June 13, 2024

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets running back Breece Hall returns Sunday to the scene of his football nightmare — Denver. He’s going back with a sound knee, ready for a bigger workload.

“From an opportunity standpoint, there is no pitch count with him anymore,” coach Robert Saleh said Wednesday, removing Hall’s playing-time restrictions from the first four games.

It was at Empower Field where the Jets’ once-promising 2022 season took a major turn. On Oct. 23, Hall, enjoying a terrific rookie year, went down with a season-ending ACL tear. The Jets defeated the Broncos 16-9 to improve to 5-2 as Hall scored on a 62-yard run but they dropped eight of their next 10 games without the dynamic runner.

Hall made it back for this season’s opener, but his playing time has been limited, in large part, because they don’t want to tax his surgically repaired knee. He’s averaging only eight carries and 22 snaps per game, but it sounds like Saleh is ready to turn him loose.

“We’d love to get him going, but at the same time, we’ve got a lot of guys that we want to get involved,” he said.

Hall didn’t have much of a reaction when informed of Saleh’s comment about playing time, saying he never gave the restriction much thought. It certainly didn’t affect his efficiency. He’s averaging 6.6 yards per carry, second among qualified running backs. The Miami Dolphins‘ Devon Achane leads with an 11.4 average.

“I’m able to go out there, be myself every day,” Hall said. “I don’t have any restrictions anymore, so it’s been good.”

The Jets have divided the workload between Hall (87 plays), Dalvin Cook (72) and Michael Carter (59), their third-down back. Hall has been the most explosive runner. He already has runs of 83 and 43 yards, the latter coming in Sunday night’s 23-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Hall thought he should’ve scored.

“That’s a game-changing play — I take pride in that — so after the game I was really frustrated, beating myself up about that because running backs are human erasers and game-changers,” he said. “So, I felt like if I score a touchdown there, it changes the whole momentum of the game.”

It seems fitting that Hall is getting a green light for his return trip to Denver, although he didn’t sound like he’s into poetic symmetry. It’s just another game, he insisted. Yes, he has rewatched that fateful play a few times, a pileup near the Jets’ sideline.

“If you watch it,” he said, “it doesn’t look like anything actually happened.”

Before the injury, Hall was being mentioned as a candidate for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. In seven games, he had 463 yards on 80 carries, an impressive 5.8 average. The award wound up going to teammate Garrett Wilson, a wide receiver.

“It was huge,” center Connor McGovern said of Hall’s injury. “I mean, at the time, you knew he was making plays. You didn’t realize how big and how impactful his plays were. In hindsight, you realize just how big it was. So, to have him back at 100 percent is awesome.”

Hall could take carries from Cook, the former Minnesota Vikings star who is off to a slow start. Cook, who signed a one-year, $7 million contract in the preseason, is averaging only 2.5 yards per rush, 48th among 48 qualified runners.

“I’m sure he wants more,” Saleh said of Cook. “I’m sure he wants more production. He needs to continue to work. He’s getting faster. His GPS numbers are showing he’s getting a lot faster. It looks like he’s getting his legs underneath him, and we just need to find those guys a little bit more opportunity.”

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