The black jerseys came out for the final practice of the Jets’ full-squad minicamp.
Head coach Rex Ryan surprised his defensive players by replacing their green jerseys with black tops and white numbers to go against the usual white jerseys and green numbers on the offensive side of the ball for today’s single practice before most players headed for home and their last break before the start of training camp.
“Whatever the emphasis is at training camp, let’s say it’s red zone or ball security or trying to force turnovers, the group I feel did the best in that specific drill, I’ll put that group in black jerseys the next practice,” Ryan told reporters at his minicamp wrap-up news conference this afternoon. “I put it on the defense today because I’m a defensive guy. But it’s just a little fun thing, pick up the practice, stuff like that. It makes them think what the emphases are, and that’s why we broke out the jerseys.”
Black jerseys certainly have a Darth Vader-ish college feel. The last time we remember the Jets going to them was in 2004, when then-DC Donnie Henderson awarded black jerseys with gold numbers to individual defenders, an idea that Nebraska was popularizing at the time. Florida State, among other schools, have sight-adjusted to black jerseys for certain games.
Rex said he got this thought for an entire unit to get a new wardrobe at training camp from OC Tony Sparano.
“Rex just did it to throw it out there,” said linebacker Bryan Thomas. “Hopefully by the end of training camp everybody will have black jerseys on.”
The defense definitely rose to the occasion a few times at today’s 1½-hour session with 1,550 fans in attendance. On the first play of 11-on-11′s, Mark Sanchez play-faked, dropped back and threw — right into the looming figure of DE Muhammad Wilkerson, who swatted the pass backward, then wagged his finger at Sanchez, as if to say, “Not in our house.”
On another play, Sanchez tried to fire a ball over the middle for TE Jeff Cumberland, who hadn’t turned around. It hit David Harris in the numbers and the LB couldn’t hold on. Still, another notch in the black belts.
But the guys in the white jerseys did have some successes nevertheless. Sanchez fired to TE Dustin Keller on the post for the “TD,” after which Keller offered one of his patented crossbar dunks. Tim Tebow hit Joe McKnight on a crossing route for an in-stride completion that had long-gainer written all over it.
When it was over, Ryan sent his players away with a message about their conditioning over the next five weeks before the week that they gather their gear together and head north to Cortland, N.Y.
“I talked about trying to get in great shape because I want this team to own the fourth quarter. That’s something we need to do,” he said. “You do that by making strides in the offseason with your conditioning. It’s really on them. This is like the old college deal about the ‘dead period.’ As a coach, you can’t contact your players. It’s on each other. We need to come back in shape. It used to be you could be a little heavy going into training camp and drop a few pounds. That’s not going to be the case now. You can have one padded practice and one walkthrough practice each day. There are not as many reps as there had been in the past. You have to do extra things in conditioning to get yourself ready.”
Tebow with the Ones?
Wednesday morning Ryan said Tebow might get some reps with the first offense in training camp but for now he was with the twos. Then in Wednesday’s midday practice, Tebow took a couple of reps with the ones. Ryan didn’t even wait to get asked about that this afternoon.
“Apparently I need to be at more offensive meetings. So I kind of missed that one,” Ryan said of Sparano’s call to work Tebow on that limited basis with the first group. “Tony just put him in there for a couple of shots.
“I just wanted you guys to know there’s no quarterback controversy. This is the way it’s going to be: Sanchez is the starting quarterback. Tim’s behind him.”
But every once in a while, the No. 2 QB will work with the ones, just in case.
Breaking Down the Team
The last official event on the field today, before the players signed autographs and then headed to the locker room, was to break down the team. That duty this time went to a special guest — Bobby Parente, who today worked his last day of a 38-year career with the team as its senior vice president of programming and media production before shifting to a consultant’s role.
It was a teary time for Bobby and for a few of the players who know him, and the moisture was repeated when the business staff gave him a standing ovation at the entrance to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center as he left for the last time as a full-time employee. He has been a great friend and invaluable adviser to so many of us who call the Jets our team and our home away from home.
Shortly after he told the organization of his plans a few weeks ago, he offered some observations to me below about his career:
“I am the luckiest Jets fan in the world. I grew up a Jets fan, I went to my first game in 1964, and I worked for the team I love for 38 years. I started as a summer intern in 1974.
“My first job as an intern was to polish the Super Bowl trophy. I drove Weeb Ewbank to Shea Stadium in the morning, then I went to the Jets’ offices in the city, and on way home I picked Weeb up. What an education about football for an 18-year-old.
“I have made many great friends throughout football and sports. I look forward to helping the organization as a consultant going forward.”
Tags: black jerseys, Bobby Parente, Bryan Thomas, Donnie Henderson, Leon Washington, Rex Ryan, Tony Sparano
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