FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Dexter McDougle made sure everyone knew he was happy on Wednesday. Very, very, very, very, very happy.
That's one "very" for every time the rookie cornerback said the word "happy" in response to a question about his first day as a full participant in the New York Jets' organized team activities.
The Jets selected McDougle in the third round of last month's draft even though he missed the last nine games of senior season at the University of Maryland and underwent right shoulder surgery. He wore the red non-contact jersey during the first eight days of OTAs as he completed his recovery.
"I'm just happy," McDougle said Wednesday. "I finally got out there, getting in there with the team and (started) running around, flying around trying to make plays out there. So I was really happy today.
"They gave me the heads-up a couple of days ago, and I'm out there. I'm just happy right now. It's been, what, since September since I've (been able) to play football, so I'm just happy. I'm just happy."
McDougle wasted no time Wednesday showing how thrilled he was to be back on the field. After the practice, coach Rex Ryan lauded McDougle's effort and grasp of the defensive playbook in front of the entire team -- a rare show of respect for a rookie.
"I thought it was impressive," Ryan said. "Here's a kid who's been learning those 80 plays on defense yet really hasn't been able to go through anything.
"This young man, he's done the tough part. He's got to sit there and pay attention knowing he can't get on our field and then take it out there today. I know he was excited to finally get that green jersey."
The Jets were excited to see him wear it, too. McDougle was viewed by many draftniks as a reach -- especially given the rookie year struggles of last year's first-round pick, cornerback Dee Milliner, whom the Jets selected ninth overall following an injury-plagued career at Alabama.
Even Ryan admitted he wasn't sure the Jets should invest such an early pick in McDougle. However, he was swayed by general manager John Idzik and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman as well as the advance work done by scouts, who told Ryan that McDougle was one of the top character kids in the draft.
"And being around this young man now, you see where that's coming from," Ryan said.