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If you belong to a fantasy league for the NFL preseason -- if there is such a thing -- New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes would be a strong play Thursday night.
Before starting a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, Holmes will log about three quarters of work against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
It will be a jayvee game, with both teams resting their starters in the preseason finale. Holmes, a former Super Bowl MVP, will be playing against on-the-bubble veterans and attention-seeking rookies. For the fringe players, it's make or break. For Holmes, it's all about breaking a sweat, one last team workout before he disappears.
"It's going to be fun," he said. "I hope I can get about 20 catches."
After the game, it will be time to do his time. Even though he's planning to stay in touch with quarterback Mark Sanchez via Skype -- X's-and-O's video updates throughout the suspension -- Holmes won't be allowed to practice with the team until Oct. 4, the day after the Jets play in Buffalo.
Because he's new to the Jets' system, the layoff will be a huge setback for Holmes. Of course, the Jets knew about the suspension when they traded a fifth-round pick for him in April, but they still felt he was too good to pass up.
From all indications, Holmes has been a model player for the Jets, going so far as to help fellow receivers and defensive backs during practice. But there is some concern within the organization about how he'll handle the suspension, being away from a structured environment.
Playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Holmes was cited for marijuana possession in 2008, resulting in a one-game paid suspension. To land the four-game suspension, he either tested positive or missed a drug test. One more strike and he will have to sit out for a year. His rap sheet also includes a domestic violence arrest (the charges were dropped).
For now, Holmes' main concern is facing the Eagles. He won't have the opportunity to work with Sanchez -- Mark Brunell will start -- but it will be Holmes' most extensive action of the preseason.
"I'm going to take full advantage of it," he said. "You're going to see me out there, flying around and having fun. I'm not trying to kill anybody, but I want to show the coaches what I've been working on, this is what I've learned since I've been here."
The Jets faced a similar situation last summer, when outside linebacker Calvin Pace faced a four-game suspension to start the season. They turned him loose, letting him play most of the final preseason game, which also happened to be against the Eagles. It will be the same with Holmes, who has told coaches and teammates that he's going return next month in "ridiculous shape."
"He already told his teammates, 'Hang in there. Hang in there for four weeks, and then help's on its way,'" coach Rex Ryan said.
The offense could use some help, based on the past two games. The passing game, in particular, is out of whack, as Sanchez has thrown two interceptions and only one touchdown against starting defenses. The Jets' first unit has managed only two touchdowns in 18 possessions, prompting near panic on the radio talk shows.
"I think, after this training camp, we feel a lot better about it than last year, that's for sure," said Sanchez, who will get a chance to call some plays against the Eagles. "I have to keep growing. I can't stop."
Ryan was planning to play the starters about a series, but he reconsidered, saying he wants them to be fresh for the season opener. He felt that was more important than an end-of-the-preseason, confidence-boosting performance.
"I don't think a touchdown or a few first downs against their [backups] would make us feel any better," guard Brandon Moore said.
So they will sit and watch the Holmes show.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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