Updated 5:25 p.m. ET
It was a telling little four-play chapter in the story of the Jets’ 27-7 Sunday night triumph over Cincinnati. And for the bookend players on the drive, they both produced personal firsts that, despite the insistence of some, were definitely very meaningful preseason plays.
Linebacker Brashton Satele is the Hawaiian islander who’s been looking for a football opening for a while. He lost his ’09 season at UH due to a summer shoulder injury, then spent last summer with the Jets, was a final cut in September and a practice-squad addition in December. The numbers game could threaten the inside ‘backer’s roster spot again this season.
Today they may be threatening a little less after Satele turned in his little number with a minute left in the third quarter — his first pro interception.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Brashton beamed as he left the New Meadowlands Stadium locker room after the game. “I thought I was going to score. I thought I was moving but I guess I’m not that fast. They caught me. Everybody on the sideline was giving it to me, saying I should’ve dove in.”
He jumped Bruce Gradkowski’s throw for rookie wideout Andrew Hawkins and took off for the goal line just 36 yards away. Despite the ribbing from his mates, it was a tough sprint. As athletic as Satele is, he was ankle-tackled by Hawkins, who has 4.35 speed, at the Bengals 4.
I asked Brashton what his first pro pick felt like, what he’d compare it to outside of football. Food? I suggested. Drink? Romance?
“No,” he said with a laugh. “Maybe like catching a wave on a longboard back home. I really miss doing that.”
If anyone missed the connection to his home isles, he was wearing a T-shirt with the legend Hawaii’s Finest. I asked him about that.
“That’s my boy’s company. His name is Paulele,” Satele said. “Hawaii’s Finest is coming up.”
The clothing company the past few years has gone from “the humble beginnings of Molokai and Oahu” to “striving for the stars.” One of the tabs on its Website is “Ohana” or extended family. Indeed, the HI Finest family extends to the East Coast, as a photo of Pacific natives Brashton, Sione Pouha and Wayne Hunter in front of a large green logo here at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center will attest.
So Satele’s runback was significant but it didn’t do anything on the scoreboard, which still read Jets 20, Bengals 7 as the fourth quarter began.
Surfing that board would be up to Joe McKnight.
It may surprise some that before Sunday, McKnight had a 67-yard preseason punt return and a 158-yard rushing performance that concluded his first NFL regular season. But in his first 24 games of all kinds as a pro, he had not yet scored a touchdown.
“It means a lot to me,” McKnight told me a little reluctantly about speeding out of the tailback spot to catch Greg McElroy’s flat pass and beat rookie S Robert Sands to the pylon for his first TD to make it 27-7 on the first play of the last period. “But I don’t want it to mean everything to me. I just want to keep consistent. That was one of my big questions last year.”
I promised to keep his piece of preseason paydirt in perspective, but one of McKnight’s concerns as an NFL player is to “make everybody happy” with his play, and it would be a shame to let this event pass without talking with him about his current state of mind.
“I felt a lot of weight come off my shoulders when I scored, just a lot of weight,” he said. “I was happy. I was excited. … But I can’t dwell on it. I’ve got to move forward. I want to stay consistent.”
So no more dwelling on these single successful plays. Satele’s interception, McKnight’s TD, both will slip beneath the waves of preseason history soon enough. But maybe some personal striving for the stars achieved some liftoff in the Meadowlands the night before.
It’s still early, but after two NFL preseason weeks, but McElroy, a mere seventh-rounder, has the most passing attempts (48), completions (29) and TD passes (2), is tied for the most passing yardage (267) and has the highest rating (89.5) among this year’s well-populated rookie class of passers. … Nick Folk’s third-quarter 50-yard field goal was the Jets’ longest FG since John Hall bombed his 59-yarder — believed to be the franchise distance record in all games — at Philadelphia to close the 2001 preseason.
Namath-Era Jet Remembered
We’ve been informed today that Ray Abruzzese, 73, a starting safety on Joe Namath’s first two Jets teams in 1965′ and ’66, passed away.
Abruzzese, in fact, is part of Jets and Joe Willie lore. He and Namath roomed together for a short time at Alabama before Abruzzese entered the 1962 AFL and NFL drafts and started out his pro career from ’62-64 with the Buffalo Bills.
When Namath reportedly was deciding between whether to go with the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals and the AFL’s Jets after the ’65 drafts, he told Jets owner Sonny Werblin that he’d lean toward the Green & White if they’d acquire Abruzzese. Werblin and Bills owner (then and now) Ralph Wilson struck a trade. Soon after, Namath picked the Jets. Fact or fiction? We’ll check in with Namath and see what he recalls in the coming days.
The Philadelphia-born Abruzzese (5’11″, 194) played in 61 pro games, 26 with the Jets, and made 10 interceptions, four with the Jets.
The organization sends its condolences to the Abruzzese family.
Tags: Brashton Satele, Cincinnati Bengals, Greg McElroy, Hawaii's Finest, joe McKnight, Nick Folk
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