While locker room faces change, Jets’ goal remains same
“You never get over it.”
How could anyone? Losing in the AFC Championship Game is tough enough. Doing so while being relegated to the sideline, forced to spectate while a future Hall of Fame quarterback takes your defensive unit to school? Well that’s a completely different animal.
Such was the case for Jets linebacker Bart Scott. Scott, the mouthpiece of the NFL’s loudest defense in ‘09, was uncharacteristically quiet during his team’s season-ending, 30-17 loss to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
The 29-year-old veteran’s mummified left ankle was by no means even close to being in playing condition, prompting Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan to dub Scott, “the one-legged man” following the loss.
Scott still tried to play through it, recording two tackles in severely limited snaps, unable to drop back into the Nickel coverage the Jets went with most of the game.
Since January, Scott’s sore left ankle has healed. The same cannot be said for the open wound of relinquishing a 17-13 halftime advantage in Indy, falling thirty minutes short of a trip to Miami for Scott and the Jets. That one still stings considerably.
“I never forget,” said Scott Thursday. “People can say that they forget. Maybe it doesn’t have the same bite that it had when you just lost, but you never forget.”
“I don’t get over any loss I’ve ever had. It keeps me going. The mistakes that I’ve made in those games and how those games have ended is what motivates me to make sure that I’m better.”
With 2009 in the rear-view mirror, and the book on 2010 set to begin, the goal for Rex Ryan’s bunch is ostensibly clear-cut: Play for sixty more minutes and bring home the trophy.
“It was a good run,” says quarterback Mark Sanchez. We put together a heck of a run. It’s still frustrating to think we were so close.”
“It’s motivation for next year, it’s encouraging and it’s something to build on for next year, but there’s plenty to work on.”
Since that fateful Sunday in Indy, the Jets roster has been worked on, the revolving door in Florham Park spinning numerous times. Gone is the team’s leading rusher from last season and most polarizing locker room figure, Thomas Jones. Gone is Kerry Rhodes, the safety whose unexpected fall from grace was one of the biggest stories of the ‘09 season.
Meanwhile, kicker Jay Feely, arguably the team’s most consistent performer from last season and running back Leon Washington, the offense’s most explosive weapon, both seem to be on the fast track out of Florham.
Replacing Jones is LaDainian Tomlinson, a future Hall of Famer coming off his worst professional season, looking to revitalize his career in New York. Joining Tomlinson in New York is his former San Diego teammate, cornerback Antonio Cromartie, another fallen star searching for a fresh start in the Big Apple.
Both Tomlinson and Cromartie figure to serve prominent roles in 2010. Tomlinson, the veteran two-way threat out of the backfield, spelling and mentoring the young Shonn Greene. Cromartie, playing Robin to Darrelle Revis’s Batman, giving Gang Green somebody capable of locking-up a Pierre Garçon, the next time around.
However it is clear that the boys from the Left Coast are not being counted on as saviors in any way.
“The pieces are already put together,” says the 25-year-old Cromartie. “I’m just here to help out as much as I can and contribute to this team and organization the best way I can.”
The 30-year-old Tomlinson was cognizant of the veteran roster he would be joining in New York, but noted Thursday that he was pleasantly surprised at just how tight-knit a group this Jets team is.
“You think about the New York Jets and a lot going on,” said Tomlinson. “Big city and a lot of media. A lot of guys tend to not stick together. Guys kind of spread apart, but this team is really close. That’s really surprised me.”
Or as Bart Scott calls it, get another opportunity “to slay the dragon.”
“You hope that you get another opportunity to play that team and make them feel what you feel.”
Regrouped and retooled are these Jets. They say revenge is a dish best served cold.
Good news on the Mark Sanchez front…sort of.
While the 23-year-old quarterback is progressing well from the surgery he underwent on his left knee six weeks ago, he has yet to begin running on the knee or participate in football related activities. There is also currently no timetable to when the second-year pro will be able to do so.
“We’re just working on strengthening and getting the motion back,” Sanchez said Thursday. “It’s feeling really well. I’m walking around without a hiccup or anything. They’re really excited about the progress so far.”
“As cliché as it sounds, we’re taking it one day at a time. It’s really like that. They’ve used the term cautiously aggressive. They want to make sure I’m getting the right kind of sore, without hurting. The kind of sore you bounce back from and that’s the way it’s been the entire time. It’s getting stronger and it’s feeling good. I’m just happy I can walk around already.”
The procedure to strengthen the patella-stabilizing ligament in Sanchez’s left-knee was designed to eliminate any further tweaks of the knee cap. Sanchez originally dislocated his knee cap before his junior season at USC and aggravated the injury last season in Week 12 against Carolina.
Despite the fact that Sanchez will most likely be unable to participate in OTAs and mini-camp, the quarterback believes that he will “absolutely, without a doubt” be ready for the start of training camp in July.
Sanchez added that he is unsure at this point whether he will have to wear a brace on the knee for the upcoming season. “I don’t know, he said. “They’ve talked about it, but I’m not worried. I think maybe at the beginning I’ll have to wear something, but they said it should be stronger than it ever was. I won’t have to worry about having it again, hopefully.