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Kris Jenkins said he would have quit football


SWIFT HITTER
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This much Kris Jenkins knew: Had he not been traded from

the Panthers to the Jets in the offseason, he would have called it a career after this year. At age 29.

"I literally told myself if I had to play there again [in Carolina] that this would be my last year in the NFL," the Jets' 350-pound nose tackle told me. "It made me want to stop playing football. That's why I got out. I just wanted to see if it was me, or a combination of me being there."

And now that he's 10 games into his Jets career?

"I've fallen back in love with the game," Jenkins said.

The feeling is mutual with his new team.

As much as quarterback Brett Favre has transformed the locker room with his boyish, can-do attitude, Jenkins has done much the same for the defense. He has shown a rejuvenated attitude since leaving the Panthers, where he had become a lightning rod for criticism through a combination of his occasionally inconsistent play, injury problems, and outspoken comments that rubbed some teammates and coaches the wrong way. And, perhaps more importantly, his battle with depression and past alcohol dependency.

"It was always something," he said of his seven seasons with the Panthers. "I could never figure out why things got to where they did. But I'm glad I'm right where I'm at."

But it is all about football now. His speedy transition from a 4-3 defensive tackle to a 3-4 nose tackle, where he spends far more time fighting off double-teams, has been a major factor in the Jets' vastly improved run defense. The Jets are ninth in that category, allowing 125.1 yards rushing and only seven rushing touchdowns.

"I've been amazed at how different it is to play a 3-4 versus a 4-3," Jenkins said. "It's a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I think it's come along pretty well so far."

It will be an interesting matchup on Sunday when Jenkins goes against former Jets center Kevin Mawae, who anchors the offensive line of the 10-0 Titans. Mawae is one of the best tacticians in the game, using his 15 years of NFL experience to negate the brute force of players such as Jenkins.

"He's been doing this for a while," Jenkins said of Mawae. "He knows how to play the game and do the little tricks to become more effective. I know people look at it like he's starting to get to the end of his career, but he's not playing like it."

Neither is Jenkins, who feels so invigorated by his change of scenery that he can see himself playing indefinitely for the Jets. And that means showing the kind of leadership and colorful personality that has made him one of the most compelling figures in a locker room that already has a Hall of Fame quarterback in Favre, a potential Hall of Fame guard in Alan Faneca, and a swashbuckling linebacker in Calvin Pace.

Jenkins is not only willing to impart the wisdom of his eight NFL seasons, but he's also known for his love of cooking and an artistic side that not many football players show. The cooking started at an early age while growing up in Detroit as the son of a single father. While Darome Jenkins worked, Kris and his younger brother, Cullen, who plays for the Packers, learned how to cook.

"I started off cooking hot dogs, and it went from there," Jenkins said.

Cooking has turned into a lifelong hobby. Jenkins will often cook meals for his family, living by the rule that if you're not involved in the cooking process, then you need to stay out of the kitchen until the meal is done.

"I find cooking to be very relaxing," he said. "I've always enjoyed it."

(No snickering here. At 350, Jenkins is a big man, but not because he likes to cook. When you're that big and that athletic, you eat. A lot.)

His other passion is art. Jenkins drew cartoons as a child and still doodles. A few weeks ago, while bored during a team meeting, he drew cartoons of Jets assistants Bryan Cox and Bob Sutton and coach Eric Mangini (think penguin).

"The funniest ones were of Bob Sutton and Bryan Cox," Jenkins said. "The thing about Cox was his stomach. Huge. With Bob, it was his glasses and the wrinkles. I made him look like an old Chicken Little with big glasses."

And Mangini?

Jenkins won't discuss that one. He knows where to draw the line - so to speak.

Jenkins recently took his love of art to a program in Washington, D.C., called Life Pieces to Masterpieces. The program helps young African-American males connect with art to help deal with inner-city problems.

"I believe young black men can be inspired through art," said Jenkins, who plans to expand the program through his own charitable foundation. "I believe in that very strongly."

Good man. Good player. The Jets are lucky to have him

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Are you smoking crack?!? MIGHT BE? Usain Bolt couldn't hold Jenkins' jock in a foot race. Or any type of race for that matter, I don't think I've ever seen ANYTHING as fast as KJ.

You can't use the word "race" when talking about Jenkins, because it implies that someone else could win. Jenkins doesn't race, he wins.

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