Through morning workouts and late-night treatments, he's pushing himself to get back to being the big-time playmaker he once was. That's what consumes Holmes these days.
''He's in this building, and I'm not exaggerating much,'' offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said, ''Sixteen or 18 hours a day.''
The veteran wide receiver insists he's not completely healthy yet, and his surgically repaired left foot still hurts every day.
But Holmes has shown he still has plenty left, putting up a career-high 154 yards receiving on five receptions last Sunday against Buffalo - including the go-ahead 69-yard touchdown - and re-establishing himself as an important piece of the offense.
That's even if he won't declare himself officially 100 percent back.
''No, I won't do that to myself,'' Holmes said. ''I've said I have a long ways to go. It's only my third game back from a full year recovering.''
Nearly a year ago - Sept. 30 against San Francisco - Holmes caught a short pass on the first play of the fourth quarter and felt a sharp pain in his foot. He tossed the ball away as he grabbed at his foot in agony.
It ended his season and put his career in jeopardy. Two surgeries followed along with a slow, steady rehabilitation process that began, as Holmes put it, with him re-learning how to walk.
He suffered a Lisfranc injury, which usually involves separation of ligaments and joints in the middle of the foot.
Not good for any athlete, particularly one whose job it is to outrun defenders on every snap.
Holmes has come a long way from just a few months ago, when there appeared to be no chance that he would be ready to start the season. Not when he couldn't run, let alone make a cut or run a route.
''As I always said (during camp), 'I hope he plays,''' coach Rex Ryan said. ''Now you guys know why I was hoping he plays. He's a legitimate No. 1 receiver.''
Through three games, Holmes has nine catches for 218 yards and the go-ahead score against the Bills.
The numbers might not be spectacular, but he's making the types of plays again that earned him the nickname ''Tone Time'' for coming through when the offense needed him most.
''I have to attack it as if I'm going to continue being a starter and a playmaker for this team,'' Holmes said. ''I have to continue to stay healthy and, with God's will, if I can stay healthy throughout the season, who knows what's going to be in store from this point on forward?''
Holmes and rookie quarterback Geno Smith are still working on their chemistry, since they had no real practice time together during the offseason.
''The more he gets healthy and the more he gets comfortable in this offense, the more he gets back to full strength and full speed,'' Smith said. ''He's always been a wily vet, so he knows how to get open, even when he's not feeling 100 percent. He makes the tough catch.
''He's one of those guys you can always rely on, and it's good to have a guy like that on your side.''
Holmes is still working on sharpening the nuances of the game: tracking the ball, using his hands and eyes, getting his timing down and making sure he always maintains his focus.
''He is a diligent, diligent guy,'' Mornhinweg said. ''Football's important to him, and he's a real pro.''
On the winning touchdown last Sunday, Smith hit Holmes in stride and the wide receiver, grabbing the ball over his shoulder with a last-second look, broke free of defensive back Justin Rogers and scooted into the end zone.
If there was a play to officially mark Holmes' return, it was that one. And Holmes stretched out his arms, acting like a plane, and smiled as he flew around and his teammates mobbed him.
''Santonio's been a baller since we were drafted together,'' said Jets guard Willie Colon, who came into the league with Holmes in 2006 with Pittsburgh. ''That's the Santonio I know, and that's the only Santonio I know.
''He's a lot of things, but he's a gamer and I love him to death. I'm glad he's a Jet.''
NOTES: Rookie CB Dee Milliner did not practice with a tweaked left hamstring and his status for the game at Tennessee was uncertain. Ryan said Darrin Walls would start opposite Antonio Cromartie with Kyle Wilson playing in nickel packages if Milliner can't go. ... Holley Mangold, the younger sister of Jets C Nick Mangold, will be a contestant on NBC's ''The Biggest Loser,'' starting Oct. 8. Holley Mangold competed as a weightlifter for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team and is looking to get in better shape, with her focus on the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
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