Florham Park, N.J.– Just a few weeks ago Colin Baxter was a rookie buried at the bottom of San Diego’s depth chart, now he’s the starting center for the Jets week three matchup against the Raiders. After Baxter was waived by the Chargers, the Jets wasted no time scooping him up off the waiver wire, but neither the Jets or Baxter could have anticipated that he would be asked to play such a critical role for the team this soon.
Rex Ryan said they still haven’t ruled Mangold as 100 percent out, but he also left the lasting impression that there is no way Mangold will play this week.
“His status has not changed at all.” Ryan said, “He’s off the crutches which is a good sign, but I just think we will see. I never say never, but I don’t see it happening this week.”
“It’s going well, it’s coming along. Rehabbing and treatment as much as possible.” Mangold said, “I hope (I can play this week), that’s what I’m working towards. Whether or not that happens I don’t know, but that would be my goal.
“It feels better, it’s a little tender walking around without the crutches, but it’s getting better and that’s all you can ask for.”
Mangold said he has yet to discuss if he will play or not with Ryan and he also said he and the trainers have yet to talk about an extended timeline for his return. When he was asked about the reported timeline of two-three weeks Mangold said, “That’s not my report, I’m going day-to-day and see what I can do.”
It was painfully obvious to everyone in the locker room that Mangold wants to play on Sunday, but even he knows he has to be careful not to push it and risk further injury to the ankle saying, “Yeah, you don’t want anything lingering and I think that’s the fear of the injury and trying to rush back before it’s ready. So I’m going to make sure it’s ready, but I’m going to make sure it’s ready as soon as possible.”
And while Mangold will do everything he can to try and be able to play on Sunday he also knows he has to take the time to help the rookie center prepare to fill in for him in case he can’t go.
“He’s only been here what, two and a half weeks? So just trying to fill in years worth of the system into a couple of days.” Mangold said, “Trying to get him on board with the coaches, just in case we need to use him. And I want the guys around him, if he needs to be called up, to be comfortable with what he’s doing. So my goal is to get him ready.”
But Mangold isn’t the only player/coach Baxter will lean on, he will also lean on the injured Rob Turner for advice as well and Ryan thinks all this extra tutoring will pay off in the end.
“This is only the third week he’s been here, but he seems to be doing well. I’ll tell you whose been a big help for him, is Rob Turner.” Ryan said, “Rob comes in like he’s playing, I mean he still does and he’s been great. Sits beside him in the meetings, does extra things with him and he’s been outstanding.”
“Yeah he’s (Turner) been a huge help.” Baxter said, “He’s gotten in there with me, extra time after meetings. Making sure that I’m on the same page as everyone else. So I think I’m there, or pretty close to it now.”
Baxter says his plan to get ready for this week is, “Just prepare, get in the playbook. Talk to Nick (Mangold), talk to coach (Bill Callahan), just know everything I need to know and go out and be ready to play.” He says Mangold has really been helping him with, “Footwork, assignments and sets and just everything really.”
The biggest thing for Baxter is to make sure he doesn’t get overwhelmed by an overload of information.
“You kind of just have to take it one thing at a time and not let it overwhelm you.” Baxter said, “If you kind of try to look at everything at once it can seem like a lot of information, but really when you break it down, it’s do-able and (you) just have to kind of take it for what it is.”
Baxter played reasonably well, all things considered, last week and he thinks last week’s baptismal by fire will help make things that much easier for him this Sunday.
“I think it definitely helped. It was definitely an unexpected situation, so it will be nice this week to get to see the looks in practice, to get to go through that and get coached up on the finer points of everything.” Baxter said, “I went in last week knowing what to do, but a lot of the things I hadn’t really been taken through really in a detailed way. So this week I get to go do it (and) I get to watch it on film.”
And he’s quarterback agrees. Sanchez said, “We got Colin Baxter going with the ones, he did a great today and he’s getting more and more comfortable. It wasn’t an easy position for him to come into last week, it’s one thing for somebody to go down in the fourth quarter and take a couple of snaps or one or two drives, but he came in for 50 plus snaps and for his first go he did a pretty good job. So we’ll get the snap count down, little things like that, the nerves are gone and he’s ready to play. He’s doing a great job, he’s playing confident and that’s the thing. We’re just building him up all week and he’s showing great strides already since Sunday.”
So while Mangold may not yet want to admit that he won’t be playing Sunday, he and Turner are still going out of their way to help prepare the rookie for everything he will have to deal with on Sunday and their quarterback and coach feel confident that they have a more than suitable replacement for their All-World center until Mangold can return.
“I always feel confident.” Ryan said, “If you got that Jets decal on the helmet I always feel confident.”
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