Veteran G Pete Kendall is not happy about his contract and isn't afraid to talk about it at minicamp. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
The Jets began their three day full team minicamp on a cool June Thursday. However, things heated up quickly after practice as veteran G Pete Kendall was very vocal to the media about his contract situation and gave the team an ultimatum....give me a raise or get rid of me.
Known by the media for a plethora of honest sound bites, Pete Kendall, in attendance for Thursday’s mini camp, spoke out as to the situation with his recent contract struggles.
The offensive lineman, apparently eager to get some weight off his shoulders, approached those in attendance, and immediately began telling his account of the events that have taken place over the past two years.
Acknowledging that his words would be to the point, and that ironically, one of his strengths in the eyes of head coach Eric Mangini was the fact he spoke his mind, Kendall presented the Jets organization with a simple, yet undeniably powerful, ultimatum: pay me or release me.
“The situation has become a circus and it really didn’t have to be,” Kendall said. “I placed a phone call to Eric right before the draft and I’m still waiting for a return phone call. I don’t know how to take that. He talked to my agent and my agent said call Pete.”
”I tried to approach this the professional way, behind the scenes, under the radar,” Kendall went on. “My first hope and I’ve maintained this all along is I wanted to deal fairly with the Jets. I’m surprised we couldn’t work it out, but as it has become apparent, you never say never. I wouldn’t say the bridge is totally burned, but it doesn’t seem like there is any room to give.
Kendall, who didn’t hesitate at all when agreeing he wouldn’t mind be released or traded, blamed the roots of the issue concerning his contract with an incident that took place two years prior.
I think back to the Atlanta game in 2005 which as we all know was just a bad game for everybody involved,” the disgruntled lineman said. “The very next morning I got a phone call asking to take a pay cut which was entirely unprofessional.”
A 12-year veteran of the NFL, Kendall was originally signed by the Jets when the Arizona Cardinals released Kendall for his salary and outspoken manner. Three years later, Kendall is in a similar situation.
Mangini, who was hounded by questions throughout the press conference regarding the matter at hand, refused to give any ground to onlookers as to what was going on between the two behind closed doors, saying that the situation was not unique to the Jets, and that he expected Kendall on the field at the camps.
In terms of whether or not the coach wanted Kendall on the field for the season, Mangini was vague with whether or not he felt the distraction brought about toward the team was worth holding on to the offensive lineman, despite the fact that he felt Kendall is a great player.
“Pete’s here, he’s under contract, and just like all the other players, it’s the same situation,” Mangini said. “I consider everybody who is here a key member of the team [and not just Kendall].”
Quarterback Chad Pennington, also asked about the situation with Kendall, noted that business is a part of football, and that the two are independent of one another when players take the field.
“Business is business, and that’s a side of a game that as players you hate to go through,” Pennington said. “We all have to handle it the way we perceive to be the best.”
Jets' General Manager Mike Tannenbaum granted the press five
minutes to ask him questions regarding the Kendall situation following
Mangini's press conference. Tannenbaum gave little ground on a stance
of silence as per New York Jets policy regarding not commenting on player's contracts, but did acknowledge that he and Mangini are on the same page.
More news regarding the outspoken star will surely surface over the next few days at mini camps, assuming Kendall attends the next two days of practices. The lineman remarked that he wasn’t sure he would come to minicamp, and he isn’t sure if he will be at training camps.
Outside of Kendall, all eyes were on Thomas Jones, as the former Bear continues to impress everyone with his Herculean size. Singled out by Mangini as one of the hardest workers on the team, and almost supernatural when it comes to the weight room, optimism is all that can be mustered when discussing the star running back.
“He’s really the guy that we’ve researched,” Mangini said. “He’s got a great work ethic, and in the weight room, it’s as impressive as I’ve seen. Seeing it as opposed to just the research stage has definitely shown up in a lot of areas.”
One year removed from Leon Washington’s break out season as a more-than-serviceable NFL running back, Mangini will surely need to slot the third-year veteran in various offensive schemes throughout the year. Although it may be difficult, the coach knows that having a logjam at running back is better than having limited options.
“That’s a great situation to have, when you have a lot of people you can insert into packages,” the head coach said.
While the Jets look great on the field, as noted by Mangini, much off the field noise is being made by a handful of players. How much of this is cleared off come the weekend is anybody’s guess; either way, those making noise on the field need to follow Pennington’s advice, and separate the off the field aspect of the NFL from the on field facet of the league. If the team can accomplish this relatively pressing task, come Week One with the New England Patriots, hopefully fans won’t have to worry about contract issues and conduct problems, and just remain concerned with Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Asante Samuel and the rest of the Pats.
MINICAMP INSIDER TIDBITS
-Smith still not one-trick pony
Brad Smith, the former star QB for the Missouri Tigers, may still be listed on the team roster as a quarterback only. However, his contributions to the team stem well beyond the realm of hitting wide receivers on post patterns.
Smith, known notoriously as a mobile quarterback in the college ranks, has expanded his array of skills to include a position in the kick return game, and lining up opposite cornerbacks running routes for Chad Pennington.
Although showcasing his skills in other areas besides the pocket is nothing new for Smith, he still enjoys the challenge of the transition each mini camp, and hopes to contribute to the team any way possible.
“I’m just trying to get better, and trying to improve on my fundamentals at the position (wide receiver),” Smith said. “As far as kickoff returns, you have Justin Miller who is a great kickoff returner, and Derelle, so I’m just trying to go out and help any way I can.”
Don’t assume that Smith is done running the offense, though.
“I’m probably throwing the ball more this year [than last year],” Smith said. “The coaches definitely have a plan for where they’re going with the team.”
“I’m just along for the ride.”
-Vilma clarifies out-of-context statements
The Jets’ star linebacker Jonathan Vilma put his foot in his mouth following an ill-adviced statement on a radio broadcast in which Vilma equated dog fighting to horse racing.
“I definitely wasn’t comparing the two,” Vilma said. “What I was saying was that you have activists that are going to be against either dog fighting and/or horse racing, simply because it is brutality against animals, and that is how they feel.”
Vilma went on to say he doesn’t want to get involved in Michael Vick’s recent struggles against accusations situating him in the world of dog fighting.
Coach Mangini condemned dog fighting in the press conference for both himself and the organization.
-Harris and Revis in starting role
The Jets’ most high profile rookies, David Harris and Develle Revis, are already making an impact on the first string defense.
Coach Mangini, acknowledging how impressed he has been with the duo, said that the two have been running on the “one and two” defenses, or the starting lineups.
“I’ve liked what they’re both doing,” Mangini said. “You can really see them starting to feel more and more relaxed.”
-Stuckey similar to Santana?
Sure, the comparison may not have hit the national airwaves yet. However, a common consensus on the sidelines at camp Thursday was the similarity in stature between rookie wide receiver Chansi Stuckey and former Jet, current Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss. Both receivers exhibit blazing speed, are about six feet tall, and weight around 190 lbs.
With any luck, Stuckey will show that his big play ability offers a mirror image to Moss’ during the season, as well.
-Two minute drill
In perhaps the most intense segment seen at any of the Jets’ camps yet, Chad Pennington orchestrated the offense in a two minute drill to close off Thursday’s morning practice.
With the scoreboard reading “Visitor 23, Home 16,” Pennington marched down the field with the help of such players as Thomas Jones and Brad Smith to try to knot the “game” at 23.
With five seconds left on the clock, Pennington rolled to his right, fired a strike to the back of the endzone, and an off-balance Smith harnessed the catch.
Kicker Mike Nugent tacked on the extra point to send the Jets to overtime, (well, sort of).
Kerry Rhodes, the three-year veteran safety out of Louisville, was excused from practice for personal reasons. Mangini failed to elaborate on the absence, saying he did not know the details of the situation, and would find out more later in the day.
-Awards handed out pre-practice
In Mangini’s opening statements when addressing the press following the morning practice, the coach recognized the Jets’ award winners that were announced prior to the morning session. Pennington won “Most Inspirational,” while wideout Laveranues Coles took home the “Most Valuable Player.”
“To be able to talk about what they did as players to earn those awards and recognize them as a group was really positive.”
Jets waived rookie WR Renard Stevens and signed rookie WR Evan Prall (East Strousburg,PA). Prall (5'-11" 182 Lbs) was originally signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent on May 1, and was released by the club 28 days later.
AFTERNOON PRACTICE TIDBITS (Updated at 5:55 PM)
Kendall a lone wolf
Kendall was seen often throughout the practice, but rarely with the team. The offensive lineman, working with the second string guys instead of the starters, was always about seven yards off the sideline, removed from the rest of the offense. Whether or not Kendall chose to stand apart from the rest of the team was unclear.
After practice, Kendall left the Jets' facility like a bolt of lightning, seen in his car exiting the complex withing minutes of the session's end without a shower in a tee shirt and shorts.
Pellot-Rosa strikes back
Former VCU hoops standout Jesse Pellot-Rosa managed a bit of revenge at practice. The basketball-turned-football player dropped a pass near the defensive sideline, drawing some jawing from those watching. The very next play, through, Pellot-Rosa made a great catch on the opposite sideline, reaching back and making a jumping catch on an underthrown ball from quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo.
The Jets' seventh round draft pick looked a little rusty in the afternoon practice. The most visible occurrence was when Chansi Stuckey dropped a pass on the sideline. Defensive players could be heard saying "Come on, Stuckey, catch the ball, concentrate!"
Two minute drill a success again
Thanks to a long pass from Pennington, Brad Smith put the Jets in prime field goal possession during the afternoon two minute drill. Set up in a scenario in which the Jets were down, 14-12 with 1:35 left, the Jet quarterback heaved a pass to Smith over the middle with 18 second left on the clock. After a Pennington kneel brought the clock down to five seconds, Kicker Mike Nugent gave the Jets the ?win? on the next play with a 39-yard field goal.
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