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It’s A Typical Football Off Season, Or Is It?

No matter who you talk to, no one really wants to discuss football.  Let’s face it, there is not much to talk about.  With owners and players at a stalemate and leaving it up to the courts, even they have nothing to talk about.  For the first time since 1987, we are all at a standstill.

For once, all football fans are on the same page, waiting.  Waiting to see when this lockout will not just end, but how soon.  The media does not have much to report on.  Many should be reporting on free agent signings, contract negotiations, off season workouts, and so much more.  But there is not even that to discuss.  Sports writers and reporters have to scrounge for ideas and stories like they are going dumpster diving, trying to find any scrap to talk about.

Greg Bishop of the New York Times wrote a great piece concerning the Jets and what they are doing, or not doing.
“Players are not allowed inside the building. The Jets cannot make trades or sign their numerous free agents. Employees on the team’s business side, everyone from secretaries to executive vice presidents, are staring at the possibility of forced work furloughs. And those involved in the organization’s football operations — coaches among them — are working under a 25 percent pay cut.

Like all N.F.L. teams, the Jets are on a novel campaign to carry on as an organization. Some looming decisions, like how to refund tickets if games are canceled this fall, have nothing to do with football on the field. Others relate to more basic and familiar football questions — whom to draft, for instance, late next month. The Jets will not be able to sign their selections, but they still have to make them.

The greatest sense of paralysis probably is being felt by Tannenbaum and his staff. The Jets have 15 expiring contracts, including those of key players like Cromartie and wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards.”

This is a key time for the Jets.  For the second consecutive year, they made it to the AFC Championship and lost.  They have the tools to go to the Super Bowl.  By not being able to negotiate with free agents, talk to players and agents, there will be little time to make up once the lockout ends.  Depending how close it is to opening day.  The Jets will have to run their own hurry up offense just to make sure the pieces are there to make a run in 2011.

Mike Tannenbaum might also have to make changes on handling the draft.  In previous seasons, he has selected high quality players, regardless of their position.  Vernon Gholston was a choice of Eric Mangini, not Tannenbaum.  In this season of the lockout, with needs on the defensive line, at safety, and with three key receivers potentially free agents, he could draft to key positions.  They need a big time pass rusher.  But when it comes to the Jets, they usually surprise many on their choices.

The players, for their part, face their own challenges and quandaries . During the lockout, players are on their own for their workouts.  Cornerback Darrelle Revis put the offer out to host all defensive backs at his home in Arizona to help with training and development. Some may take him up on it while others may not want to spend to make the trip. Many are working out at local colleges and high schools.  Five members of the Jets’ secondary are free agents, and if any are injured, their careers could be hindered without the backing of a team to help with their rehabilitation.

Let me show you where players are not currently training

For first year players, Kyle Wilson, Vladimir Ducasse, John Conner and Joe McKnight of last years draft class, they will suffer more. They will not receive any instruction from their coaches.  They will be missing out on key guidance.   First year rookies all over will not have the tutelage other players have had in the past.  They need to rely on veteran players right now.

Of course, many of these issues could become a memory, as the players have sought, a federal judge in Minnesota grants an injunction barring the owners from continuing to implement the lockout.

Still, fans remain positive on there being a 2011 season.  In a call with Fireman Ed, he knows they have months to go to settle things.  But if the judge makes the decision favoring the owners, then there is a chance this could go on for a while.  Ed knows the Jets have the right tools to build on this past season.  But when coaches and players can not talk, there is not much to build on.  Ed feels some of the smaller market team owners have a bigger say in this and are trying to get more out of it.  For a fan as passionate as Fireman Ed, even he has nothing to talk about regarding football.

Every player across the league is experiencing the same woes as the Jets players.  Many would love the chance to workout at their teams facilities, but have to make makeshift plans to schedule the same type of workouts.

Every team owner, coach, and General manager has to make plans about the upcoming season and put them away in a file.  Only to come back to them later on the chance there is a season to come back to.  Then they have to use their 2 minute drill to get those carefully laid plans into place.  Time is on their side, for now.

So we all wait collectively.  Like a $300 million dollar lottery hoping our numbers are the ones to be called.  Sitting on the edge of our seats for that big announcement of a 2011 season.  But no one will be happier than the team employees who were forced into pay cuts and furloughs.  The players will come next, followed by the team management.  But in the end, the fans will breathe a sigh of relief once they know there is an opening day kickoff.

Jets Hard Knocks Review & Giants One Up Jets

HBO Hard Knocks: Training Camp With The New York Jets week 2 has come and gone.  It showed the Jets still have a lot to do if they want to make a run for the Super Bowl this season.  I am not just talking about the loss to the New York Giants, but the work all the playing lines have in front of them.  Let’s go over this all one piece at a time, shall we?

Show opens with Bruce Springsteen singing a little diddy about New Jersey and the old Giants Stadium.  The one I had covered and was told to not come back to to take pictures.  I can see why.  They were using clips of it for Hard Knocks and wanted to make a dramatic impression with the images.  Well, I captured some of the same images they did.  Check the pictures & video below to the footage in Hard Knocks. You can read more about my coverage of the old stadium in previous posts.  It was a nice tribute to open the show.
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REx Ryan showing why he is one of the NFL’s top coaches and knows they are a little off but know they will get it.  The team will be on before the season begins.  Jets have cut two players so their replacements will have to get up to speed real fast.  Tim McKnight, better known as Nicky, is getting tested on the plays and routes.  He is a rookie running back off to a rough start.  He threw up on the field during mini camp and failed his conditioning test at rookie camp.  A stand out player in high school, he shows what made him a top recruit for USC and times he does not show the potential.  Joe has the potential to give the team more speed in the backfield.  He just needs mroe confidence in himself and his playing.

IS Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum always stuffing their face?  The more they show them sitting around the more I see them eating.  Maybe they should be in a conditioning program along with the players.  Mark Sanchez complaining about paying $.59 for ranch sauce is like Darelle Revis complaining he is only getting one million dollars this year.

Mark Brunell has the right experience to back up Mark Sanchize and give him the tips he needs to improve as starting QB.  Being one of the NFL’s top QB’s, it makes sense to have Brunell as a back up and pass along his experience.  At age 40, he has been around the league long enough to make Sanchez’s sophomore year a better one than having Clemens as his back up.  But Brunell is right, keeping his 18 year old daughter away from Mark Sanchez.  Nice to see a father that cares.

Brian Schottenheimer has a great role model in his father Marty.  A former head coach who can pass along the right knowledge and experience.   He may be on Sanchez’ case a lot, but it is for good reason.  It is that constant drilling that will make Mark make less mistakes.  Passing that experience from his father to Mark on top of Mark Brunell’s is something many QB’s do not get.  Even QB’s coach Matt Cavanaugh telling Mark to hold his head high and respond affirmatively to advice will make him a better player.

Once again, the Darelle Revis show takes place.  This time they announce a media blackout and keep all future information confidential.  Which they should have done from the beginning.  The media should focus on the team that is at training camp, not the ones holding out.  Kyle Wilson, rookie draft pick filling in Revis’ spot, is someone the media should be talking about.  He is at camp and doing what it takes to fill that spot and make the main roster.  Antonio Cromartie on the other end in his forth year is making sure no one forgets him or his seven kids.  Or is it six?  He is a true talent and needs to live up to that potential.  If he blows a tackle the way he blew one against the Jets in the playoffs the fans will not let him forget it.

You can tell Rex loves to coach.  He wants to be on that field no matter what.  No issues about being hands on and getting in the face of the players if he has to prove a point.  That is what all the Jets coaches do.  They are touch as nails, balls to the walls coaches who do what they have to do to make sure the players learn everything.  Even when reviewing film they know if they made a right or wrong decision.

Mike Tannenbaum asking rookie Tight End Jeff Cumberland what are the three things it takes to make the team lets the rookies know what they need to do.  That answer?  Special teams, special teams, special teams.  Special Teams coach MIke Westoff has survived cancer of his femur for the past 23 years.  He has used special shoes, braces, crutches and anything else he needed to walk.  He pretty much has a rebuilt leg with more metal in there than Wolverine.  It is that heart and dedication to his coaching that makes Mike Westoff an effective coach.  His resilience and determination is something those rookies can learn much from.  Special teams is filled with unknowns and rookies looking to make the team.  His job is to make them into solid football player worthy of wearing that Jets jersey.

Punter Steve Weatherford did something I thought was hysterical.  He bought 100 Shake Weights to give out to his team to help get them either motivated, in shape, or get them laughing.  If you shake it a certain way the players only need five minutes alone in their rooms to use it.  Maybe best used in private.  I heard it does wonders for certain muscle groups above the waist.  Seeing the players and coaches faces when using them was priceless.  I have wanted to use one myself.

Nick Mangold and Kris Jenkins are fantastic teammates.  Each one pushing the other further.  Taking it one step further so the other performs better when they are on the field against their opponents.  Jenkins is itching for the season to start after missing half of last season.  These guys are such forces on the field. I feel sorry for whoever the oppose on other teams.

Vernon Gholston moving to Defensive End is a last ditch effort to make a solid player out of him.  A bust since he was drafted two years ago, he hopes taking a pay cut will show the team he is serious about keeping his job.  Rex Ryan has faith in him and believe in his abilities.  He is playing well, but is well good enough?  Even being tested in a fight on the field showed that he does want to keep his place on the team.  Every Jets layer is stepping it up this year.

Good to see the team head to the movies to relax.  Now Rex may have taken a small popcorn with no butter, but did he grab a diet soda?  The world may never know.  If he did pig out then the title of the move says it all: Dinner For Schmucks.

John Connor is edging out veteran Tony Richardson in the Fullback spot in my opinion.  His showing in training camp and the Jets/Giants preseason game shows he wants to hurt people.  He loves throwing blocks and making opposing player lie on their backs.  Richardson is passing his knowledge and experience along, that may be his undoing in getting a starting spot on the roster.

I do not have to go into details about the Jets/Giants preseason game.  Everyone has done their reviews and saw the highlights.  Seeing Woody Johnson walk around the parking lot makes me laugh.  He is the owner of the team, not a fan and one of the true fans.  It is more about a PR session for him that knowing what the true fans are about.  Maybe if he sat in the upper deck, the non PSL seats for a whole season he might know what it is like to be one of the true fans of the Jets.  Everyone wants their picture with him, I got mine.  But I also asked him some touch questions.  If you see him walking around, confront him, he is fair game.

REx Ryan has every right to yell at the team.  They are a playoff caliber team.  The second and third string players need to show they want to make the team.  They need to step up their game and prove to the coaches they want it as bad as the high paying starters.  This is why there is a preseason, to make your impact.  Show the coaches you want that first team spot.  Make the tackles, the catches, the key blocks.  They still have some time to prove they are worth that spot.  I know they will do what they can.

OK, today the Giants announced they would put single game tickets on sale.  IN return, the Jets said they would not put single game seats on sale.  The Jets have under 1,000 PSL’s remaining from the 9,000 marked down seats.  This does not count other various seats still unsold throughout the stadium.  If the Jets do not sell out these seats by opening day, what will they do?  They have to sell them one way or another.  It will come down to the wire.  If Woody Johnson does announce single game seats, he will have to backtrack his steps as far back as Cleveland.

The Giants do what is right and it shows in their sales.  They have made wise decisions in their sales practices.  The Jets are still playing second fiddle, caring more about the bottom line than doing what is right to sell them off.  Maybe the fans would not be so upset if for once they listened now rather than later.  I was told by one high ranking official in the Jets organization that they can not please everyone and do what they can.  They are confident they will sell all of the PSL’s by opening day.  What if they don’t.  What will be their next decision.  The closer it gets to opening day, what will the right decision be?