Sione Pouha: I'll be back by Week 1

Updated: August 15, 2012, 2:18 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- New York Jets nose tackle Sione Pouha expects to miss the remainder of the preseason with what he described as a "really tight back."

Pouha, who hasn't practiced since Aug. 1, vowed to be ready for the Sept. 9 opener against the Buffalo Bills.

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"I think the plan is to just get ready for the home opener, make sure I'm physically right, healthy and ready to roll," Pouha said Wednesday, addressing his condition for the first time.

The Jets also have a significant injury concern on offense, with wide receiver Santonio Holmes sidelined the last 11 days with a rib-cartilage injury. Holmes won't play Saturday night against the New York Giants, and Rex Ryan didn't rule out the possibility of him missing the next game as well.

"I mean, certainly it's possible, but I don't think that will be the case," Ryan said.

Holmes, who had been doing light positional work in recent days, didn't even make an appearance Wednesday on the practice field. He was inside, receiving treatment, the team said. Ryan revealed that Holmes has developed back tightness, but he couldn't say if it's related to the rib issue.

The Jets have always counted themselves as one of the healthiest teams in the league, but suddenly they're looking at two potentially significant issues.

Pouha claimed he has no pain, but he paused a few times during a five-minute interview to do a crouching exercise, prescribed by the medical staff to keep his back loose.

Initially, Pouha, 33, missed practice time because of a gash above his left eye, but his back stiffened up and became so bad that he went to a Manhattan specialist recently for tests and a second opinion. He attributed the injury to the cumulative effects of playing nose tackle, not to any one incident.

Pouha said he's "100 percent confident" he will play against the Bills, adding: "There are little hiccups in the road that you take care of. Whether it's a gashed eye or a tight back, you have to tape it up, fix it up and go."

The Jets signed Pouha to a three-year, $15 million contract in March, thinking he'd hold down the nose tackle position until Kenrick Ellis is ready. Pouha is one of the most valuable members of the defense. He's a premier run-stuffer, the anchor of their 3-4 defense.

Ryan said Ellis is having a good camp, but he wasn't effusive in his praise. He said the Jets would rely on a committee approach if they had to replace Pouha, using Ellis, Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Mike DeVito and Marcus Dixon. Ellis played only 69 snaps last season as a rookie, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

"Collectively, we'd have to absorb that if that was the case," Ryan said.

Ryan said he's still holding out hope that Pouha could play in the preseason, but they probably will err on the side of caution. It's the same situation with Holmes, the team's only proven receiver.

Because of his age and the physical grind of his position, Pouha has to be concerned with the possibility of the back injury lingering throughout the season. His rehab includes exercise in a swimming pool, where he often can be found during practice.

"It's nothing dramatic or anything," he said. "It's just a tight back."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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