Today’s actual ribbon-cutting to officially open the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center was somewhat like an Eric Mangini practice exercise in position versatility.
There was Mike Nugent — as the holder. Specifically, the Jets placekicker was gripping the ribbon across the business side entrance to the bulding, holding it taut for the ribbon-cutter and so the assembled photographers could get a clear shot of the names and logos on the ribbon.
As for the cutter, Kerry Rhodes wielded the scissors, but that, too, was a change in position.
"I wasn’t supposed to do anything," Rhodes said, "but at the last second, Mr. Johnson told me to do it."
So, flanked by Woody Johnson, GM Mike Tannenbaum and some of New Jerseys most prominent politicians, and in front of cameras from multiple New York and New Jersey TV stations, Rhodes sheared most of the way through the ribbon, then finished the last half-inch with a strong second effort.
"It looked like there was a little bit left at the end there," Nugent said. "But Kerry did a good job getting it done."
Kind of like a kicker with a new holder and snapper on a bad patch of turf muscling a field goal just through the uprights.
We talked with Rhodes and three other teammates Monday. Today "Nuge" added his observations on the new facility. They weren’t much different from the raves of the players or from everyone else gathered for today’s ceremony in Florham Park, N.J.
"Mr. Johnson’s giving us just an unbelievable opportunity," Nugent said. "I’ve been here three or four times now, and every time I see it, I’m just amazed at how perfect it is for a football team to get a lot of work done."
Specifically, Nugent mentioned several benefits for him and his special teams-mates.
"There are so many options," he said. "If we have an indoor game [the Jets have none in the ’08 regular season], we can go inside the fieldhouse, do full kickoffs and pretty much full punts, although I haven’t seen Ben [Graham] punt inside yet.
"Then outside you’ve got a full turf field and three grass fields. If the whole team is out on the practice fields, you can still find a spot to placekick and punt."
Nugent also mentioned a great point that was underscored by today’s high, bright sky.
"I think this will be a big help for returners catching punts and kickoffs," he said. "That’s a factor in 1 o’clock games where you can be looking straight into the sun."
So if the Jets are going on the road to play an early game in a north-south stadium, they can work on kicks on their three grass fields. An east-west orientation, it’s onto the outside turf field.
Nugent’s conclusion? He adds his voice to those of Rhodes, Shaun Ellis, Jerricho Cotchery and Nick Mangold from Monday. The AHJTC, said Nuge, is "a great place to work at so great things can happen."
OK, Jets fans, I can hear you now: Can we hear about something besides the new building? Soon. The player availability since Thursday’s preseason finale at Philly has been limited, and we’re very proud of our new home and the advantages it figures to bring to the Green & White. But I pledge the training center will be brought up only when it applies to specific players and storylines.
But in 18 hours or less, we shift gears into regular-season mode. Chad Pennington, Joey Porter, Tony Sparano, Bill Parcells and the Dolphins are ahead. And the reporters will grill the Jets on those players and many themes in the team’s huge new locker room (sorry, one more plug for the building), beginning Wednesday.
Know Your Westhoff History
ESPN committed an error on its "Bottom Line" crawl Monday night. In announcing the return of Mike Westhoff to the Jets’ coaching staff, the network declared that Westhoff had missed the entire 2007 season. For those who thought that sounded it odd, it was. Westhoff announced his retirement in the locker room following last year’s season finale against Kansas City after coaching the entire ’07 season. What Westhoff sat out was the entire ’08 off-season and preseason.
Tags: Atlantic Health Training Center, Kerry Rhodes, Mike Nugent, Woody Johnson
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