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Abraham signs qualifying sheet, returns to Jets

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  • Abraham signs qualifying sheet, returns to Jets

    HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- John Abraham provided one critical answer when he reported to the Jets on Monday. Now here come more questions.

    Is he in shape? Is he upset he did not get the long-term deal he wanted? Will he stay healthy for an entire season?

    All that remains to be seen. The biggest question was answered when he finally signed his one-year, $6.67 million franchise tender after missing all of training camp.

    The Pro Bowl player refused to sign the tender because he wanted a long-term deal, and was forced to miss offseason training activities and camp. Abraham does not have the commitment he wanted, nor does he have assurances he won't be franchised again at the end of the season.

    But he felt the time was right to return to his teammates. No grudges, no hard feelings.

    "It was a business decision," Abraham said. "We just felt this was the right time for me to come in. There's no love lost, there's no harm. I'm coming in with an open mind and ready to play, no grudges at all."

    How quickly Abraham can get into game shape is the biggest worry, no matter how hard he worked on his own at home in South Carolina.

    Abraham will have a physical Tuesday and begin practicing with the team immediately. He won't play in the exhibition finale Thursday at Philadelphia, but is expected to see spot duty in the season opener at Kansas City on Sept. 11.

    Because he has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, the Jets have been hesitant to make a long-term commitment to Abraham. He missed the final four regular-season games and two playoff games last season after spraining his right knee. He says his knee feels fine.

    "I'm in shape, I've been working since the season was over with," Abraham said. "Obviously I had an injury last year, I had to rehab my knee and work on my body. It's been a long offseason, but it's been a very positive offseason. Hopefully I can stay healthy for 16 games. That's my only problem in the NFL so far. When I'm on the field, I've been a force."

    In five seasons, Abraham has made the Pro Bowl three times. He has 43 sacks, 12 forced fumbles and 261 tackles, despite all the injuries. In 2000, he was limited to six games because of a sports hernia. In 2003, he missed time with a groin injury.

    The only season in which he played all 16 games was 2002, when he had 10 sacks and got his second Pro Bowl nod. Abraham said he put on 10 pounds in the offseason, hoping that will help him stay healthy.

    But coach Herman Edwards knows he will have to take things slowly with his star player.

    "I'm hoping I'm smart enough to realize that when players come late that you have to handle them a certain way," Edwards said. "Hopefully, I've been here long enough where I understand where he's at, sit down and visit with him, say this is the plan for you and work at it that way."

    As for the prospects of a long-term contract, general manager Terry Bradway reiterated the team wants to work out a deal with Abraham.

    "I can't give you a timetable," Bradway said. "I'm not going to answer questions during the season. We've had great communication in the past, and we'll continue to have it in the future. Our intention all along has been to have John here for a long time. We'll continue to work toward that end."

    Abraham also has issues with the way he has been portrayed. In 2003, he was arrested for drunken driving. Last season, he said he had no problem with being franchised, then clarified his comments Monday, saying, he was "ignorant" on how the tag worked.

    Abraham also was painted as someone who did not want to play through injuries because of his impending contract situation. Edwards said Abraham would be able to play against San Diego in the first week of the playoffs, but Abraham decided against it a few days later, saying he had to "weigh his options."

    "I have no more challenges with the media. I've been through everything I possibly could," he said. "I've been called an alcoholic, I've been called a drunk, I've been called a coward for not playing because I was hurt. I've been called a guy who gets injured all the time. Anything possible pretty much that could be said bad about me has been said."

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy