The rookies, along with a handful of veterans, stepped foot into the facilities of Weeb Ewbank Hall in Hempstead for the Jets’ first day of rookie minicamp this morning with a mission in mind. That mission is to prove that they can fit well in the system under the watchful eye of Head Coach Eric Mangini.
In some instances, the idea of playing in the Meadowlands along with the rest of the elite in the NFL can make many rookies shudder and tremble. This isn’t really the case with this year’s crop. Instead, they remain focused, prepared, and ready to see what Coach Mangini and his staff can throw at them.
Some, like seventh-round pick Chansi Stuckey, see the mini-camp as a stepping stone to get an opportunity to play along side the veterans.
“It would be a dream,” said Stuckey. “Jerricho (Cotchery) came in and really stepped it up last year and did a great job. And Laveranues (Coles), he’s been doing this for a long time. I just can’t wait till he gets here. I would like to learn from him, see the type of things that he does so I can try to get some of those tips, just so I can be successful in the NFL.”
Stuckey, despite some memorable seasons with Clemson, has had some glaring injury problems. He, however, remains in high hopes that the injury bug will not come around as much as it did in college.
“I hope it isn’t that way,” he said. “God willing, I could still keep working out and playing, so I can have a good time here in New York.”
Regardless of how they look at this year’s mini-camp, and not only do they embrace the challenge that comes along with it, the rookies can hardly contain their excitement about this experience.
“I’m excited to come out here and meet some of these guys,” said first-round cornerback Darrelle Revis. “It’s good to see my future teammates and meet some of the coaches. Everything is great.”
“I love it,” replied Stuckey. “The Jets are a great organization. It’s been a great experience with a great coaching staff and the players that are around. It’s a great situation.”
“Oh man, it’s great,” said sixth-round pick Jacob Bender. “I’m excited to be here, excited to be out working. It’s been two weeks since the draft. I’ve been training and busting my butt, and I’m just excited to be up here.”
Some might go as far to say that Bender, who was drafted out of small Nicholls State, comes in with motivation. To Bender, however, it’s just a mere understatement.
“It’s not like I’m coming from the top-of-the-line schools. We had good athletes, but they just weren’t all around. I’m going to work and push myself hard and see what happens,” he said.
All excitement aside, they still mean business. Not only do they anticipate the coming of training camp, they also look forward to being part of a team coming off of a surprise trip to the playoffs. Regarding the competition they are about to face this season, the young guns so far have nothing but respect for them without showing a sign of being intimidated.
“When you are in college and you see those guys, you’re like ‘Wow, those guys are good.’ When you get to the NFL, you can’t be intimidated anymore. You got to go out and play,” Stuckey said.
“If I felt intimidated, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Bender. “Football players are not supposed to be intimidated by anything. Respectful, yes, but not intimidated.”
For Revis, the prospects of going up against Patriots star receiver Randy Moss are good. If that were to become reality, it would be a huge way to break into the League.
However, he doesn’t see it set in stone.
“That’s up to Coach Mangini and Coach Sutton,” he replied. “I grew up watching [Moss]. He’s a great player. It’s going to be crazy going out there playing against a guy like that.”
Also, Revis doesn’t really expect himself to make a huge impact on the team. He does, however, expect himself to work as hard.
“I just want to come in here, learn the system, and compete to the best that I can,” he said.
Despite the lack of a veteran presence in the mini-camps, the rookies and undrafted free agents in attendance have acquired knowledge of the system from their coaches just so they can prepare for training camp.
“The coaches do a great job of teaching us what we could do out on the field. They know what they are talking about,” second-round linebacker David Harris replied.
With a summer at Hempstead just a few months away, the bar will no doubt be raised for those first year players to show they can be part of Coach Mangini’s system. Some will actually make the cut. Some will be asked to join with the practice squad. Others will just not be along for the ride this season. Nevertheless, to be a part of this year’s mini-camp will be an experience they will surely remember.
PHOTO GALLERY: For exclusive Jets Insider.com Minicamp photos