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Injuries take bite out of Jets’ secondary depth

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The fresh starts for safety Antonio Allen and cornerback Dee Milliner barely lasted a week.

Allen and Milliner were injured during the same practice last Thursday. Allen suffered a torn Achilles tendon while trying to push off his foot on the final snap of the day. He was waived with an injured designation Friday and placed on injured reserve Monday.

“That’s a tough break for him,” head coach Todd Bowles said Friday. “He was having a good camp. The guy comes to work. He practices hard. He plays hard. It’s a freak accident — nobody touches you, you just try to take off on your foot and your Achilles goes.”

The long-term prognosis is better for Milliner, who initially played through soreness in his wrist. He underwent surgery Friday and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.

“He just thought it was a sprain, so he kept going,” Bowles said. “After all was said and done, we didn’t know about it until he got X-rayed and everything else. So he had to get surgery.”

While Allen and Milliner have different timelines for their recoveries, the injuries may be crippling blows for a pair of players looking to establish themselves as backups under Bowles and distance themselves from the struggles they endured during the Rex Ryan regime.

Allen, a 2012 seventh-round pick under then-general manager Mike Tannenbaum, displayed big-play abilities on both defense and special teams by scoring two touchdowns – one on an interception return and the other on a blocked punt – in 2013. But he was misused by Ryan, who continually switched Allen from his natural safety to cornerback and was quick to bury him when he struggled.

Milliner, who was selected by ex-general manager John Idzik with the ninth pick in the 2013 draft, was benched multiple times as a rookie and was off to a slow start last season when he suffered his own Achilles tendon tear Oct. 12.

The wrist surgery is the seventh injury of Milliner’s career dating back to his days at Alabama. There is no doubting his toughness, but nothing buries an NFL player quicker than an inability to stay on the field.

“I think it’s more frustrating for him,” Bowles said. “He got back healthy and to have another setback like that, with the injury he already came off of, you’ve got to be deflated a little bit. But I think he’ll be back sooner than later with this one. He still should be able to get in sometime this year.”

–Quarterback Geno Smith is already in midseason form with Jets fans.

Smith’s ability to take care of the ball in training camp — he didn’t commit a turnover in his first eight training camp practices — failed to buy him any margin for error on Saturday night, when he was booed by an estimated crowd of 10,000 after losing the ball on a strip-sack and nearly throwing an interception during an open practice at MetLife Stadium.

“You’d think we were on the road today,” Smith said afterward.

Smith fared better as the practice went on — he ended up throwing two touchdown passes to new wide receiver Brandon Marshall — but that he was booed during a no-tackling practice indicates how far he has to go to regain the trust of Jets fans after committing 41 turnovers through his first two NFL seasons.

Head coach Todd Bowles, at least, was willing to grade Smith on a curve Saturday, when he noted Smith’s fumble likely wouldn’t have happened in an actual game setting.

“Quarterbacks have on red shirts and you’re not allowed to hit them, so they take a little extra liberty,” Bowles said. “I’m sure when the game is flying and you have to hit those guys, they’ll go down or either they’ll slide or some of those types of things.”

Of course, Bowles also sounded a word of warning, as well.

“He just has to learn to protect the ball,” Bowles said.

–Saturday night isn’t all right for fighting for Bowles. Nor is it acceptable any other day of the week.

The Jets haven’t had a single fight in training camp yet, a remarkable feat given the frustration that naturally builds during monotonous afternoons under a broiling sun. But that’s the only acceptable result for Bowles, especially with the NFL cracking down on fighting after February’s Super Bowl ended with a last-minute free-for-all.

Starting this season, players who are even in the area of a fight will be subject to league discipline.

“There’s consequences and repercussions for fighting, so they would be wise not to fight,” Bowles said. “I understand it gets hot, but they understand that we can’t. You get thrown out of ballgames and everything else, so why do it in practice? You can’t take your helmet off and go after another guy and those type of things.”

But Bowles also acknowledged things were different during his playing days.

“Everything was a street fight back then,” said Bowles, who played for the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers from 1986 through 1993. “You help your teammate. You jump in. And yes, I fought.”

–WR Chris Owusu suffered a concussion at the end of practice Friday. It is at least the fourth known concussion for Owusu, who went undrafted out of Stanford after he had three concussions in his final 13 months with the program. Owusu had an impressive first nine practices with the Jets and appeared to be the frontrunner for the no. 3 receiver job.

–DE Muhammad Wilkerson hasn’t practiced since Aug. 2 due to a tight hamstring. Wilkerson underwent an MRI that revealed no serious damage. Head coach Todd Bowles said he doesn’t think Wilkerson, who is unhappy entering the final season of his rookie deal without a long-term extension, is sitting out as a form of protest and/or negotiation.


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