Cotchery Catch One for the Ages


Courtesy of Rich Cimini of ESPN NY.

Every Monday, Rex Ryan shows his team a “Play Like a Jet” video,” special plays from the previous day’s game. He picks out plays in which an individual exhibits something extraordinary –toughness, unselfishness, extreme effort, et al.

On Monday, the New York Jets coach singled out Jerricho Cotchery’s diving catch in overtime against the Cleveland Browns. The players knew it was special when it happened, because Cotchery injured his groin while running the pass route, but they didn’t realize how special until they saw it again on the big screen.

They were blown away. It was Willis Reed-like.

“Everybody was in kind of awe,” said RT Damien Woody, calling it “one of the best plays I’ve ever seen.”

The catch alone was worthy of recognition — a full-extension dive on a third-and-9 from the Jets’ 37. It gained 10 yards, and it should’ve been the play everybody was talking about, but the potential game-winning drive ended on Nick Folk’s missed field goal. In the end, Santonio Holmes got the headlines for his last-minute touchdown sprint, but Cotchery’s play was the one that left players buzzing.

Cotchery felt his groin pop as he ran his route, causing extreme pain. He was barely able to move, yet he was able to slide to his left and dive for the ball

“That’s courage, that’s sacrifice,” Holmes said. “Another player might have said, “(Shoot), don’t throw the ball to my side, I’m going to fall down and act hurt.'”

Said Woody: “He gave his body to make a play. Everybody knows J-Co is tough, but when you do something like that …”

Here, Woody paused, and it almost seemed like he was going to get choked up.

“When you see something like that,” he continued, “man, it makes you want to do similar things. I mean, you could tell he popped his groin well before Mark had thrown the ball. To be able to make that catch … unbelievable.”

Ryan said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. In all my years that I’ve coached, I know I’ve never seen it. It was an amazing effort. I mean, the man is hurt. He’s injured, yet he decides, ‘I’m going to stay alive.’ Then he lays out and makes an unbelievable catch … Absolutely ridiculous.”

That it came from Cotchery didn’t surprise anybody; he’s regarded as one of the toughest, most unselish players in the locker room. Here’s a guy who lost his starting job, a job he’s held since 2006, but didn’t utter one complaint. In fact, he endorsed the move to give Holmes a bigger role.

If the Jets go on to a championship, Cotchery’s catch — all guts and athleticism — is the kind of play that should be one of the signature moments in the 2010 highlight film. In typical fashion, he tried to downplay it.

“I was just trying to make a play for the team,” Cotchery said. “I didn’t think Mark would treat me as an available receiver at that point in time. (He laughed.) He directed traffic and gave me an opportunity to make it.

“When I came out of my break, I felt my groin give,” he continued. “I was hobbling around out there. I saw Mark scramble out of the pocket. I was like, ‘Don’t look at me.’ (Another laugh.) But he did. He told me, ‘Slide the other way.’ I was like, ‘I can’t.’ Then he threw the ball. I just tried to make a play.”

A play for the ages.