The Jets signed two players to their active roster this week, one from their practice squad and one from the Ravens’ P-squad. Both are longshots to make the active roster, at least Sunday at Buffalo. Yet really, it all depends upon what head coach Eric Mangini and his staff feel they need available on their 45-man roster to beat the Bills.
One thing’s fairly certain: When James Ihedigbo and Marcus Mason do make their NFL debuts, it will be on special teams. For this week’s edition of Special Teams Saturday, here’s a visit with both of the new guys on the 53-man roster.
S James Ihedigbo
If intensity, focus and maturity were enough to get a guy onto the field, Ihedigbo would be running under kicks in about 24 hours at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
You may have heard of his backstory, how his mother and father both emigrated from Nigeria and earned their PhDs in education from the University of Massachusetts, how his dad went back to their native country to start a college, how his father fell ill and died in Africa as he tried to develop his dream.
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Now Ihedigbo has a similar dream
"I went back a second time to Nigeria in 2002," he said Friday. "I’m a firm believer in starting an organization to help fund schools in Africa. It’s something I hope to have set up and finished by the end of this year. It’s something dear to me, that I’m fully, hands-on a part of."
But that’s only one of his goals. Ihedigbo, still considered a first-year NFL player, is in his second season with the Jets out of UMass. Last season was lost to injury, but as Mangini said, Ihedigbo shares qualities that others such as Chansi Stuckey last year and Erik Ainge this year also possess.
"James, during the time where he was injured, like with Chansi, he was very much a part of the team, he was very much a part of everything that we did," Mangini said. "He was asked questions. He was studying each day, not just during the meetings but postpractice. That type of diligent work allowed him to put himself in the position he’s in right now."
"Be prepared. Coach Mangini says it all the time," Ihedigbo said. "I believe failing to prepare is preparing to fail. I’m also a firm believer that mental toughness is just as important as physical toughness, to be able to have that and endure and prosper in times when you want to give up."
That mental toughness came in handy this season, which started for him with a practice squad berth — a position that can make or break a potential NFL career.
"Some guys, when they get on the practice squad, they fade into the background, they’re a number. They’re showing up, but that’s just what they are," Mangini said. "Other guys keep showing up each day and they don’t give you a chance to forget about them. That’s what James did. He’s determined. You feel that determination each day in practice."
I felt it just listening to him articulate his feelings about having reached the furthest point yet in his NFL aspirations.
"I take it as a humbling experience and a testament to my hard work," he said. "You have no idea how excited I am. To have this opportunity to show the world basically what I can do as a football player and to have my teammates behind me 100 percent
RB Marcus Mason
Mason has a slightly different approach. He comes across as a quiet but prepared job seeker not long out of college trying to find a spot with a well-established company in … well, not banking, not these days, but maybe insurance or law.
"This preseason helped me because I got other teams a chance to look at me," Mason said. "If I didn’t get that many reps in the preseason, I’d probably still be on the practice squad not getting an opportunity right now. I’m very thankful for the preseason. That’s when you’re a young guy and every day’s a job interview. Being able to have that many job interviews helped me out a lot."
Mason in fact got 74 entries on his résumé: one for each of his NFL-leading 66 carries and eight receptions in Washington’s five preseason games. With those touches he produced 317 rushing yards — most in the league’s summer games since then Rams rookie Steven Jackson ran for 323 in 2004 — and 373 yards from scrimmage — most by a rookie or first-year man since Ahman Green gained 378 for Seattle in ’98.
None of these facts, nor that his mugshot appeared weekly this summer on NFL.com’s stat leaders page, impressed Mason that much.
"That’s just preseason. Preseason doesn’t count," he said. "But again, I’m thankful for the opportunity I have right now."
The Jets are actually his third team in three months. The Redskins, who had him for two camps, cut him and he signed on to Baltimore’s practice squad. When Jesse Chatman went down with a knee injury on a fourth-quarter Jets kickoff return vs. Kansas City on Sunday, the Jets signed Mason from the Ravens’ practice squad to their 53-man roster.
Mason, like Ihedigbo, has the right attitude to get on the field. He knows he’ll probably be called on first not to run with the ball but to run down under a kickoff or punt and tackle some other guy with the leather.
"I was doing PP [punt protect], running down on kickoffs, playing the ‘backer on punt block. I have some experience," he said. "Whatever the Jets want me to play, I’ll specialize in it."
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Eric Mangini, James Ihedigbo, Marcus Mason, special teams
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