Day 1: Florham Park

We’ll, here we are, the day I have dreaded since the Jets announced their complete exile from the Weeb. I’m sitting in the brand spanking new Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in sleepy Florham Park NJ. My commute from Huntington, LI wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be as I made the trip in a little under 1.5 hours after picking up our JI photographer John Heckman in Jericho. For some reason I think we got a break on the Cross Bronx which wasn’t too backed up despite it being the first day back to school for the kids. As you approach the exit to Florham Park you clearly see that this is not the NJ that most would think. It’s very quiet and almost downright rural…that is until you see the behemoth AHJTC on the horizon.

As a jilted NY fan, I wanted desperately to hate this place, however driving up the new One Jets Drive into the complex, the site is very impressive. The main building is a massive structure that is built around the new field house. It’s a very contemporary complex and it’s ironic that it’s named after a health company because it kinda looks like a giant hospital. Personally, I’d prefer the type of facility the Ravens built not too long ago which is warm, has lots of wood and is reminiscent of a suburban Country Club, but despite the AHJTC being a bit cold, it’s state of the art.

After you go directly across the main lobby and out of a set of giant glass doors, you are right in the thick of a huge pasture of field turf and natural grass practice fields that are neatly manicured and look great. 

Although as I’ve said many times before that I don’t agree with the location, Woody has built his team a top notch facility. The lockerroom is a plush, massive oval room that’s probably around 3 times the size of the old one. Although I’ve yet to get the full tour, one thing it seems they didn’t splurge on or put much thought into is the new media room which isn’t much bigger than the old one and believe it or not, has less work stations for the regular writers. Hopefully that will change as several beat guys were visibly disappointed by the new media digs compared to the rest of the complex.

 

There’s no doubt that this new facility will give the team a competitive edge and hopefully it’s one of the small intangibles that will help bring the team to the next level.

We had a chance to speak to Brett Favre today and he looks relaxed and ready for the challenge ahead. Every other question to him today was his comfort level of the offense. Is he fully comfortable? No. But that will change week by week. What you are likely going to see this weekend is a lot of handoffs to Thomas Jones and Leon Washington and a consolidated playbook that will be geared towards Favre’s strengths. He seemed genunely touched being voted a team captain and not that he needs it but I think that will add to his motivation to succeed here. Regarding his current game shape Favre said he feels OK but if he’s forced to scramble “expect a draw the next play”.

You can tell that Favre feels genuinely appreciated and wanted here which he obviously didn’t have back in Green Bay. A funny story Favre told last week when I had the opportunity with a few other beat guys to meet with him informally for a 45 minute intimate BS session was his face to face off-season meeting with Packers GM Ted Thompson.  It was in the Spring not long after he retired and stories started surfacing that Favre might be getting the itch to reconsider retirement.  Favre receieved  a call from Thompson saying he wanted to fly to Mississippi and talk to him. Favre assumed the purpose of the visit was that he was going to ask Favre to come back. To his surprise, when Thompson got there, there was no talk of the Packers wanting him back. No talk at all about football at all, in fact. The only thing Thompson discussed was that the team wanted to rip his locker out of the Packers facility box it, and send it to him as a souvenir. After the bizarre offer, Favre just said sure, Thompson left and he knew he’d likely played his last game in Green Bay.

I was a bit surprised that both offensive captains named today (voted on soley by their teammates) didn’t play on the team last year (Favre and Faneca). However, that shows you how much respect the players have for these guys and their accomplishments. S Kerry Rhodes and DE Shaun Ellis are great choices for defensive captains and RB/KR Leon Washington and DE David Bowens on special teams is right on as well. I actually think it’s about time that Bowens got some recognition because he played excellent on both special teams and on defense last season and was by far our best aquisition.

We also had a chance to catch with our old friend Chad Pennington on a conference call earlier, and to no one’s surprise he didn’t provide any pre-game clips worthy of hanging in the Jets’ locker room for motivation. He swears he has no hard feelings and this upcoming weekend is just another game but we all know there’s nothing better he’d like than to beat the team who discarded him.

Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I was this pumped up for a season. The closest I guess is in 1999 the year following our run to the AFC Championship game in Denver. Lets hope this year turns out A LOT better.

BTW….Keep those submissions coming for our JI tailgate contest. We’ve gotten some excellent entries so far and some of the presentations sent have been thoroughly entertaining. Here’s the 18B Crew.

For more info on the JI tailgate contest, click the link below:

http://www.jetsinsider.com/2008_tailgate_contest.php

BTW: Did all of you Shield fans catch the season premier last night? It’s looking like a bangup (literally) final season! 

ALSO: look for our exclusive interview with actor and super Jets fan Jay Mohr coming. The native New Jersian is a regular at Jets Insider.com, a huge Jets fan and has a brand new sitcom coming out in a few weeks.  

-SMD

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