Over the last 16 years, Ty Law discovered himself in a familiar setting as the dog days of summer dragged into September. Dating back to his freshman year at the University of Michigan as a young and fiery cornerback and then leading into an NFL career highlighted by five trips to the Pro Bowl and three Super Bowl championships, Law always was on the football field. This season, however, was a bit different. After spending the previous seasons with the Patriots, Jets and Chiefs, Law had no team to turn to. Instead, he was working with a personal trainer, trying to keep in shape if the right opportunity came along. On Sundays he simulated his own football game and participated in rigourous workout sessions which featured an assortment of exercises which he labeled "metabolics." While Law pulled himself through the workouts because he was "borderline" about returning to football, he just couldn't walk away from the game.
"I've been staying in the game because I was kind of borderline if I am going to play, if I am not going to play. My heart wouldn't let me walk away from the game like that," Law said before last week's win over the Patriots.
While Law had opportunities to return to teams back in August, he told reporters today that his desire to return "didn't come to fruition" and "a lot of teams that were interested in [me], I might not have been as interested in them."
While Law explained that he talked with the Jets earlier during the offseason about returning to the team he spent one season with (2005) and intercepted ten passes en route to a Pro Bowl selection "a deal just never got done."
While Law's heart remained with football and he continued speaking with the Jets, the doubt over continuing his stellar career began to creep into his mind.
"Communication kept going through but as time started passing and I started being a little bit 'well maybe it's time. Maybe it's time to be done because the transition didn't work out as easy as I thought it was going to be," Law said.
While the season began and Law was still without a contract, he remained optimistic. Now he's back with the Jets, where he wanted to be.
"I'm here and I'm happy about it," Law said. "I'm here and I'm just going to enjoy the time that I'm here because you never know what's going to happen next year. Take it game-by-game."
Law was brought in to help solidify a defensive unit that ranks 28th in the NFL in passing defense and in turn made his mark in the Jets' 34-31 overtime victory over the Patriots. Despite reiterating that he felt a "little rusty" after his first practice, Law participated in 57 of the team's 79 defensive plays and limited All-Pro wide receiver Randy Moss to just three catches for 26 yards and one touchdown. Alongside Law was Darrelle Revis, whom Law had high praise for today.
"I see myself ten years ago," Law said of his thoughts on Revis. "It's like a spitting image of me, just the way he approaches the game; the confidence, the swagger, the enthusiasm. That's something that no matter how you try you can't teach," Law said.
Now in his second season with the Jets, Revis has already put NFL offenses on notice by recording a league-high four interceptions.
Law called Revis' mental approach to the game "as strong as anybody's" in the league but the young cornerback already has quarterbacks "fearing him."
Law pointed back to a conversation he had earlier in his career with Bill Parcells, who told Law "You've got everybody in this game scared of you, for what reason, I don't know."
Law took it as a compliment and passed along similar sentiments to Revis.
"I'm just trying to do the best that I can," Revis said. "I work hard and try to be the best. [Law] has taught me a lot, too. Learning from a guy who has won three Super Bowl championships, I still look up to him."
Revis hails from the same hometown as Law (Aliquippa, Pa.) and looking up to the five-time Pro Bowler is something he's done quite often. Fortunately for Revis, this season, all he has to do is look to his side to see that mirror image of himself.
The Jets began the 35-minute media window with Brett Favre quarterbacking a first-team offense that struggled to hold onto the football. Running back Leon Washington and tight end Dustin Keller both dropped passes...WR Chansi Stuckey turned in the highlight of practice as he reeled in a diving touchdown grab. After spending his entire rookie season with the Jets on Injured Reserve with a knee injury, Stuckey has recorded 20 receptions for 228 yards and three touchdowns this season...TE Bubba Franks practiced for the second straight day with the Jets after missing the previous four games with a hip injury. In his first season with Gang Green, Franks has recorded six catches for 47 yards...Both LB David Harris (groin) and S Eric Smith (head) were not present during the 35-minute media window. Mangini did not give an update on either of the injured starters...Both Jay Feely and Mike Nugent were out on the practice field, but neither attempted a field goal. After Nugent strained his right thigh in the season-opening win over the Dolphins, Feely has served as the team's kicker for the previous ten weeks. Over that span, Feely has connected on 18 of his 22 field goal attempts. On Monday, Mangini noted that the battle between Feely and Nugent would be a situation that the coaching staff would "go through the week and take a look at" and a final decision wouldn't come until the "end of the week." Today Mangini was asked if a decision had been made, in which he responded with a flat "no."...Reggie Hodges endured a very shaky afternoon as he booted punts to Leon Washington. Hodges' punts consistently ranged from 30 to 35 yards. While Hodges was signed back in September to replace the inconsistent Ben Graham, the Jets' new punter has delivered likewise results. Hodges is averaging 41.6 yards on his 19 punts (36.9 NET) while Graham averaged 43.3 yards on 14 punts (36.1 NET).
Fisher's Longevity "Outstanding"
The Titans are off to a 10-0 start and are hoping to make their first Super Bowl since 2000 (Super Bowl XXXIV), when they were defeated 23-16 by the Rams. However, perhaps more surprising than Tennessee's titanic start is Jeff Fisher's run with the Titans. Fisher is now in his 14th season as head coach of the Titans, making him the longest-tenured head coach in the NFL and third-longest tenured in professional sports. Only the Utah Jazz's Jerry Sloan (20 seasons) and the Atlanta Braves' Bobby Cox (18 seasons) have held their respective positions longer. Mangini, who is now in his third season as Jets' head coach, called Fisher's longevity "outstanding."
"You don't see that very much anymore-the Don Shulas, the Tom Landrys, guys that were there 25, 20 years," Mangini said. "It's a real testament to him. He's done it in different places in terms of where the team was-all different types of players, young, old."
Jets-Titans Features Classic Mawae-Jenkins Matchup
Sunday's matchup between the Jets (7-3) and Titans (10-0) will not only be a battle of the top teams in the AFC standings, but a classic slugfest of warriors in the trenches. Through 11 weeks, the Titans rank seventh in the NFL in rushing offense (132.7 yards/game) and the Jets stand fourth in the league in rushing defense (81.3 yards allowed/game). The victor of that battle will surely be reliant upon Titans center Kevin Mawae and Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins. Today Mangini provided his view on Mawae versus Jenkins.
"Any time you put two players of their experience, ability and styles-they are different styles of players-that's always fun to watch," Mangini said. "Kevin is very savvy. He's always been a very savvy guy. To see how he's going to approach [Jenkins] will be real interesting."
Smith Not on the "Backburner"
Wide receiver Brad Smith entered the 2008 season looking to be more than just a role player in the Jets' offense. However, through the first ten games, the third-year wide receiver has seemed like an afterthought. Smith has ten carries for 116 yards but only has recorded six catches for 43 yards. While Smith's production has decreased since last season in which he recorded 32 catches for 325 yards and two touchdowns, Mangini described Smith as "another guy who has consistently improved."
"It's not a function of forgetting about Brad or putting him on the backburner, sometimes it's just the way the game goes," Mangini explained. "We have a lot of guys who can do good things with the ball, so whoever ends up getting it is a plus."
Washington Can Thank Curtis
In Washington's rookie season in 2006, the Jets' running back struggled mightily in practice. "It was the fumbling. It was the struggling with the blitz pickup, the route. He was about as in shape as I was," Mangini said with a smile. All those things lead to a very tough rookie camp."
Now in his third NFL season, Washington leads the NFL in most combined yards (1,475 yards) and Mangini noted today that former Jets running back Curtis Martin is part of the reason. While Martin's final snaps came in 2005, he spent much of Mangini's first season around the team.
"I definitely think that Curtis helped out. Curtis helps out a lot of people whenever he's around. His focus is rare," Mangini said. It was all football, all the time. That was his focus.
The Pleasures of Winning Football
Last season, running back Thomas Jones dealt with his share of losing. After earning a trip to Super Bowl XLI with the Bears, Jones was traded to the Jets in the offseason and then proceeded to watch his new team fall to 4-12. Now as the Jets sit atop the AFC East, Jones has been reminded about the pleasures that come with winning football.
"The season goes by a lot more smooth and guys are excited to be over here and excited to go out there on Sunday and play when you're winning," Jones said. "Winning makes everything better."
Keller Learning the on the Fly
In the Jets' 47-3 trouncing of the Rams on Nov. 9, Keller set career-highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (107) while also adding a one-yard touchdown catch from Favre. While Keller's breakthrough outing was one pleasantry in a highlight-filled afternoon for Gang Green, his clutch performance in the Jets' 34-31 overtime victory over the Patriots stood one step above. After dropping a potential touchdown pass late in the first quarter, the rookie tight end rebounded to grab eight catches for 87 yards. On the Jets' winning drive in overtime, Keller caught three passes for 32 yards, including a key 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-15. While Mangini explained that Keller still hits his rookie bumps, the Jets' tight end has "tremendous upside."
"He is very gifted," Mangini said. "If he continues to work at it and understand defenses as he gets better in terms of the fluidness and the feel of the routes then he will be that much more productive. There are times when some of his breaks look a little robotic. It's not that smooth where you're hinting and going, but it's gotten a lot better."
Now ten games into a promising NFL career, Keller attributed his recent success to "repitition" and teachings from Favre. Keller explained that he and Favre are "finally on the same page" and that both "know what to expect of each other." Aside from tactical advice from Favre in the film room and on the practice field, Keller noted that Favre's greatest teaching was centered toward his athletic abilities.
"Of course I was brought in as a fast tight end and [Favre] said 'some things don't have to be that fast, just slow them down.' I was running every route 100 miles per hour so he's told me what you need to speed up on and when you need to slow down."
The future Hall of Famer's words sit stapled in Keller's mind, so surely they were front and center in last week's win, correct?
"Oh yeah, that definitely wasn't full speed," Keller replied with a smile.
Did Not Participate: LB David Harris (groin), S Eric Smith (head)
Limited Participation: WR Laveranues Coles (thigh), K Mike Nugent (right thigh), LB Jason Trusnik (knee)
Full Participation: WR Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), DE Shaun Ellis (shoulder), TE Bubba Franks (hip), WR Brad Smith (shoulder), LB Cody Spencer (shoulder)
Out: CB Eric King (foot)
Did Not Participate: CB Nick Harper (ankle), DE William Hayes (knee), CB Reynaldo Hill (hip), DT Jason Jones (foot), DE Jevon Kearse (knee)
Full Participation: LB Keith Bulluck (chest), RB Quinton Ganther (hamstring), DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin), RB LenDale White (calf), WR Paul Williams (ankle)