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 HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Thomas Jones is ready for his first taste of the Jets-Patriots rivalry.
Whether that comes on the playing field still appears to be a game-time decision, but New York's star running back remained optimistic Friday about the progress of his strained right calf.
``I'm feeling a lot better,'' Jones said Friday, reiterating his comments from earlier in the week.
Jones was injured during drills on Aug. 12 and hadn't practiced again until this week.
``The trainers have done a great job of getting me back on the practice field and getting me to go through some drills and things like that,'' he said. ``So, we'll see how I feel on Sunday.''
Jones addressed the injury for the first time Wednesday, saying, ``I feel a lot better than I felt the past couple of weeks.''
Coach Eric Mangini was noncommittal, as usual, regarding Jones' availability for the game against New England.
``He's really what he's been,'' Mangini said.
The coach said he was encouraged by the progress made by all the Jets' injured players, who include Jones, Justin Miller and Eric Smith.
``They've been doing everything we've asked them to do,'' Mangini said. ``The program in place is a good program. You just have to go through the whole process before you're certain you're going to be able to get a level of performance out of that player and anticipate what that level is, even going into the game, making sure that you're keeping that in mind.''
If he's cleared to play, Jones could split carries with second-year back Leon Washington. Jones has faced the Patriots only once in his eight-year career: last season, when he had 99 yards on 23 carries at New England.
``Hey, this is what I signed up for,'' Jones said. ``I'm just glad to be here. Hopefully, just try my best and contribute to the team.''
Jones rushed for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns while leading the Bears to the Super Bowl in February. He's expected to jump-start the Jets' running game, which struggled mightily last season while working with a rotation of running backs.

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