By Bob Bonett
Jets Staff Writer
October 25th, 2007
Will team captain Jonathan Vilma be suited up this Sunday or even the rest of the season? Head Coach Eric Mangini isn't talking. (Jets Phtot)
Will team captain Jonathan Vilma be suited up this Sunday or even the rest of the season? Head Coach Eric Mangini isn't talking. (Jets Phtot)
What is the extent of Jonathan Vilma’s injury?

Essentially the million dollar question went unanswered throughout coach Eric Mangini’s press conference and into the locker room.

As if Mangini had specifically briefed the players to avoid any sort of comment regarding Vilma, the answers from the Jets, both offensive and defensive players, were carbon copies of one another.

”I don’t know anything about the defensive side of the ball,” WR Laveranues Coles said.

“I’ll just try to be ready if I’m called upon,” LB David Harris added.

Leading the way, though, was Mangini in the pre-practice briefing.

“We’re still looking at that,” the coach said regarding tests on Vilma’s knee.

“Well, it’s something that we’re just going to have to see,” he said regarding the status of Vilma for practice tomorrow.

“It’s really just going to matter what the tests are,” he added regarding the possibility of surgery.

Mangini was even silent on which knee, responding to the query of whether Vilma’s right or left knee was injured by saying, “It’s one of those two.”

About the only hint he gave regarding Vilma’s injury was that the starting linebacker would not participate in practice today; not surprising considering the reports circulating regarding the severity of his knee injury. The Daily News even reported today that Vilma's knee injury could be season ending, although the story hasn't been substantiated.

However, while assumptions are all there is to work on right now, the air around Jets camp was that their star would not be in the lineup Sunday.

Harris spoke as if he was going to be the captain of the huddle. Mangini spoke extensively about Harris’ prospects if—and perhaps when—he starts on Sunday. And each of the defensive players that spoke seemed to avoid the subject of Vilma with such delicacy that it only seemed as if there was a grand cover-up scheme regarding the linebacker’s status.

Thus, based on the emotions of the team’s defense, and the secrecy of Mangini—a characteristic he displays more often when a player’s status is uncertain—it looks like Harris will be the one manning the defensive huddles against the Bills.

Luckily for the Gang Green defense, Harris has actually taken on the role before as the center of the huddle at Michigan when he played linebacker for the Wolverine defense.

“Being a linebacker at Michigan I was used to calling the defensive huddle,” Harris said. “Now that Vilma’s down, I pick up more responsibility.”

Mangini’s comments echoed Harris’ comfort in play-calling, suggesting that the transition back to being the team’s primary play-caller could be smoother than when Harris relinquished his duties to Vilma upon being drafted.

“I’m sure it’s probably an adjustment for him another way [at the start of camp] where for the first time he wasn’t calling signals,” Mangini said, adding that taking over Vilma’s role is “something that should be a fairly smooth transition.”

One way or another, one of the team’s linebackers, whether it be Eric Barton, Victor Hobson, Brad Kassell, Harris or Vilma will be in the center of the Gang Green defensive huddle on Sunday.

And while Mangini and the rest of the team may not say it, emotions and conspicuous aversion of the topic can be used as evidence to assume that that linebacker will be somebody other than No. 51.


Chatham might be back

Linebacker Matt Chatham, whose name has been on the team’s Physically Unable to Perform list for the extent of the season, may have an opportunity to play this Sunday with the team possessing an open roster spot.

“We looked at him last week, and we’ll look at him through the course of the week this week,” Mangini said. “I think he’s making more and more progress.”

In 2006, Chatham tallied 25 tackles.

Abram’s penalty forgiven

Overshadowing S Abram Elam’s physical, hard fought play last weekend against the Bengals were a pair of miscues, one resulting in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty and another a missed sack.

Mangini held no grudge against Elam, and said that being penalized was just a product of him trying to make a big play.

“It was a poor decision to try to get the ball right on the ground, but it wasn’t a function of trying to do anything that was emotionally based,” Mangini said regarding the penalty. “You can live with those things because of the intent; he was trying to make something happen.”

Elam, on the other hand, was more critical of his missed tackle.

“It was a situation where I just have to come under control,” Elam said. “I think I came in trying to deliver a big hit, and all I needed to do was just get him on the ground.”

Poteat’s play not surprising

While CB Hank Poteat’s interceptions in back-to-back weeks may have surprised fans, Mangini’s experience with the veteran taught him that Poteat can deliver when called upon.

“Hank to me is the classic example of he knows what to do, he does exactly what he’s being coached to do, and he’s the same player every day,” Mangini said. “You can expect a very consistent level of performance out of Hank. You know that every single play he’s going to try as hard as he can, and do everything he can to be in the right spot.”

The two interceptions were the first two in Poteat’s career.

Bubble Boys?

In a rare event, the Jets moved practice inside the bubble Thursday to avoid the inclement weather. Ironically, the weather wasn't that bad with just a bit of a cold mist in the air. It's only the second time in the Mangini era that they have practiced there during the regular season. During the media's time watching the session it was a bit futile since they were practicing punts and almost all of Ben Graham's kicks hit the roof and shot down to the turf.

Big Grady not in the team's plans.

When asked about reports that the Jets are interested in signing veteran NT Grady Jackson who was released by Atlanta earlier this week, Coach Mangini shot the rumors down with an emphatic "No".

Davis out, Clowney in

One of the most vocal players and sources of humor in the Jets’ locker room, WR Chris Davis, was released from the practice squad. David Clowney,who was released from the active roster earlier this week was re-signed to the practice squad to replace him.

Injury Report (as of 10/24/07)

New York Jets

Full participation in practice

WR Justin McCareins (calf), TE Jason Pociask (back), CB Hank Poteat (chest), TE Sean Ryan (knee), S Eric Smith (thigh)

Limited participation in practice

TE Chris Baker (back), WR Laveranues Coles (calf), QB Chad Pennington (ankle), DT Dewayne Robertson (knee)

Did not participate in practice

LB Jonathan Vilma (knee)

Buffalo Bills

Full participation in practice

WR Sam Aiken (hamstring)

Limited participation in practice

TE Ryan Neufield (quadriceps), CB Ashton Youboty (ankle)

Did not participate in practice

DE Ryan Denney (foot), LB Leon Joe (knee), DE Chris Kelsay (ankle), S Jim Leonhard (calf), LB Josh Stamer (calf)

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