Santana Moss and mates got right to work in Tokyo.
The New York Jets have already had an action packed Thursday in Tokyo, and it is only late afternoon. In a few hours, the team will close the night here at the Tokyo Dome Hotel when they join the Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers for a 6:30 PM (5:30 AM eastern) reception dinner at the Tenku Ballroom. Curfew is scheduled for midnight (11:00 AM eastern).
But what has transpired while you were sleeping? A lot. Let’s get to it.
By 6:30 AM, the Jets were getting taped. At 7:15, linebackers coach Bob Sutton and defensive assistant David Merritt led the special teams meeting. There were offensive and defensive meetings at 7:45, and then the players were sent to their rooms to dress for practice.
The Jets didn’t have to travel far for their shells workout. Players actually took the elevator downstairs and walked through a tunnel to the Tokyo Dome field. Newyorkjets.com walked behind linebacker Sam Cowart and center Kevin Mawae as they headed for the 10:15 workout. On the way to practice, we passed a number of Tampa Bay Buccaneers who had just finished their early morning practice. All the guys exchanged pleasantries, and everyone seemed pretty content.
But the Jets were not content to just get onto the field. They got to work and set a great tone for the rest of the week. There was a nice tempo set right away. Players were yapping and pads were popping. This was all following the plan.
“The tone was set this morning,” Edwards said. “They were told what we wanted to get accomplished today. They understood that, came out, and we got going. We needed to get going. They did what they needed to do.”
It was also important to have a good practice because the Jets really won’t have a full practice until next Tuesday.
“We are going to practice Friday in shorts, obviously we won’t play until Saturday, and then we won’t practice again until Tuesday,” Edwards said. “They knew we had to get going. We didn’t want to take a step backwards.”
The Jets actually took steps between the Dome’s foul poles, with a light covering of football lines starting right after second base and continuing into the endzone in front of the center field warning track. The Dome is a nice place, but the Stadium is also a sweat factory.
“It is a little bit different,” said a drenched Kevin Mawae. “I guess it is a little bit similar to the RCA Dome, but it is a little bit muggy in here. I don’t know if they believe in air conditioners over here.”
Edwards, a head coach who has guided the Jets to the playoffs in his first two seasons, wanted his young guys to get acclimated to their surroundings. They will be the ones taking most of the snaps Saturday evening.
“I wanted the young guys to get going too because it’s real dry in here,” Edwards said. “They aren’t used to it. It was important for them to run around in pads and get going.”
Mawae believes the Jets benefited from their track workout yesterday at a local sports complex.
“I think it was good for us today and even running yesterday,” Mawae said. “I think everybody is a little tired from the trip, but we pushed through it.”
They did more than push through. Quarterback Chad Pennington, who you won’t see a lot of Saturday, was sharp in Thursday's work. The fourth-year passer made several nice throws, including a long vertical hookup with Santana Moss.
“We have been working at that,” Edwards said. “It was good to see Chad hit the deep ball to Santana. When Santana catches it, I don’t think a lot of people are going to catch him. He was lively today, too. Santana had some bounce.”
The kickers were bouncing balls off the netting behind home plate. It was somewhat of a strange sight to see Doug Brien, Danny Kight, and Clay Rush kicking balls from centerfield. Tokyo is a baseball town (you can watch Ichiro and Matsui every night in either Japanese or English), and the Jets will ironically again be playing in a Stadium the Giants call home.
Curtis Martin got a number of repetitions Thursday morning. The veteran back who has rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his first eight seasons will be getting a lot of leg rest between today and Tuesday.
Not getting any rest will be Tokyo native Yoshi Imoto. Edwards wants Yoshi to get the ball this weekend. Third-string quarterback Brooks Bollinger threw vertical to an open Yoshi this morning, but the ball was overthrown by a few yards. The players went absolutely wild and shouts of “Yoshi” rocked the empty Dome.
Bollinger ended practice with a nice seven-yard touchdown pass to wideout Phil McGeoghan who barley got the ball got across the goal line. McGeoghan, a 6-2, 224-pound third-year player, has nice size and is a guy to watch Saturday night.
Players had the afternoon off while the coaches reviewed the morning’s film. Many of the Jets had a little time to take in some of the sites. A number of guys took the chance to stop by the amusement park here outside the Tokyo Dome and rode a no-frills roller coaster, which features a ridiculous drop.
“It rides smooth, but that drop was really something,” said receiver Kevin Swayne.
At 4:30 PM local time (3:30 AM Eastern), the NFL held a brief press conference with the Jets and the Buccaneers. Owner Woody Johnson, coach Herman Edwards, quarterback Chad Pennington, and local receiving hero Yoshi represented the Green & White. The Bucs lined up owner Malcolm Glazer, coach Jon Gruden, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, and Shinzo Yamada. Each made brief remarks and then there was a question and answer session with the media.
The Jets’ owner spoke first for the defending AFC East Champions.
“This is a great honor,” Johnson said. “We are the first New York team to play here. And we are in our 40th year of Jets football, and this is the first time we have been abroad. It is an honor to be selected to play this game because only good teams are selected.”
Johnson’s good team will practice at 9:00 AM (8 PM eastern Wednesday) tomorrow morning. And then the Jets get set for their first preseason game Saturday night.