- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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LINDEN, N.J. -- Just a day after Santonio Holmes scored on a 69-yard pass to seal a win over the visiting Buffalo Bills, Jersey Lanes in Linden was hopping as Holmes held his annual bowling fundraiser for sickle cell disease, a trait he, his father and son share.
“Last year being injured, [I didn’t really have] an opportunity to be around the team as much to really spread the word and show how much it was important for me for these guys to be here,” Holmes said. “This year these guys showed that they’re really supporting me for the contribution I’ve made to get back on the field this year and also helping kids with sickle cell.”
It’s a stark difference from a year ago, when a few fans and two teammates came to support the cause. Holmes flew from his Florida home for the event between surgeries for his Lisfranc injury.
Holmes has played well since his return, but is still downplaying expectations when it comes to his recovery from the injury. He hasn't missed a single game, but won’t say he is feeling fully healthy.
“I still can’t get too high, because I don’t really know,” Holmes said. “I can’t put myself on a pedestal saying I’m 100 percent.”
Burress, who is recovering from shoulder surgery in the summer with the Steelers, may be able to relate to Holmes' feeling of disassociation last year.
“I always come out to support my brother,” Burress said. “He’s like a little brother to me even though we’re not playing together anymore. It’s a relationship that’s not going to go away just based on me not being here."
“I fell in love with it,” said Lankster “You know how some people relax by fishing? This is how I relax."
Even though it was an event to raise money for a sickle cell, the night felt a little like a homecoming for Holmes. A year ago, this event was low-key, but on Monday night, the balloons and VIPs made it feel like a giant welcome back party for the Jets' marquee wide receiver.