It was quite a scene in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room early this afternoon, a media horde descending on the Green & White on an otherwise average day in May.
It was reporters’ first chance to chat with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow after the quarterbacks have had some time to work together on and off the field. And while No. 6 and No. 15 were put through their paces with questions about starting and locker room chemistry and one offense or two, the QBs’ teammates watched with relative amusement. Only because at this time, in the middle of the offseason, there’s nothing not to like about the new working arrangement.
“Problems in the locker room? I don’t think so,” said TE Dustin Keller from half a room away. “If the two two didn’t get along so well, that could be the case. But they have a great working relationship. Tim’s a great guy. You see them joking around, laughing. You’re not going to do that if you’re enemies. They’re getting along in the quarterback room.”
“It kind of reminds me of when Brett Favre got here,” said DT Mike DeVito, reflecting on those halcyon days of 2008. “Back then people would ask me, ‘What’s Favre doing now?’ like I lived with the guy. This is about the same. But I’m grateful Tim’s here. He’s a great person, he’s a hard worker — he and Mark and Greg [McElroy] are in the weightroom an hour after the offense is done. He sets a great example on and off the field.”
RT Wayne Hunter is another Jet who welcomes Tebow to the mix.
“For me, I was really excited about him coming here, for his faith, for one, being a strong Christian,” Hunter said. “And number two, I was really excited about what he’s brought to this team. He brings a whole ‘nother level, a whole ‘nother dynamic.”
Darrelle Revis was asked about whether you can have two leaders at one position, or more specifically two leaders at the QB position, on one team, and he replied with an honestly noncommittal answer.
“That’s a tough question,” Revis said. “I don’t know. I can’t come up with an answer to that question, as much as I want to. I don’t know. We’re all experiencing the same thing.”
But Revis was far from downplaying the impact Tebow can have on that other side of the ball.
“These are my teammates. I’m here to support everybody on this team,” he said. “Who starts? It doesn’t matter. Everybody’s going to play on this team. Even if we need some practice-squad player to step up and play one week. We’re getting ready. This is a big year and we’re going to play some awesome football because last year was disappointing. 8-8 and we didn’t make the playoffs.”
The experiment in May is to start blending Tebow’s talents with Sanchez’s and all the other components on offense so that such an ending doesn’t happen again. And as these Phase II offseason practices morph into OTAs in a few weeks and then into the full-squad minicamp in mid-June, the Jets seem to like the different ambience in the locker room and the offensive players are eager to take coordinator Tony Sparano’s operation to the field.
“It’s been great coming in and learning a new offense,” Keller said. “There’s always going to be some ups and downs. Obviously we want to run the ball, and we’ll see as time goes on how much we pass the ball. But Coach Sparano is very vocal and he’s very honest. Those are things you can really appreciate about him. I think it’ll be good for us. It’s almost similar to college, in your face. He expects the most out of you, and obviously these guys expect the most out of themselves. It kind of pushes you to the next level.”
And as we know from the comments from head coach Rex Ryan, Sparano, Mike Tannenbaum and Woody Johnson, Sanchez will be the starter, and Tebow will be a catalyst.
“When you’ve got Tebow on the field,” Hunter said, “it’s going to be crazy. And that’s all I’m going to say about it now.”
Eric Allen will have a news feature with Sanchez talking about Tebow and Tebow about Sanchez, which will be live on the site shortly.
This is always the time of year to revisit with the veterans and see where they’re going with their strength and conditioning. It’s true that all teams went through similar situations last year during the lockout, but it’s also true that this year’s vets are working with new strength coach Bill Hughan and his team for the first time ever in an offseason program, since he started with the Jets last year.
Some of the changes are impressive, such as with Joe McKnight.
“I put on about 15 pounds. I was 197 at the end of last year,” said the more muscular third-year RB and the NFL’s defending kickoff-return leader. “I’m getting my strength right. I’m not a wide receiver, I’m a running back. I’m just continuing to work on my explosion.”
And, I asked, has the extra weight slowed him down at all? He smiled knowingly.
“From what the strength coach has told me, I’m just as fast as ever,” he said. “And I feel just as fast. But I feel stronger, too.”
That sounds like a dangerous combination. We’ll bring you more stories about some of the bodily transformations some of the Jets have made as we visit with the veterans once a week heading toward the minicamp next month.
Tags: Brett Favre, Dustin Keller, joe McKnight, Mark Sanchez, Mike DeVito, Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow, Tony Sparano, Wayne Hunter
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