- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Muhammad Wilkerson will be ready for the regular season.

Who says? Mo says.

Fresh off signing a new multiyear contract, Wilkerson expressed his confidence on Wednesday that he will be on the field for the New York Jets’ season opener against Cincinnati on Sept. 11.

“I will be ready for Week 1,” the defensive end said. He is recovering from a broken right leg suffered in last season’s finale and couldn’t predict when he would be available in training camp, which begins next week.

“Rehab is going well,” he said. “I’m running four times a week and just taking it day by day. I’m focusing on my leg and rehabbing each and every day. When the coaches feel it is time for me to get out there on the field and I am ready to go, I will be out there.”

Wilkerson’s deal is worth more than $85 million, including $37 million in guarantees through the first two years. Through three years of the deal, Wilkerson will be paid $54 million in guaranteed money.

Asked if he was surprised that the last-minute deal came together when there was so much pessimism surrounding his contract situation, Wilkerson preferred to look forward.

“I’m happy to get a deal done and glad this part of the situation is over with, and now I can just focus on football and get ready for the season,” he said.

“I am glad my agent got a deal done for me and … everybody in my support system. We’re ready to get things rolling. I don’t have to focus on my contract situation and can concentrate on my rehab.”

He also believes the Jets, who finished 10-6 last season, are a playoff team if they build off that performance in their first season with Todd Bowles as coach. But they are missing a key piece from the defense with tackle Damon Harrison now making his living at Met Life Stadium for the Giants.

“We could be the sky is the limit, we can be as good as we want to be, as long as we’re all putting in the work day after day and pushing each other to be great,” Wilkerson said. “We had a good record last year and just have to build on that.”

The 26-year-old Wilkerson had a career-high 12 sacks last season and was selected for his first Pro Bowl, but was unable to play because of the injury. A 2011 first-round draft pick out of Temple, Wilkerson sought a new deal for the past two years.

Meanwhile, he saw Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox sign for six years and $103 million, with little to no movement from the Jets this offseason.

Until last week.

Despite the uncertain contract situation, Wilkerson spent time at the Jets’ facility during the offseason while working his way back from the injury.

Wilkerson, from Linden, New Jersey, gets to stay home to play for at least five more years after compiling 36½ sacks through his first five NFL seasons. He has 372 total tackles, seven forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 77 games.

“I definitely wanted to be here,” he said. “I’m from New Jersey … wanted to raise my children here, and I’m really excited to be here.”


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

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