- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Joe McKnight blamed low body fat for conditioning problems early in training camp. He said he missed the first day due to cramping during the initial conditioning test Thursday and during Saturday's practice said he was dehydrated.
"I'm good, just a rough day today," McKnight said. "I just had to fight through it. I'm a little dehydrated. My body fat is real low, and I cramp up a lot. Just have to get my body fat up right now."
McKnight said he was at 4 percent body fat during organized team activities but was 3.3 percent when he returned. He said his goal was to reach 6 percent. The running back took a knee at several points as the practice wore on and put an ice vest on under his jersey to try to cool down.
Two offseason acquisitions at running back, Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson, are not practicing the first week of camp. Ivory tweaked a hamstring and Goodson has not yet arrived due to undisclosed personal matters. Instead of taking advantage of the potential for increased reps, McKnight has struggled.
McKnight explained why he didn't pass the initial conditioning test Thursday and said he hasn't been lackadaisical when it comes to his fitness.
"Probably everybody thinks I wasn't working out, but I was at the facility," McKnight said. "I just didn't finish the test, but I came back the next morning and finished the test. I did one on Thursday and came back Friday and did it again. I was just cramping."
Dehydration was McKnight's issue as a rookie in 2010, when the fourth-round pick vomited during the first day of rookie camp in April. He worked hard to overcome a slacker stigma and last year went into the season carrying more weight. But Bilal Powell ended up splitting time alongside starter Shonn Greene while McKnight was pitched as a backup cornerback when Darrelle Revis was initially injured.
Now McKnight is fighting for his roster spot. He has been used as a kick returner but hasn't been consistently used at running back. After the two new backs were brought in this season, McKnight -- who is in the final year of his rookie contract -- said he didn't plan to lose his job.
"I don't care who they bring in; they're gonna have to kill me to take my spot," McKnight said in May.
But McKnight is hurting himself by not being better positioned to compete at training camp. He said he has been talking to running backs coach Anthony Lynn and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and wants to impress them.
"I feel like I need to make more plays, stand out a little bit more," McKnight said.
The first part of that is getting on the field.