FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Santonio Holmes arrived at the Jets' facility before the sun even rose, eager to get his day started.
After not practicing for four weeks due to a suspension, the wide receiver was downright antsy to be on the field again Wednesday. Even if it was only 6 a.m.
"I was a little upbeat this morning," he said. "I was up early, walking the dog, got myself situated, driving to practice ready to go. I sat in meetings at attention. Everything was a little bit different."
Holmes, acquired from Pittsburgh in April, is expected to make his regular-season debut for the Jets on Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings. He was forced to sit the first four regular-season games by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
"I'm ready to get the season started for myself," he said.
While he hadn't practiced since camp ended, Holmes was able to attend meetings during his suspension. He used the rest of the time to stay in shape — not to reflect on what he had done to put him in that situation.
"To look in your eyes and be honest with you, not 1 percent," Holmes said. "I've been the same person since I stepped foot in the NFL. I'll continue being the same person until I leave. I didn't have anything to think about. Everything was already done in the process. It's time to play football now."
The former Super Bowl MVP came to the Jets with some off-field issues other than the suspension. He was arrested in 2008 for possession of marijuana and involved in a domestic violence incident in 2006; the misdemeanor charges were later dismissed.
Holmes said those incidents had no impact on his performance on the field.
"I made it to the Super Bowl and won it, didn't I?" Holmes said. "That's all I had to do with myself. I didn't have anything to think about. I'm a football player. What happens off the field happens off the field. It doesn't affect anything I do or what I'm capable of doing."
Holmes will join an offense that has already been solid through four games, with Mark Sanchez throwing eight touchdown passes and no interceptions.
"I think he's going to be a huge thing for us," coach Rex Ryan said. "He looks like he hasn't missed a beat. He looked good."
Not that being away was easy for Holmes.
"It's a totally different mindset," he said. "You can't be in the same mindset as a player. It's tough, you know, being an outcast."
He was welcomed by his teammates and coaches whenever he was at the facility, when he wasn't working out in Florida for four hours a day. Holmes still needed to think of himself as someone who wasn't a true part of the team.
"It's a mindset that I had to use," Holmes said, "that I'm not playing, can't think like I'm on the field yet. Go to meetings, learn and keep moving."
He isn't concerned where he'll be used on the field. Holmes is just happy to be back, as are his teammates.
"He's just somebody who has big-play potential," Sanchez said. "He catches an underneath route and has the ability to run by people. He'll be perfect for our group."
Once he got back on the field, it didn't take him long to feel comfortable.
"It's football," he said. "I've been doing this since I was 7 years old. It's not like I became a professional football player yesterday or five years ago. I've been playing ball since I was a kid. I've learned the ins and outs, the ups and downs of the game. The media, the different aspects, whatever it is, I'm on top of everything."