CORTLAND, N.Y. (AP) — Greg Salas almost seemed surprised by all the fuss.
Sure, he was perhaps the biggest star of the New York Jets’ scrimmage Saturday night. But as far as the wide receiver was concerned, there was nothing unusual about his performance.
“This is what I do in practice,” Salas said. “I make catches. I make plays in practice and I was glad I could come out here and do the same in this little scrimmage we had.”
Salas, part of crowded competition to win a spot in the Jets’ receiving corps, had five catches for 54 yards in the practice that was dominated by the defense. He dropped a pass, too, but that didn’t take away from a solid night at SUNY Cortland.
“All Salas does is catch the football — except that one drop,” coach Rex Ryan said. “It’s funny, but that’s what he does. He’s not a blazer by any means, but he certainly gets the football. He gets open and he competes as a blocker, so those are all encouraging things.”
The 25-year-old Salas is heading into his fourth NFL season, and second with the Jets. He had eight catches for 143 yards in eight games for New York last season after the Jets signed him off Philadelphia’s practice squad last October.
While Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley have jobs locked up, Salas is among a group that includes Stephen Hill, David Nelson, Jacoby Ford, Clyde Gates and rookies Jalen Saunders, Shaq Evans and Quincy Enunwa competing for the last three or four spots.
“Nothing’s going to be given to anybody here and you’ve got to earn it,” Salas said. “These coaches are going to play the best players, so I’m just here trying to make a case for myself and I think I’m trying to do a pretty good job of that.”
Salas might not yet be a recognizable name to Jets fans, but he was a star in college. At the University of Hawaii, he finished third in the country with 1,590 yards receiving as a junior in 2009. His final season was even better, setting the single-season school records with 119 receptions and 1,889 yards receiving. Salas also holds the school’s career mark for yards receiving.
The native of Chino, Calif., was drafted in the fourth round by St. Louis in 2011. Salas had 27 catches for 264 yards in six games as a rookie, but suffered a broken leg midway through the season. He was traded to New England for a draft pick before the following season, and claimed off waivers by the Eagles later that year.
After coming to the Jets last season, Salas had a few opportunities because of injuries to other wide receivers. During the offseason, he flew to Florida to work out with Geno Smith to try to develop a better rapport with the Jets quarterback. Judging from all the plays he has made this summer, it seems to have worked.
“He has had a great camp up until this point and he’s a guy that is very consistent,” Smith said. “He’s a guy that we can rely on. That’s something that we’ve seen from him since the time he got here. He’s a true professional.”
Salas played with Smith and Vick, a former teammate in Philadelphia, during the scrimmage and appeared comfortable with both. He caught three passes from Vick and nearly had a touchdown grab on another throw, and hooked up with Smith twice.
“Greg Salas had a great night,” Vick said. “I threw one ball across the middle and I could not believe he caught it. I probably put everything I had into it. He has great hands and he’s one guy that has been a good friend of mine since my days in Philadelphia. It’s great to see young guys continue to prosper in this league.”
Salas realizes he’s still a long way from that. He needs to keep trying to impress Ryan and the coaching staff in practices and again in the preseason, starting with the opener Thursday night against Indianapolis.
“You should be like that no matter what, you should want to be flashing,” Salas said. “You should want to be able to show the coaches how bad you want it, and how hard you’re willing to play for it. That’s all I’ve been doing.
“Whether if I was a starter or not, I’d be trying to flash out here.”