touchdowns in six-plus seasons. With the Jets so thin at receiver, there’s a good chance Darnold could be looking for Matthews plenty in Chicago on Sunday.
“I didn’t know much before he came here, but I know that he is a great player,” Darnold said. “I know that we can kind of fit him everywhere. We can kind of put him in different spots and he’s able to so far just in the first days. He’s learning the offense like crazy.”
NOTES: C Spencer Long missed his second straight day of practice with knee and finger injuries. If he can’t play Sunday, Jonnothan Harrison or Dakota Dozier would start in his place. … CB Trumaine Johnson (quadriceps) remains sidelined. … CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder/foot) and LT Kelvin Beachum (back) were limited after sitting out Wednesday. … Also limited were: S Marcus Maye (broken thumb), CB Buster Skrine (concussion) and LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (foot). … Darron Lee was a full participant after missing practice with an illness.
Source: The Associated Press