Chatman eager to repay Jets' faith

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Jesse Chatman owes the New York Jets. He's fully aware of that, and he intends to make amends.

In a mostly overlooked move, the Jets signed Chatman over the offseason to back up running back Thomas Jones. Chatman, however, was suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy.

Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals will be Chatman's first with the Jets since he gained 180 yards in their preseason finale.

"I plan on paying the Jets back for sticking with me," Chatman told me Thursday morning from the Jets' facility in Florham Park, N.J. "They didn't have to do what they did for me. That's why it's going to be a good time."

Chatman has been forgotten about because of his absence and splashier Jets acquisitions, but he will contribute.

He might be the NFL's most underrated running back. He's fun to watch. He's only 5-foot-8, but he'll lower his shoulder into a would-be tackler as easily as he'll spin out of traffic. He's a sure-handed receiver who could line up at fullback on some plays. He made his mark on special teams early in his career.

Chatman's a warrior. He forged on last year with the Miami Dolphins despite a badly sprained ankle. In a four-game stretch with Miami before he got hurt, he ran for 348 yards and a touchdown and caught 10 passes for 59 yards.

"All you can say is, preseason spoke for itself," Chatman said. He rushed for 93 yards and had six catches for 87 yards in the last exhibition. "What I can bring to this team will be shown. In due time it's eventually going to come out. It just hasn't been my time yet."

So why don't you know much about Chatman? The dude is 29, after all.

He went undrafted from Division I-AA Eastern Washington over concerns about his size and competition level.

"You're forced to walk into this league with a chip on your shoulder," Chatman said.

He spent three years with the San Diego Chargers mostly as a special teams standout and occasional LaDainian Tomlinson relief man. Then Chatman ate himself out of the league. He didn't play for two years, but a new training regimen helped him cut enough weight to convince the Dolphins to sign him.

The NFL suspended Chatman because a diuretic that could be used as a masking substance turned up in a drug test. Chatman never has tested positive for steroids, agent Brett Tessler claimed. Tessler unsuccessfully appealed the NFL's finding.

"I was worried the Jets would cut me," Chatman said. "I'm still worried. This is the NFL. Anything is possible. Nothing is guaranteed. I view every practice as a game day for me. I'm interviewing every day."

Chatman likely wouldn't have had an impact in the Jets' free-wheeling loss to the San Diego Chargers in Week 3, but he might have helped the cause in a plodding effort against the New England Patriots in Week 2.

"I just want to make sure I can help my team as much as possible," Chatman said. "I'm excited that they still see me as having a role on the team despite my situation I just went through. I'm just ready.

"I started biting my fingernails off because I couldn't sit still. The games we had trouble with I felt I could've helped, and that made it worse."