August 1, 2009
Jets’ rainy first practice is mixed bag for Ryan
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Jets quarterback Kellen Clemens signs an autograph for Brock Schaffner, 5, of Virginia, following Friday morning’s practice at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
Coach Rex Ryan put his New York Jets through their paces Friday morning, in their first practice of training camp — and all 80 players were there.
Running back Leon Washington arrived after the media was gone Thursday evening and went through his conditioning tests earlier in the morning, seeing limited action during the 8:15 a.m. session.
The practice at SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex’s artificial turf field took place under rainy skies, watched by about 300 fans.
“Leon did the running test at six o’clock this morning,” Ryan explained. “That is really a day’s workout in itself. We just want to be cautious today.
“I was doing bed checks last night (Thursday) and I saw him studying his playbook, it was like ‘Hey Leon,’ “ Ryan continued. “It’s great to have him here. We need Leon because he such a big part of the success that this team can have. We are happy that he is here and has joined his teammates.”
The Jets went through a variety of exercises and drills in the opening two-hour session Friday morning. From jogging and stretching to numerous drills and scenarios, there were some very good moments,and some not so good moments.
“Before practice, I told the guys that it doesn’t rain on a football player,” said Ryan before practice. “Well, I was soaked! Rain doesn’t really bother a player. Guys enjoy playing in the rain and I think you saw that this morning.
“One of those negative things was that too many guys were jumping early, especially on offense,” Ryan continued. “Obviously, we have to get that corrected. You can expect that in the first practice. Guys are jumping around. They are itching to go because they have been away for a while. It may be expected, but it’s not going to be expected. We are going to be a tough team to beat physically, so let’s eliminate those mental errors and the dumb penalties and make a team have to try and beat us physically. I think we will be in great shape.”
As for the positives, Ryan did not need to go too far.
“Darrelle Revis (cornerback) really jumped out,” Ryan said. “He had a couple of picks, maybe more.
“Howard Green (defensive tackle) showed what he was all about running with our second unit in those 9-on-7 drills,” Ryan said. “That’s why he is here. He is a big physical presence. We call him “Not so big Howard” this year. He was “Big Howard” , but he has dropped liked 20-some pounds. I told Howard (6-foot-2, 320 pounds) that I might have put on those pound he lost.”
That last statement by Ryan started its own separate Q-and-A about his weight and the new five-day liquid diet he started.
“You guys need to start a pool or whatever,” Ryan chuckled. “I had oranges, lemons and stuff squeezed together for breakfast this morning. That was great. I can’t wait for the vegetable thing they have planned for dinner.”
Another spot that saw action was the linebacker spot that Calvin Pace will man most of the season. Pace, who will miss the first four games due to a suspension, shared time with second-year man Vernon Gholston and rookie Bryan Thomas.
“Today, Mike Pettine (defensive coordinator) was rotating three guys there,” said Ryan. “So with Calvin and obviously Vernon and BT, they were rotating the two spots with three guys. We will do that with a lot of guys. I think, even on the D-Line, we’ve got Marques Douglas rotating in with Sione Pouha and with Shaun Ellis. We held Shaun out a little bit today, just to get his feet wet. This was really the first action he has had and, boy, that’s a big cat. I can see his nickname, I see why they call him that.”
Ellis is beginning his 10th season with the Jets, and at 6-foot-5, 285 pounds, is the longest tenured player on the team.
What were Ryan’s first impressions of quarterbacks Kellen Clemens and Mark Sanchez battling for that number one spot in less than ideal conditions?
“It probably wasn’t the best day, as we said, throwing interceptions,” Ryan stated. “I thought Sanchez had a real good day. When you look at that, he threw a couple of bad balls that could have been picked, but other than that, there were some trap coverages that Mike (Pettine) and his crew threw out there. He threw into a couple of those. But other than that, I thought he threw the comeback and the deep out exceptionally well today.”
Clemens “had good command of that huddle and did some things well,” Ryan said. “It just wasn’t putting up the numbers on those deep completions.”
Ryan repeated the familiar theme that will determine who will be the starting quarterback.
“He (Sanchez or Clemens) has got to be the best quarterback and the best leader,” Ryan said. “We are going to compete every day and we’ll end up at the end of the day doing what is best for our football team where we can win on that particular Sunday.”
And how did the two quarterbacks summed up their first day?
“It’s a similar tempo,” said Sanchez in comparing that first NFL training camp day to Southern Cal’s. “Everybody is moving and the guys are a lot faster. It was a great day.”
Sanchez felt he took care of the ball well and was off to a good start, crediting the offensive line for that.
“My fellow rookies, the drafted guys Matt (Slauson) and Shonn (Greene), we are learning the ropes and following the guys around,” he said. “We’re getting up nice an early and watching those guys go through their routines. We were in the hot tub earlier with them trying to follow the veterans around and learning our way. It was a great first day and good tempo. Coach Ryan got us off to a good start.”
“It wasn’t hot,” said Clemens. “It was a nice, cool day and easier to stay hydrated. We had a good start this morning and we will back to do the same thing in the afternoon.
“It kind of went the way you would expect the first practice to go,” Clemens added. “The rain was a little bit of an issue. We had some balls sail to be honest, but, it’s a good opportunity for us because we’re certainly not ging to play 16 regular season games without playing one in the rain. It’s a good opportunity early to work on some mechanics. We have a long way to go.”
While the morning practice was full equipment and featured moderate contact, the afternoon saw the guys in shoulder pads and shorts, plus the skies began clearing. The sun came out and warmed things up for the quicker tempo used for this practice. It would be considered more of a walkthrough-type practice. Adding things to the playbook in preparation for more intense workouts is the purpose of this type of practice.
Overall, day one has to be considered a success for Ryan and his team. The players moved through each session quickly and shuttled from one phase to another quickly every time the horn sounded to signal the end to that session. It also sounded like those fans, whether standing in the rain or the afternoon sun, were excited as well. There were plenty of cheers from them and the coaching staff made sure to take care of them as well as different players came to the wall of the main grandstand and signed autographs for those loyal fans.
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