FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets, never shy about acquiring players with off-the-field issues, conducted a thorough background check on troubled cornerback Aaron Berry before signing him Monday to a two-year contract, according to Rex Ryan.
"We feel Aaron has a chance to be successful on and off the field here," said Ryan, who met with Berry last Friday at the Jets' facility. "If we didn't believe that, then we wouldn't have brought him here."
Berry, 24, was cut July 23 by the Detroit Lions after being arrested twice in the span of one month. He was accused of pointing a gun at three people in a parking lot in Harrisburg, Pa., and he also was arrested for drunk driving. He was suspended three games for violating the league's personal-conduct policy.
The Jets, desperate for cornerback help now that star Darrelle Revis is out for the season with a knee injury, reached out to Berry last week, when his suspension was lifted.
"He's got the physical skill set we're looking for," said Ryan, meaning he has the ability to play man-to-man coverage.
Berry's arrival means that Joe McKnight's days at cornerback are over. Ryan announced that McKnight, who was moved to cornerback last week and played two snaps in the 34-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, will return to being a full-time running back.
The Jets believe that Berry, once he learns the system, could become their nickel or dime back. Ryan estimated it will take Berry some time, perhaps a week or two, before he gets into football shape. He played in 12 games for the Lions over two seasons, including four starts. He was slated to start this season, but things went horribly wrong for him in July.
At the time of his suspension, Berry announced he was entering the NFL's substance-abuse program.
"Everybody has made mistakes in their lives," Ryan said. "I've made more than my share."
Ryan said they performed a background check, receiving input from quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh. He's a former Pitt assistant coach who was on the Panthers' staff when Berry attended the school. After "all precincts reported," Ryan said they were satisfied that Berry's problems are behind him.
The Jets have taken risks in the past, with varying results, including trading for wide receiver Santonio Holmes in 2010 even though he was facing a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
To make room for Berry, the Jets waived/injured tight end Dedrick Epps, who suffered a knee injury in Sunday's loss.