Jets top rookie draft pick Vernon Gholston finally was back in action today after being held out due to NCAA/NFL rules.
As the Jets continued their second day of mandatory full team minicamp, the action heated up as did the temperature on the field.
One conspicuous player was sidelined due to injury. The player was disgruntled TE Chris Baker, who was held out of practice but didn’t hold back from taking a few more jabs at the team.
With clouds over Hempstead, the cloud cover continued to linger over Baker and the Jets organization.
It seems to be a “he-said, he-said” dispute between Baker and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum. While Baker admitted that he doesn’t have much conversation with Tannenbaum, and that all the negotiations are done with Baker’s agent, Baker insists that he was promised a more lucrative contract for the 2008 season.
While Tannenbaum has said that no promises were made, Baker stood by his word.
“I have no reason to come out here and make that story up. You’ve seen it happen a couple times in the past year, and it’s happened again,” Baker said.
Cliff Brady, Baker’s agent last year, had told him last summer that he would talk to Tannenbaum for Baker. According to Baker, Tannenbaum told Brady that they were dealing with other contract issues at the time. He also said that Baker had just signed a deal and for him to go out and have a good year  and they would talk after that.
In 2007, Baker established career highs with 41 receptions and 409 yards. In practice Friday, the tight end rode the exercise bike for most of the morning session.
Mangini said at his press conference that Baker was riding the bike because his back had tightened up. As reporters made the coach noticeably uncomfortable with the Baker situation, Mangini said he was pleased with the way Tannenbaum has handled the situation thus far.
“Mike does a great job with contracts. I’m happy with the way he handles things. He’s been doing that a long time, and I’m confident in Mike. Mike doesn’t come in and say, ‘Hey, run the ball in,’ when we’re on the 1-yard line. He’s confident in me to make those decisions and I’m confident in him to make the contract-related decisions, and all the things associated with his job,” Mangini said.
He also spoke matter-of-factly about the business aspect of the NFL.
“In the NFL, there is always gonna be the business side. That’s nothing new, nothing groundbreaking. We just move forward.”
Mangini had lunch with Baker on Friday, something he referred to as a function of getting out of the building and getting him up to date with everything. Mangini added that he’s been trying to help Chris as much as possible.
Not to be overshadowed by the Baker dispute was the arrival of rookie linebacker Vernon Gholston, who after missing the OTAs due to NCAA and NFL regulations, has finally arrived in Hempstead.
The first-round draft pick from Ohio State was a little behind but not totally lost according to Mangini.
“Like the first few times I drove home to Garden City, I didn’t miss the main street, I just missed the street to my house. He’s on the right road, but just missed some turn-offs. I’m sure his head was spinning a little, but we’ll work to get him up to speed as quickly as we can.”
Gholston seemed pleased with where he stands with the team.
“It feels good to be out here. I gotta lot of catching up to do; just trying to get adjusted to the guys and with what’s goin’ on. It’s a big learning curve, but it comes with the job.”
Since rookie minicamp, he said feels more comfortable now that he is surrounded by experienced players and veterans that know what they’re doing.
“I did okay at the rookie minicamp, but I even did better here just havin’ the older guys coach me up.”
Gholston and Baker aside, practice was business as usual. QB Kellen Clemens took snaps with the first team offense, while Pennington took his with the second team. At one point Clemens stood out when he threaded the needle to WR Jerricho Cotchery who was cutting up the middle.
Not to be left out was QB Brett Ratliff’s impressive 2-minute drill drive that featured the speed of RB Jesse Chatman as he caught a shovel pass from Ratliff and jetted up the left sideline. That was followed by a short throw to rookie TE Dustin Keller. The drive resulted in a 43-yard field goal by Mike Nugent.
Regarding the NCAA and NFL rule forbidding Vernon Gholston to report to Jets’ OTAs,
Gholston said he was in Columbus, Ohio, preparing for the draft and for practice.
“This was important to me, so I wanted to prepare as hard as I could. I was back there, working out, studying as much as I can, getting all my off-the-field issues settled and squared away so I could come out here and work at camp.”
When asked about the rule and how it affects the slack he gave Gholston coming into his first practice, Mangini responded, “It’s not his fault that he couldn’t be here, but it’s not like he was getting his Master’s. In between Judge Judy and Days of Our Lives, whatever’s on during the daytime, you can study.”
He also commented on Gholston’s physique.
“It’s good to have someone on defense with comparable arms to Thomas Jones. They can go head-to-head in the weight room. We’ll see what that looks like, but he’s gonna have to roll up his sleeves like Thomas does.”
Gholston said that the first time he walked into the locker room, he was asked to name all of his teammates, defense and offense.
“I did okay, some said I could’ve done better, but the biggest thing is you’re here to play football,” Gholston said. “I knew a lot of the guys from pictures, but to see guys in person as opposed to on a picture, you’re not quite sure. I knew all the rookies. Coming off a long layoff, I expected a lot to be thrown at me.”
Rhodes favors leg
Safety Kerry Rhodes was seen walking off the field and appeared to be experiencing some discomfort in his right leg. After a trainer massaged it, Rhodes jogged around and felt it out, testing it on the sidelines. He did not participate in the remainder of Friday’s practice.
“It’s okay. I’ll be able to go; just being a little cautious,” Rhodes said coming off the field.
With the third leg of the famed Triple Crown this weekend at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, Mangini was asked if he’ll be attending.
“I went to the Belmont several times when I was here in the past, and I scheduled minicamp and I didn’t even realize the Belmont was this weekend.”
When informed of when the race starts, he said he’ll probably be able to see it.
UPDATE 6PM: Afternoon Practice Tidbits:
In the afternoon session the wide receivers showed off their athleticism as they caught balls from all three throwing quarterbacks—Erik Ainge was out on the field going through the motions, but is still recovering from pinky surgery, wearing a protective glove on his throwing hand. WR's Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery both looked impressive. Paul Raymond had a rough go of things, struggling to catch his quick outs.
S Kerry Rhodes was back on the field with a protective sock wrapped around his right calf. He looked good as he went through his drills.
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