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Ray, Class All The Way

By Mark Cannizzaro
JetsInsider.com Head Writer
September 4th, 2006
With the new Jets looking to get younger on the secondary, veteran CB Ray Mickens didn't fit into the team's plans. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
With the new Jets looking to get younger on the secondary, veteran CB Ray Mickens didn't fit into the team's plans. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
It was difficult for Eric Mangini to say goodbye to Ray Mickens when final cutdown day arrived on Saturday for a number of reasons.

Firstly, there probably hasnít been a classier pro to have walked through that Jets' locker room at Weeb Ewbank Hall than Mickens, who spent nine of his 10 NFL seasons with the Jets.

In a perfect world, Mangini would have kept Mickens as a locker room mentor for his young team, but in the end he opted to go with youth and players who had more potential to help the team win now and next year.

Interestingly, Mickens didnít see his release coming despite the fact that he'd played so sparingly in preseason. He figured that the Jets had 10 years of film on him and knew what he could bring so he wasn't concerned about the lack of playing time.

Mickens seemed almost prophetic during an interview after the Jets' preseason finale, only hours before Mangini would inform him he was going to be cut.

"We're looking forward to seeing the finished product,'' Mickens said of this team. "We don't care about what people say about our team. This isn't a rebuilding team. I'm just trying to win. To me, there's no such thing as rebuilding. No one wants t hear that.

"People will try to define you and your team. The only way it's going to be defined is on the field. I remember 1998 when we were one game away from going to the Super Bowl and I havenít been that close since. I'm trying to win games. My window is closing.''

Little did Mickens know that his window with the Jets would close in only a matter of hours.

"Ray is a guy I've had a relationship with for a long time,'' Mangini said. "I like Ray personally. We had a great conversation. I respect him and wish him nothing but the best. It came down to a difficult decision trying to get the best players to play a role and help us win. Ray understood that. This is a difficult part of the job. Ray is an incredibly classy person and classy player.''

Mickens, reached at home last, said, "I am surprised because I thought Iíd be here for the season. I wasn't reading into anything (his little playing time in preseason) because a lot of the young guys he needed to evaluate. The younger guys have some potential to be there for another three or four years. For me in three or four years I may be in radio or TV booth. I respect Eric's decision.''

Classy player, classy person.

Donít worry about Mickens, though. He's a smart businessman and has wisely invested his money, owning news stands and restaurants in several airports, including Philadelphia and Dallas/Forth Worth, the area where he lives. Mickens will probably play another year, but if he doesnít he'll have any options _ TV, radio or in business. In losing Mickens, by the way, the Jets might have lost their best golfer.

INSIDER EXTRA POINTS

Speaking of outside expectations, Jets' guard Pete Kendall makes a good why-not-us? argument.

"It doesn't bother me at all what people say about our team,'' he said. "The perfect case was last year, when everyone thought we would be contending for the division and the for the Super Bowl. What good did that do us?''

****

Eric Mangini doesn't waste time on anything. Almost everything he does has a purpose to it.

That means his use of rookie Brad Smith at quarterback in the fourth of Friday night's 20-17 preseason finale win over the Eagles at Giants Stadium should not go overlooked as some what-the-heck? fun moment in a preseason game.

Bank on seeing Smith, the former Missouri quarterback whoís been converted to receiver, used in a number of different capacities this season, including throwing the ball.

"We thought we would give him a shot and see what he could do; give us some position flexibility there,'' Mangini said. "That is something that we talked about and worked on, and I think he did a nice job.''

Smith, though, said this when asked if he's practiced at QB at all this summer: "No, not at all.''

"I was shocked and happy at the same time,'' he said upon hearing his name called to go in. "Itís a weird situation, but you have to step up and try to help the team.''

****

Big night Friday for Jets' DE Trevor Johnson, who had two INTs against the Eagles. The first led to points during a fourth-quarter comeback. The second ended a desperate Eagles' rally at the end of the game.

The game-winning TD run by Brad Smith came on a broken play. It was supposed to be a naked bootleg but Smith got confused on the snap count and failed to execute the fake handoff.

"It was kind of a messed up play,'' Smith said. "I messed up. It was a naked play, a naked boot. I got the snap late, got a little confused, so I missed the fake handoff. I went the right way, just didnít get the fake.''

****

Lee Suggs, the RB whom the Browns traded to the Jets for CB Derrick Strait during training camp before being sent back after failing a physical, was cut by Cleveland on Saturday. Surprisingly, the rival Dolphins claimed him on waivers yesterday.

****

Good news for Jets' fans?

The Titans, who the Jets face in Sunday's regular-season opener, have a quarterback controversy.

"Our quarterback situation is pretty much up in the air," Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher said on Saturday, exactly eight days removed from the showdown with the Jets in Nashville.

Fisher said the team will make a decision about its starter later in the week. It appears, though, that 12th-year quarterback Kerry Collins, who was acquired last Monday, is the favorite to start over incumbent backup Billy Volek.

Oddly, Fisher has already named first-round draft choice Vince Young the No. 2 on the depth chart, and has spoken about getting him a series or two of playing time in every game.. So, if Collins starts, that means Volek will have fallen in the spa of a week the supposed starter to No. 3.

Volek has been the subject of trade talks for some time, with the Colts and Chargers reportedly interested.

NOTE: You can listen to Mark Cannizzaro from the New York Post and Jetsinsider.com every Sunday morning from 8 to 10 a.m. on "Tee it Up with Mark Canizzaro'' on 1050 ESPN Radio. Cannizzaro talks football, including a lot of Jets, along with golf, baseball and all other sports.

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