Jets head coach Adam Gase had a simple, three-word response when asked if he regretted leaving in Avery Williamson as long as he did in Thursday's preseason win over the Falcons.
"Yes, I do."
Williamson tore his ACL late in the first half on Thursday, but was the lone projected defensive starter still on the field when he went down. As Gase explained, Williamson remained in the game to try to ease the load on Neville Hewitt, who is still getting accustomed to playing at inside linebacker in the Jets' 3-4 system.
"The thought process was to get Neville's feet wet as far as playing [middle] linebacker," Gase said. "And Avery was in there so that Neville could be with a guy that's a starter. Looking back on it, hindsight's 20/20. I wish I would have gotten him out of there a series earlier."
"But I've talked with him and that's on me. I'm the one that has to make that call and get him out of there but we didn't. It's a shame because he was having a good camp."
Williamson signed with the Jets as a free agent prior to the 2018 season and led the team with 120 tackles. He was expected to be a major impact player again this season but was placed on injured reserve Friday, effectively ending the linebacker's season before it started.
But even if Williamson can't be on the field, his head coach believes he can still be a difference-maker in other ways.
"I told him we're going to need him to help these young guys," Gase said. "We're going to need him around the building. We're going to need him around everybody. We talked about a plan once he gets on his feet as far as what we want to do with him with regards to meetings and helping him grow as a football player."