"This pinky is destroyed -- a ripped ligament -- and my middle finger is going the wrong way," he said. "Broke it twice."
With a battle-scarred right hand, Edwards leans to the left when it comes to catching passes for the New York Jets. His left hand is stronger than the right, a disparity that affects him on passes over his right shoulder. Eager to correct the flaw, Edwards is working hard in training camp, trying to dispel the widespread notion that he has bad hands.
"I'll be OK," he said. "I've been doing good at it this year, trusting the fingers, trusting the hands. So far, it's been working for me."
Edwards is an immense physical talent, but he was dogged last season by the dropping issue. Part of that was reputation; he led the league in drops in 2008 as a Cleveland Brown. In 2009, his total wasn't outrageous -- five, according to STATS, LLC -- but they were ill-timed. The most egregious drop came against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto, where he pulled a Luis Castillo, dropping an easy, no-one-around-him pass that should've gone for an 80-yard touchdown.
After breaking down plays from last season, Jets wide receivers coach Henry Ellard determined that most of Edwards' drops came on passes over his right shoulder. As Ellard put it, "He has a block on that side," suggesting the issue is mental as well as physical. So on most days in practice, Ellard runs over-the-shoulder drills, hoping repetition solves the problem.
The perceptions of Edwards remind me a lot of those of Chad Pennington. There are many things he does well, but his name is synonymous with his biggest weakness.
I tend to think a lot of the problem is mental. His drops do tend to come on relatively easy catches when he has time to overthink. He also makes some spectacular catches seem routine as he did in his highlight reel debut against Miami. It's good work by Ellard to pick up on a tendency and try to beat the correct approach into his head by repetition. Nothing can simulate game pressure. Maybe he'll revert to bad habits in a game situation, but this is the best way to try and turn the tide.
Normally a guy who drops a lot of balls gets fans frustrated, particularly those with short patience that can be found in New York. Jets fans seem to like Braylon a lot, though. Again, there are a lot of things he does that fans admire. He works hard to block on running plays. He also shows a lot of heart fighting for extra yardage when the ball is in his hands. The drops can get frustrating, but it's like an error in baseball. The fielder had to do something right in getting to the ball to be in position to make an error. In the same way, Braylon has to do something right, getting open, to be in position to drop a ball. His freakish athleticism makes that relatively easy for him. I know I'm not alone in expecting big things from number 17 this year with the team willing to lean on the passing game a bit more.