CORTLAND, N.Y. — In Tony Sparano’s first offensive meeting with his new team, he had one word written on the white board as the players filed in and took their seats: “PHYSICAL”. The one-word message was simple: be the most physical team on the field for 60 minutes and don’t let up.
“That has been one of Coach Sparano’s main points for us this season. He wants us to be a physically intimidating team,” second-year quarterback Greg McElroy said Saturday.
On their way to back-to-back AFC Championship appearances, the Jets prided themselves as being ‘bullies’, popping off at the mouth and then popping helmets afterwards. But as the Jets lethargically finished the season with a blase 8-8 record, missing the playoffs for the first time in the Rex Ryan era, the fourth-year head coach knew he needed to bring back the nasty.
“We’re staying on the same formula. This is what we had as a blueprint for our team. I want to play like a Jet. I want guys to understand what that means. We want [the opposing] team at halftime being down and deflated,” Ryan said Friday from SUNY Cortland’s Hall of Fame room.
Before the Jets can deflate an opposing team, first they had to inflate their endurance, strength and speed. The guy who has had a big role in the team’s re-dedication to the weight room is none other than strength and conditioning coach Bill Hughan — who’s received praise from multiple players about his off-season conditioning program.
“We talked about in the off-season really putting the emphasis on putting on a little more muscle mass. Just making sure that I maintain the weight in my nutrition and workout regiments has been huge. I’ve been talking with Coach Hughan a lot, who put us through a great off-season,” Sanchez, who’s upped his weight from 218 lbs. to 230 lbs, said Thursday.
According to McElroy, Hughan’s approach is not just to go in and be a gym rat, but to go about it the right way. Before players can even lift a dumbbell, they must go through correctives — a series of stretches that loosen up hips, joints, muscles all to avoid potential injury.
Players like Muhammed Wilkerson think Hughan’s program has been the difference for a bigger, stronger, faster Jets team in 2012.
“Bill’s helped everyone improve in the off-season. Guys came in here bigger, stronger and faster – that just goes to show his system in place has been huge,” he said.
During the team’s off-season, Ryan was proud to report a 98% attendance rate during the team’s voluntary work-outs prior to mini-camp in May. The results were evident. Guys’ numbers shot up, and body fat shot down according to Aaron Maybin, who’s upped his weight from 229 to 243 pounds.
“Look at guys like myself, Kenrick [Ellis], Bart [Scott] – guys that really made strides this off-season in their physique and boosted our weight room numbers. That’s a tribute not only to how hard guys are working, but the program Bill has us on,” Maybin said.
Hughan’s program, who was unavailable for comment, is the groundwork for Ryan’s blueprint of getting back to a physically imposing and intimidating team.
“When you talk about getting back to the basics of Jets football that’s part of what our M.O. is. We want to have that tag of being a bully team. We want to be a physically imposing team and carry that scary aspect to opposing teams. When you look at it, intimidation is a hug part of everything and just being physically prepared and physically stronger than the other team,” Maybin said.
“You want to go out there and be dominant. You want to dominant every play,” Wilkerson said.
With Bill Hughan’s best laid plan carried out, transitioning back to that smash-mouth, physical style of play will be worth the wait until September.
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