‘Sticky Hands’ Grif­fin be­com­ing depend­able tar­get for Jets

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - AP Pro Foot­ball Writer

By DEN­NIS WASZAK Jr.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) » Ryan Grif­fin has been so sure-handed lately for the New York Jets that he ended up on a T-shirt.

Catch­ing touch­down passes cer­tainly helps. But cap­ping them with cel­e­bra­tions that go vi­ral get ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion.

“He’s been awe­some for us,” quar­ter­back Sam Darnold said Thurs­day, “and he’s look­ing to have an­other big game this week­end.”

Grif­fin had five catches for 109 yards — the first 100yard game of his seven-sea­son ca­reer — and a touch­down at Washington. He has 25 re­cep­tions for 269 yards and ca­reer-high four TDs while be­com­ing a re­li­able tar­get for Darnold in the ab­sence of the in­jured Chris Hern­don.

Oh, and that touch­down last week was what ev­ery­one was still talk­ing about, even a few days later.

A wide-open Grif­fin caught a laser of a pass from Darnold and the tight end got into the end zone for a 16-yard score. He bounced up from the grass and went to spike the foot­ball, but pre­tended it was stuck to his right hand be­fore “pry­ing” it free with his foot. The cel­e­bra­tion quickly made the rounds on so­cial me­dia and the highlight reels.

“Yeah, ev­ery­body’s ask­ing me, ‘Did you re­ally have Stickum on?’” Grif­fin said with a big smile. “I was like, ‘No! That’d be against the rules.’ They check us be­fore we go out there. I’m glad I ex­e­cuted it that well that peo­ple are con­fused as to whether I had Stickum on.

“That means it went ac­cord­ing to plan.”

Grif­fin came up with the idea with the help of his for­mer UConn team­mate Stephen Brown, a for­mer of­fen­sive line­man who sug­gested the tight end use the cel­e­bra­tion that was pop­u­lar in the “Mad­den NFL” video games.

“It was circa 2004 and I used to play it all the time,” Grif­fin said. “It worked out pretty well.”

So well that Grif­fin had a pack­age wait­ing for him ear­lier this week from 500 LEVEL ap­parel com­pany, which pro­duced a green Tshirt with a pic­ture of the tight end in his spike pose and the words “Sticky Hands Grif­fin” in the back­ground. Grif­fin wore it in the locker room while speak­ing to the me­dia.

“It’s pretty cool,” a grin­ning Grif­fin said.

It’s also an un­ex­pected perk in a sea­son dur­ing which he has gone from an afterthoug­ht to a key mem­ber of the of­fense. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t even with the Jets un­til the day be­fore train­ing camp opened in July.

“It’s been a lot of hard work, to be hon­est, and prac­tice reps, which are build­ing up now,” Grif­fin said. “I didn’t get a whole lot of first-team reps in camp, but now that we’re get­ting more time out here ev­ery day, just prac­tic­ing and stack­ing those reps I didn’t get be­fore, that’s help­ing.”

The 29-year-old Grif­fin was a sixth-round draft pick of Houston in 2013 and had some pro­duc­tive sea­sons with the Tex­ans over six years. He set ca­reer highs with 50 re­cep­tions and 442 yards re­ceiv­ing in 2016, but then had only 37 catches over the next two sea­sons.

Grif­fin faced some le­gal is­sues in Ten­nessee in April when Nashville Po­lice ar­rested him for drunk­enly punch­ing out a front win­dow of a down­town ho­tel. Charges of van­dal­ism and pub­lic in­tox­i­ca­tion were later dis­missed.

He was re­leased by Houston in May and was un­em­ployed un­til the Jets brought him in two months later, pre­sum­ably to com­pete for a backup spot be­hind Hern­don. But Hern­don was sus­pended the first four games of this sea­son for vi­o­lat­ing the NFL sub­stance abuse pol­icy, and then in­jured a ham­string be­fore he was due to re­turn. When he fi­nally did come back, Hern­don broke a rib in a game and landed on sea­son-end­ing in­jured re­serve.

Mean­while, Grif­fin was grad­u­ally build­ing a big-time rap­port with Darnold.

“I didn’t know much about him be­fore we picked him up, then we got him and right when he got in here, I knew the kind of guy he was, first and fore­most,” Darnold said. “I knew he was go­ing to work hard, do all the right things off the field. And then once he got on the field, I knew we had a spe­cial guy in this locker room and spe­cial player.”

Grif­fin’s per­for­mance last week was the first 100-yard game by a Jets tight end since Dustin Keller in 2011. If he can pro­duce an­other Sun­day against Oak­land, he’d be the fran­chise’s first tight end to do so since Richard Caster in 1974.

“He just does a good job of do­ing the right thing at the right time, a lot of the time,” coach Adam Gase said. “He’s a smart player, he ex­e­cutes the plays very well al­most ev­ery time we’re put there, and he makes him­self avail­able to the quar­ter­back. Ob­vi­ously, there’s a lot of trust there.”

NOTES: LBs C.J. Mosley (groin) and Paul Wor­rilow (quadri­ceps), CB Dar­ryl Roberts (calf) and S Matthias Far­ley (quadri­ceps) did not prac­tice . ... DE Henry An­der­son (shoul­der), LT Kelvin Beachum (an­kle), LB Bran­don Copeland (hip/thumb), OL Chuma Edoga (an­kle), LB Neville He­witt (neck/knee), G Alex Lewis (el­bow/shoul­der), NT Steve McLen­don (neck) and WR De­mary­ius Thomas (ham­string) were all lim­ited.

PATRICK SEMANSKY - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

FILE - In this Sun­day, Nov. 17, 2019file photo, New York Jets tight end Ryan Grif­fin (84) cel­e­brates his touch­down dur­ing the first half of an NFL foot­ball game against the Washington Red­skins in Lan­dover, Md. Ryan Grif­fin has been so sure-handed lately for the New York Jets that he ended up on a T-shirt. Grif­fin had five catches for 109yards — the first 100-yard game of his seven-sea­son ca­reer — and a touch­down at Washington. He has 25 re­cep­tions for 269yards and ca­reer-high four TDs while be­com­ing re­li­able tar­get for Darnold in the ab­sence of the in­jured Chris Hern­don.

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