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Trio of Jets banged up for finale

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (Dec. 28, 2006) -- Laveranues Coles looked fine physically, the cut on his chin from the vicious hit he took from Miami's Zach Thomas barely visible.

The New York Jets wide receiver was also his normally spunky self, showing no signs of a head injury suffered on the hard smash that left him motionless on the Dolphin Stadium turf for a few seconds Monday night.

"If y'all want to talk to me about something, talk to me about football," Coles said when asked about being listed as questionable for the game against Oakland with head and jaw injuries.

When told coach Eric Mangini said Coles had "a little bang on the jaw, a hit in the head," the receiver cut short any further questions about his playing status.

"Whatever he says, that's what it is," he said curtly.

That's how it's been all season for the Jets, who are banned from discussing injuries with the media. Luckily for New York, and unlike last year, significant injuries have been few and far between -- a major factor in their surprising playoff push.

But heading into their regular-season finale and needing a win to seal a postseason berth, the Jets are banged up probably more than at any other point this year.

Along with Coles, safety Kerry Rhodes (knee), cornerbacks Andre Dyson (knee) and David Barrett (hip), and running backs Cedric Houston (calf) and Kevan Barlow (thigh) were among the players listed as questionable for the game against Oakland.

While the lengthy list is nothing new -- the Jets have regularly posted players' minor ailments all season -- the injuries to Coles and Dyson, in particular, could have a big impact on the team's plans.

The Jets haven't acknowledged that Coles suffered a concussion when he was leveled by Thomas, but Mangini said the team went through precautionary tests on the sideline before allowing him back into the game.

Coles hasn't fully participated in practice this week, leading to speculation as to his availability for the game. He's known for his toughness and knack for being ready to play despite injuries, but instead of it being his leg, foot, back or ribs, it's his head this time.

"It's a consistent approach in terms of talking to the trainers, working him into practice, but being smart about it so they're not in a position where they could reinjure whatever it is," Mangini said. "Everybody has an awareness of who is vulnerable, making sure the players take care of each other as well."

Mangini also said the team sent video of Thomas' hit, which appeared close to being helmet-on-helmet, to the NFL offices for review. There was no penalty on the play, which occurred on an incomplete pass to Coles in the second quarter.

"They're going to decide on it," Mangini said. "It was a pretty big hit."

Dyson's injury to his right knee, which occurred in the third quarte, left him with a noticeable limp and he also hasn't fully participated in practice. He has been a veteran presence who has provided stability at left cornerback, starting all 15 games after helping Seattle to the Super Bowl last season.

Barrett, if healthy, and Justin Miller could see increased time if Dyson can't play.

"Each day, you get a better gauge," Mangini said. "Sometimes it comes with actually going through reps, feeling comfortable with being able to perform the movements you have to perform, gauging it that way, understanding the difference between pain and injury."

Rhodes' right knee was wrapped up before practice, and he wore a brace on the field.

Houston, inactive against Miami because of a calf injury, took first-team snaps. He led the Jets in rushing over his last three games, rushing for 208 yards and three touchdowns in that span. Barlow took Houston's place against Miami, but gained only 36 yards on 18 carries.

"He's made progress," Mangini said of Houston. "I thought he made progress last week, as well. I felt pretty good about what we had, the approach we were taking. Now he's getting more reps this week. That's always helpful. We're a few days away from the game. I'd say he's making strides each day, getting closer and closer."

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