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SNY-- Fourth and long for two free agents

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Fourth and long for two free agents

Wadsworth and Banks hoping to make an impression

By Dylan Butler / SNY.tv

Andre Wadsworth, seen here in 1999, hasn't played in the NFL since 2000. (AP)

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - They are at different ends of the professional football spectrum - the running back looking to start his NFL career and the converted outside linebacker is hoping to resurrect his - but in many ways, Alvin Banks and Andre Wadsworth have so much in common.

They are both unsigned free agents, both trying to earn a spot on the New York Jets roster. And they both have a fighter's chance.

Banks is a rookie running back out of James Madison University who is battling with Danny Ware, a rookie out of Georgia. Heading into training camp, the battle was likely for the practice squad. But the sudden departure of Cedric Houston has created an opportunity, a hole Banks is trying to run right through.

"I was shocked, he worked hard in the off-season. I don't know what really happened to him," Banks said of Houston. "With or without him I was going to do the same, keep working."

Unlike last year, when there was a free-for-all for the starting running back position, Thomas Jones is the undisputed starter. Coming off a solid rookie year, Leon Washington has earned his carries, but after that it's up for grabs.

Banks, who rushed for 305 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games for James Madison a year ago despite missing a big portion of the season with a hamstring injury, has a shot. And that's all he can ask for at this point.

"I don't think I'm on the team," Banks said. "I'm just trying to show the coaches that I belong on the team. And I'm going to keep doing that until the preseason is over and hopefully I'm still here when September comes."

With the exception of one well publicized mental hiccup - he was yelled at by backup quarterback Kellen Clemens for failing to be on the field for a play - Banks has had a solid first week of camp.

"I think I'm catching on, but it's still a mental strain," Banks said. "Coming from college being a rookie, you're not used to this, not used to it being that tough and the language of the offense you have to adjust from how college coaches call plays."

Unlike Banks, the rigors of an NFL training camp is nothing new to Wadsworth, who is 32 but because of several knee injuries has played just four NFL seasons. The former third overall pick of the 1998 draft, Wadsworth spent three seasons as a defensive end with the Arizona Cardinals.

He had 119 tackles and eight sacks in 36 games, but called it quits after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee and hasn't played a down in the NFL since 2000.

"You only have one chance in a lifetime to do this and I saw an opportunity when I was healthy enough to at least try to attempt to do this and see if it works out," Wadsworth said. "If I can get in to make the team, hopefully someday down the road they can trust me to make some plays throughout the season."

His comeback story is far from complete, but it's a feel good tale the Jets didn't want told as Eric Mangini tried to talk Wadsworth out of coming into training camp.

It was a test from the second-year Jets coach, one he passed so far.

"When we finally agreed to have him join us, he was committed

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Michael Haynes is in a similar boat, another former first-round pick, another veteran free agent trying to make his return to the NFL, trying to make the Jets roster.

"Michael Haynes is another player that's adjusting to this system, which is different than what he's been used to," Mangini said. "He had been more of a one-

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