- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) - Dawan Landry remembers the hit, when his head collided with Jamal Lewis’ knee.

And then, he felt nothing.

Face down on the ground during the second quarter of the second game of the season against the Cleveland Browns in 2008, the then-Baltimore Ravens safety couldn’t move his legs. Or his arms. Or anything else.

“I was just thinking, ‘Man, we were having a good game and I was having a real good game on tackles,’” Landry recalled after practice in the New York Jets’ locker room Friday.

“It was just unfortunate. I was just lying there and thinking, ‘Well, if this is what it’s going to be, and this is what God’s plan is, I’m going to have to embrace it.’

“Fortunately, it wasn’t.”

Landry regained feeling in his extremities after about 15 excruciating minutes - and he was carted off the field after his facemask was screwed off and his head immobilized, his career in jeopardy.

“That was a devastating injury, certainly,” said Jets coach Rex Ryan, then the Ravens’ defensive coordinator. “To look back on it and to realize now that this young man’s playing and there’s no signs of the injury, he’s never tempered his play one bit and it’s just amazing. But that was a scary injury.”

Landry suffered a spinal cord concussion, an injury that ended his season and required fusion surgery in the offseason. There were initial doubts, Landry acknowledged, that he’d ever get back on the football field.

“I was having pain and tingling and things like that, but once I had the surgery, everything went away,” he said. “That’s when I knew it was time to get back to work.”

He returned in 2009, and started every game for the Ravens that season. In fact, Landry has started every game since - 81 consecutive - including two seasons in Jacksonville and last year with the Jets and the season opener last Sunday against Oakland.

The 31-year-old Landry is the glue in the Jets’ otherwise turbulent secondary. He’s known to his teammates as “The Mentor,” the player the other defensive backs look to when they need some help. And the Jets have needed plenty during the past several weeks.

A few cornerbacks were injured, including Dee Milliner, and another projected starter - Dimitri Patterson - was cut after being suspended for leaving the team for 48 hours without permission. Safety Antonio Allen has been playing cornerback, and rookie Calvin Pryor is learning life in the NFL as a safety.

Through it all, Landry has been a constant in Ryan’s secondary, even when it appeared his job could be in jeopardy this offseason.

“The best way I can describe him is like he’s a robot, in a good way,” fellow safety Josh Bush said. “You know what he can do. He’s going to do the same thing every day at the same level, every single game, every single practice.”

When the Jets drafted Pryor in the first round in May, some speculated that Landry could be on the way out.

Not so fast.

Landry is still playing nearly every snap - and even playing special teams.

“Since Day 1, he’s one of the main guys who took me under his wing and just showed me the ropes of how to be a professional and how to play the safety position,” Pryor said. “He’s definitely been a big help since I stepped through the door.”

Landry was in Pryor’s shoes once, a wide-eyed rookie looking to make an impact. He was a fifth-round pick by Baltimore in 2006 out of Georgia Tech, and impressed enough to earn a starting spot on a defense that included playmakers such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

“I always looked up to Ray Lewis, even when I was in college,” Landry said. “To get drafted by Baltimore, for me that was like getting to play with Michael Jordan each and every day.”

Lewis and Reed helped make him better on the field, and in the locker room and film room.

“It’s just a blessing that the game has come full circle for me in that regard,” Landry said.

He’s not nearly as flashy as his younger brother LaRon, whom he replaced in New York and is known for bone-rattling hits and having a pet monkey named Mr. Gucci.

“You can definitely tell they’re both Landrys from the work they put in,” Bush said, “but they’re so different personality wise.”

Dawan is a mellow, understated guy who has been, in some of his teammates’ estimation, underrated throughout his career.

No Pro Bowls. No headlines. No big endorsements.

“I try not to get caught up in stats or anything like that,” said Landry, who had the Jets’ first sack of the season last week. “I don’t get involved in the Pro Bowl voting, thinking this guy did this or that guy did that. I can only play my game and be myself.

“Anything I can do to help my team win, that’s just my motto.”

___

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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