Blanton on Jets' practice squad
Right tackle from Napa High kept after he’s released from regular roster
By ERIN LAWLEY, Register Sports Writer
Sunday, September 3, 2006 11:03 AM PDT

He did it. Ed Blanton is officially a professional football player for the New York Jets. He received word Saturday that he was one of eight players named to the Jets’ practice squad.

“I’m happy to still be here,” Ed said in a telephone interview Saturday. “I’m still in the NFL so that’s always good. I’m happy they wanted me back.”Ed’s dad Rick Blanton added, “I’m glad his hard work paid off. I thought he would be on the team once the cuts were made, it was just a matter of where he’d be.”New York’s practice squad will continue work on Monday and have many of the same responsibilities as the 53-man roster except it doesn’t travel with the team. Ed will be a backup in the case of an injury to one of the Jets’ offensive linemen.The 6-foot-9 right tackle was content with making the practice team without disappointment by the absence of being one of the 53 gamers — something he didn’t expect. He knew who the Jets drafted in April — first-round picks D’Brickshaw Ferguson (tackle) and Nick Mangold (center) — so knew not to get his hopes up too much.

“No, not really,” Ed said about being surprised or disappointed about his practice spot. “I knew where I stood. You’re a reserve that’s activated if someone gets hurt. It’s not really a practice squad, you’re still a part of the New York Jets organization, you just don’t travel. Still got everything. It’s what I expected from the get go. I knew the situation.”Ed was picked up by the Jets on April 30 as a non-drafted priority free agent after working out for them the previous month.“I think he hopes that he’ll go somewhere farther,” said Ed’s mom, Julie Blanton. “I think he’s really happy, it’s what he expected. I don’t think he has any regrets. He’s got a paycheck coming in and a job and college degree in case it doesn’t work out.Julie added that the NFL is “a tough way to make a living.”Ed was not at leisure to discuss his contract details at press time.The UCLA graduate is confident offensive line coach Tony Wise won’t be moving him away from right tackle, which Ed is happy about.

“I think that’s my spot,” Ed said. “For me, definitely, that’s the most comfortable. It’s just most natural for me. It always has been.”

As a weak-side tackle for the Bruins, Ed helped lead UCLA to a 10-2 record as a senior. His run- and pass-blocking skills helped his team collect 5,172 yards in total offense. Ed was named to the All Pac-10 Conference Honorable Mention in 2005. He graduated from Napa High in 2001 after playing two years of varsity football for the Indians under the lead of former head coach Jerry Dunlap. Ed was an All-American and All-State player and a two-time All-Monticello Empire League and All-Napa County selection. He was also the Register’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2001.Ed was one of 23 players cut from the official game roster and he expressed how “crazy” it was that so many teammates are now gone, though it wasn’t unexspected.“Yeah, everybody’s cut,” Ed said. “It went from 104 guys on the team to 80 to 75 and now we’re at 61. Most of the guys I came in with are out except the draft picks. It’s just the nature of the NFL. They have to release these guys; they have a job, too.”

As long as Ed’s still wearing that No. 78 Jets jersey, he’s happy to be in New York.