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 HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Andre Wadsworth's unlikely comeback will continue for at least a few more days.
The former No. 3 overall draft pick, who hadn't played in the NFL since 2000 because of severe knee injuries, survived the first round of cuts by the New York Jets on Monday.
``To me, the battle is already won,'' the 32-year-old linebacker said. ``To come back from the type of injuries that I've had and the surgeries that I've had and to make it through camp and not miss one practice, that is huge to me.''
Wadsworth has been an inspirational long shot since he first put on a Jets uniform a few months ago. He was a Florida State star and the No. 3 overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the 1998 draft, but knee problems ended his career after just 36 games in three seasons.
After 13 knee operations and nearly seven years since last playing in the NFL, Wadsworth has been healthy enough to give football a shot again.
``I'm a fighter,'' he said. ``Regardless of how much running I had to do and regardless of how hard it was, my wife said it's a sick thing to have because in some ways, I enjoy adversity.''
While his playing time in the preseason games has been limited, his impact on his teammates has been unforgettable.
``I thought my situation was bad, but to listen to his situation and what he's been through, I can't really comprehend it,'' said quarterback Chad Pennington, who missed parts of two seasons after career-threatening shoulder operations. ``It's just unfathomable.''
That's the general feeling among the Jets players, many of whom were kids when Wadsworth was a quarterback-terrorizing force at Florida State.
``It's kind of funny because when Andre played, I think I was still a Gators fan because I grew up in Jacksonville,'' said running back Leon Washington, who came to the Seminoles four years after Wadsworth was drafted. ``I hated to see those guys and they were always hitting Danny Wuerffel and all those quarterbacks. I kind of didn't like him because he was a mean and intense guy, but it's good to have him on my team now.''
Wadsworth is no longer the feared player he once was, but he showed a flash of his past that Saturday night. In his second - and last - play of the game against the Giants, Wadsworth had a strip-sack of Tim Hasselbeck with 2:05 left to seal the Jets' 20-12 victory.
He was mobbed by his teammates as he jogged to the sideline, not knowing if he'd get another opportunity to make a play on an NFL field.
``Football instincts take over,'' Wadsworth said. ``He ran to my side and I did what I had to do: I made the play.''
The most rewarding reaction came from his wife, Subyn, who's nearly eight months pregnant with their third child.
``She's never been a big football fan, but she was happy to see me make a play,'' Wadsworth said. ``She's not a big cheerleader. She's a very reserved person, but to see her excitement - she went through all the surgeries as well, all the rehab, all the working out and the hope of playing or not playing, or the hope of jogging or not jogging and the hope of walking or not walking. She's pushed me around in wheelchairs in airports. She's done it all, the sleepless nights because I've got machines hooked up to my legs. She's endured just as much as I've endured.''
That humble and straightforward approach has been a staple of Wadsworth's nearly daily chats with the media. Wadsworth will have another chance to make a last impression on the coaches in the exhibition finale at Philadelphia on Thursday night.
``Hopefully I get at least 20 plays this week to get into a groove and do those things,'' he said. ``It's hard to come in, sitting for 2 1/2 hours and be all pumped up. That's a new adjustment for me, too.''
Various doctors told him he'd never play football at any level again, so Wadsworth became a successful businessman with six car dealerships in Florida. The itch to play never left, though, and Wadsworth chased his dream - again.
He's practicing without knee braces and is in terrific shape, receives treatment to work out the kinks and takes whatever vitamin supplements he can to shake the rust from aging.
``I've got to do everything,'' Wadsworth said. ``There's a lot of maintenance over here to keep the Chevy rolling.''
The comeback ride won't necessarily end for Wadsworth if he doesn't make the final cut Saturday. He still believes he has some football left in him.
``Most definitely,'' Wadsworth said in a convincing, assertive tone. ``If any team will give me a shot and an opportunity to do it, I'll do it. But I won't beat a dead horse.''

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