FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The New York Jets on Wednesday signed former Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen, who last played in the NFL in 2020 because of injuries.

The 28-year-old Cohen was an All-Pro as a kick return specialist in 2018 and was selected for the Pro Bowl. He broke his right leg and tore his ACL and MCL in 2020 and missed all of that season and the following season.

During the 2022 offseason, Cohen tore an Achilles tendon — similar to the injury suffered by Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers in last year’s season opener — and missed that entire season.

He was cleared to play last summer and signed with Carolina’s practice squad but spent most of the season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. He was released by the Panthers on May 10.

“Tarik’s an explosive playmaker,” coach Robert Saleh said. “He’s starting to get back healthy.”

NFL owners agreed this offseason to a one-year trial of a radical change on kickoffs, with a new system borrowed heavily from what was used in the XFL spring league, one that is expected to result in more returns this season.

“With the new kickoff rules, these kick returners, they’re going to touch the ball over 100 times a year, which is significant,” Saleh said. “At least that’s what we’re anticipating. A guy like him, he’s still young and obviously coming off his injuries, but we’re excited to have him aboard.”

Saleh said second-year wide receiver Xavier Gipson will have “first dibs” on return duties, but Cohen’s addition gives the Jets more options and depth.

Cohen was a fourth-round pick of the Bears in 2017 out of North Carolina A&T and quickly established himself as one of the league’s most dynamic and versatile players — a speedy and shifty pass-catching threat out of the backfield on special teams in the return game — before injuries derailed his career.

In 51 career games, he has 1,101 yards rushing and five touchdowns with 209 catches for 1,575 yards and nine scores. He has averaged 20.9 yards on kickoff returns and 10.3 yards on punt returns, including a touchdown against San Francisco — where Saleh was the defensive coordinator — in 2017.

“From a defensive standpoint, having to game plan against him when he was with the Bears, he was a nightmare,” Saleh said. “He’s a playmaker.”

CAMPING TOGETHER

Saleh said the Jets will hold joint practice sessions during training camp with all three of their preseason opponents.

New York will host Washington at its facility before the preseason opener, scheduled for Aug. 10 at MetLife Stadium, and will work with the Panthers in the lead-up to their game at Carolina the following week.

The Jets and Giants will have a joint session before the preseason finale on Aug. 24. The teams practiced together two years ago at the Giants’ facility but didn’t have a joint session last summer.

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl