A few thoughts on this preseason of hype, plus a rant, and practice notes
Surely the tension and anticipation preceding this Jets season is unmatched in my life. But there have been plenty of summertime bores, too. You bet. 2003 wasn’t too thrilling, until justifiable panic ensued after Giants Linebacker Brandon Short broke Chad Pennington’s left hand during that oh so foreboding cross-town exhibition game. [Jason Seahorn and Osi Umenyiora know the deal. Eli Manning may have been lucky to escape the yearly Jets-Giants gauntlet with a mere laceration, if he indeed drew the short straw from fate] Short’s hit was a perfectly clean takedown from behind, the painful result chalked up to bad luck, more than anything else.
Sometimes it can feel too quiet… as if some elaborate setup were taking place. The stereotypical Jet fan, fretting from paranoia, is an image receding. But for those freak-out specialists still playing that role, they find justification in a checkered past. We all may have been slightly bored questioning whether Curtis Conway could adequately replace Laveranues Coles [that, uh, didn’t go so well] but damn it, sometimes a long lasting lull can benefit everybody.
In such a physically grueling game, the media dispatches usually bear bad news. Weekly injury reports are integrated within the culture of the sport. Drill Sergeant coaches may believe maladies somehow manageable, preventable via sound conditioning and intense practicing, but the fact is, players will get hurt. All types. Madden cover dudes? They get hurt. Special teams gunners? They get hurt. Kickers? They get hurt. Hell, kickers have gotten hurt celebrating.
It’s interesting to note, considering these vicious circumstances, some Jets fans are expressing a confidence that borders on hubris, projecting traits of invulnerability onto the athletes they revere. There’s certainly nothing wrong with having confidence. This is a potentially top shelf defensive team that has augmented its offense with pro-bowl caliber talent at major skill positions. The starting running back and quarterback are young and exciting, second year players potentially prepared to blossom. What could be more intriguing than that?
And yet, a strange sensation percolates while I attempt to assess the fan-base’s general pulse. Jets fans are enthusiastic, all right, supporting their team with an obsessive zeal that betrays pure and admirable passion. Something is always bound to hang up the hardcore, an issue causing ample debate. Usually it’s arguing projections and predictions, or optimism dueling with pessimism, maybe temerity and timidity going twelve rounds. But this year, in the midst of a positively frantic August, featuring Hard Knocks, skyrocketing expectations, intriguing newcomers to the fold, most of the fanatic’s talk has centered on contract negotiations.
Make no mistake; Darrelle Revis’ contract holdout shouldn’t be misconstrued as a distraction. Hardly. That does this scenario an injustice. It is the storyline defining this team. It’s a wild journalistic chase for the scoop. It’s Woody Johnson and Mike Tannenbaum defending their well entrenched positions. And right now, it’s the silence. But not the kind of silence suggesting borderline indifference, like the epic four-way quarterback competition probably inspired in ‘06. [Most national analysts were sure that team would be an afterthought] The quiet from both camps, Revis and the management, regarding these talks, has people buzzing about the Jets on a National level. Were this issue ever to be resolved, it’d be like a playoff win before Week One.
And therein lies the rub: With or without Revis, it seems that certain segments of Jets fandom needs be reminded of one simple fact, in a sport that is often impossible to predict: Hype is not a shield. One only needs to turn back to the ’99 Jets for that reminder. Rightfully labeled a Super Bowl contender before the season, dreams of glory were quickly shattered, in the moment between Vinny Testaverde standing upright and writhing on the Old Meadowlands turf, clutching his Achilles.
In the message board era, where trash talk has become a subterranean art form, it’s an impossible proposition, to request fans enjoy the ride, instead of jumping straight to the parade. Everyone wants that dominant team, close to impervious. If the Jets are that, it won’t be because of the hype. And if they aren’t, the same holds true. They could be derailed by any number of unforeseen factors; unpredictable twists in an implacable game. But the hype is an illusion, so much perspective skewing mist, evaporating upon week one. And, I, for one, am eagerly anticipating the unveiling of real facts. They always trump the noise, the predictions, the August boasting, the contract negotiations. What we are left with is a game where anything can happen. That cuts both ways.
I do have a few notes on the Hofstra practice. Initially, it was not necessarily memorable for what occurred on the field, despite the players making a game effort. No, what I found personally noteworthy was the impressive Hofstra football facility, which to my surprise, no longer houses a team. [Yeah, I was way late to the party figuring that one out] Also leaping to my attention was the fantastic fan turnout, numbering over ten thousand, and the friendliness toward the masses exhibited by New York’s players after their day’s work was done. But, those two impressions would be nearly evaporated by a pointless incident. For, a man, apparently of middle-age, wearing a green shirt and gray pants, decided to walk onto the field of play, whereupon he posed for a few moments before being tackled and hauled away by security. The incident wasn’t too unnerving from a safety standpoint. The guy was corralled pretty quickly after being initially spotted, and though he did get the opportunity to pointlessly gesture for a few seconds; it was obvious to anyone watching that this shallow exercise was certainly not worth the bruises, or ensuing embarrassment.
This is something I truly can’t stand. For an individual to take it upon himself or herself to run out in front of a crowd and act like a jackass… it’s just so nonsensical. It’s a cheap grab for exposure, a desperate play for attention, recklessness which shows absolutely zero perspective. Now, perhaps this gentleman has a good excuse for his behavior. But if not, I just don’t understand.
Deposed Florida State coach Bobby Bowden stopped by Jets practice today. Bowden was in the news recently for claiming he’d been pushed out of his job by University Hierarchy, chiefly longtime friend T.K. Wetherell.
Kellen Clemens had a pass picked off by Eric Smith. Smith was on tenuous ground upon Rex Ryan’s arrival last August, but has persevered and fortified a place for himself on the roster. This time last year, it would have been a shocking development for Smith to outlast then defensive backfield teammate Kerry Rhodes as a Jet. But go figure. Somewhere a Jets fan who made the investment on an official Rhodes jersey shakes his head…
Tight-End Jeff Cumberland caught a pass in tight double coverage near the left pylon for a touchdown. Cumberland continues to impress in practice, and seems due for a big preseason performance. With a crowded offensive depth chart, especially in the backfield, and only two warm-up games remaining, the capable Cumberland better make it happen soon…
Mark Sanchez hit Keller on a quick curl following rollout, certainly a nifty short yardage pass that could get the talented tight end in rhythm early in games.
Sanchez also hit Braylon Edwards on a long bomb off play action, reminiscent of that impressive cold weather fling early in a loss against the Atlanta Falcons. Sanchez, on this perfectly temperate day, under-threw the ball. Imagine that. Edwards adjusted to the pass beautifully, and continues looking strong in practice.
The practice was moved up to 5:15, from the original 6:00 time.