July 27, 2012
Jets begin bonding at Camp Cortland
After a one-year absence, New York Jets players spent their first day in Cortland on Thursday checking into their summer Glass Tower dormitory rooms before their first day of training camp on the field.
Players are full of anticipation, and for those who have been to Camp Cortland before there is the hope of renewing the team bonding that took Gang Green to the AFC Championship Game in 2009 and 2010.
The 2011 season, that started with labor issues that shortened the pre-season and kept the Jets in New Jersey for workouts after spending the previous two summers here, ended in a missed playoff bid and turmoil. These Jets are ready to prove that last year’s 8-8 campaign is not what this team is all about.
“Cortland has definitely been good to us,” seventh-year offensive left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson said after arriving on campus. “We’ve done some great things when we’ve been to Cortland. It’s good to get back on track. It’s a normal year, no lockouts. It’s time for things to be normal.
“We have made some changes in players and coaches,” he continued. “Everyone is excited about being here and getting that bitter taste of last season out of our mouths. I’m part of a great organization. Everyone wants things to click and it’s just a matter of time. The good part about success and failure is you get to feel them. You know if you put in the time and the work, the results will come.”
“It feels good,” says Dustin Keller, the Jets’ fifth-year tight end. “I think it is going to benefit us. That’s the most important thing. We accomplished so much in the past. I’m not really superstitious, but spending time here and the camaraderie with teammates is very important. That may have been missing after not being here last year.
“It’s all football here,” he continued. “It’s the one thing you focus on here. It is a very important time for us. Guys could go home to their families last year when we were in New Jersey. That was all well and good, but you need to spend time with your teammates. That’s what we get to do here.”
For starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, who began his rookie season in the first camp ever held in Cortland, the team is the priority.
“It’s about being a leader,” he said. “I need to do my best by setting an example ... be on the practice field for as long as we need to, getting to bed early and getting your sleep.
“It’s nice to interact with some fans that we don’t see as often,” Sanchez continued. “We have our work cut out for us and it’s my job to lead these guys.”
“I’m excited about being here with the Jets in Cortland,” said the man who has drawn so much attention since his trade to the Jets, quarterback Tim Tebow. “It’s nice to get away and be isolated with your teammates. Being together 24/7 is good for a team.
“We have a lot of great players on this team,” he continued. “We are all here together to play for one cause, for one goal. That will start tomorrow and continue for every day of practice. We are here to play for each other to reach that goal.”
Much of the moving-in talk centered around the two-quarterback system of Sanchez and Tebow, plus the new offense directed by Tony Sparano, the team’s new offensive coordinator and former head coach of the rival Miami Dolphins.
“I think that will be important that we just stick with whatever we decide to do,” Ferguson said. “We just need to go out and execute as an offensive line. The other units will do what they need to do. If we go out there with a goal and the passion, we will be successful. That’s how you build a great team.”
“It’s been great,” Keller said. “Coach Sparano is a very honest guy. Regardless if that is good or bad, you can respect that. He works us hard, but it will be worth it.
“As far as two quarterbacks, I don’t think it is going to be a problem,” he added. “They have to focus specifically on doing what their jobs are. We know what we have to do on each play. It’s not going to be that different.”
“We’re not Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow, we are the New York Jets,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “I’m glad Tim Tebow is a New York Jet. I don’t care if one guy is more popular. I would like all the guys to be as popular as Tim Tebow.
“The only thing I care about Mark Sanchez is that he be the best player that he can be,” he continued. “Mark Sanchez is our starting quarterback and the one thing we need to do this year is protect him better. That will involve a lot of guys. We need to run the football better. You can have Y.A. Tittle back there at quarterback, but he not going to be effective if he is flat on the ground. I have great confidence in Mark Sanchez. We have a great starting quarterback in Mark Sanchez and a great football player in Tim Tebow. You know how I feel about the Wildcat and the kind of pressure it puts on a defense. ”
What do the two guys at the center of the talk think?
“Mentally you have to be strong in this position in this town,” Sanchez said of the challenges of being a quarterback in New York City. “I’m ready for it and hopefully things will go well. I’m ready to play and to lead this team. However Tim is integrated into this system I will defer to Coach Sparano. I am confident in his ability to handle the situation and to know what my rhythm is as a quarterback.”
“I’m here to do whatever the team needs me to do,” Tebow said. “Mark and I have been friends since he was at USC. We stay in contact and we have practiced together. He’s a great guy. I support him and I know he supports me. I am here to help this team win games and I really don’t care what other people think about this system working or not working.”
While there were a number of offensive players available Thursday, the defense made its case as well.
“There’s really no change,” said defensive tackle Sione Pouha who begins his eighth training camp. “It is a little emotional leaving your family behind, but once you get that conditioning test finished and you’re on the way up here it’s back to business. It’s time to be here in Cortland and it’s time to get back to work.
Everything got serious as the Jets took to the practice field for the first time with a three-hour session beginning at 8 this morning. The practice is closed to the public, but fans will get their first look at the team during Saturday’s practice that also begins at 8 a.m.
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