Jets defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson’s profile continues to emerge, and one offseason indicator of that is Mo is throwing a big-time formal charity event in a little more than two weeks.
Wilkerson and his Team 96 Foundation along with NBC celebrity Realtor Jay Morrison and his Project Culture Change are staging their first Youth Benefit Gala on Thursday, June 13, at the Crystal Plaza in Livingston, N.J.
The evening includes dinner, silent auction, entertainment and premium open bar. Formal attire is the order of the night. For more information and to purchase tickets at $125, you can visit Wilkerson’s Website here.
Hearing from Mr. Jordan
LaMont Jordan had a very solid pro career, especially his first four seasons playing behind Curtis Martin on the Jets when he averaged 4.9 yards per carry and 8.3 per catch out of the backfield.
Jordan, after moving on to the Raiders, Patriots and Broncos, is retired from the game. Now one of his post-football roles is this year is helping up-and-coming running backs to run safer, as USA Football’s Heads Up Football Ambassador for the coming season.
“My running style with the Jets, I think it varied depending on the opponent, the blocking schemes,” Jordan said earlier this month at Lucas Oil Stadium during his Heads Up Ambassador orientation. “I think overall I’m a right-at-you kind of runner, powerful, low pad level, deceptive speed, just the right amount of quickness. I would say direct, right at you, downhill.”
Jordan also said that at a young age, in high school, he learned about some of the values he’s now teaching to scholastic runners.
“I didn’t personally and I don’t know too many other running backs who deliberately try to lower their head and lead with their head,” he said. “One thing for me, when I’m running and approaching a defender, I try to choose a side. I want to avoid any kind of head contact.”
Other important tips — which no doubt are being used by NFL backs this year with the reemphasis on not striking defenders with the crowns of their helmets — are to bend at the knees and not at the hips, and to keep the eyes open.
“Sometimes you have a tendency, right before contact, you close your eyes. It happens. It’s natural,” Jordan said. “But I think it’s vital, especially with what Heads Up Football is teaching, is keeping your head up and keeping your eyes up. I think that’s one of the biggest things in trying to eliminate the helmet-to-helmet contact.”
Catching the Jets from a Distance
Jets fans outside the New York radio market, ESPN has good news for you:
ESPN Radio has signed individual multiyear agreements with the Jets (as well as with the Giants, Patriots, Steelers and Dolphins) for out-of-market Sunday afternoon syndication rights beginning with the 2013 season. These agreements mark the first time ESPN Radio will broadcast NFL game action nationally on its over-the-air terrestrial network.
The teams will continue to broadcast in their home markets through their official local stations.
In addition, ESPN NFL analysts Herm Edwards, Bill Polian and Damien Woody will each work several of ESPN Radio’s national broadcasts. Edwards is the former Jets head coach from 2001-05 and Woody was the Jets’ starting right tackle from 2008-10. Additional commentators and the complete schedule will be announced at a later date.
Tags: Curtis Martin, Damien Woody, Heads Up Football, Herm Edwards, LaMont Jordan, Mo Wilkerson, USA Football
Posted in Randy Lange | 14 Comments »
Bill Parcells will be dressed to the nines tonight as he waves and smiles at the Superdome crowd and NFL Nation during his introduced along with his Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013 mates. He’ll look every bit like your favorite football uncle or professor, friendly and knowledgeable and ready to help out.
And just think that before Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Melchiorri and Anne Burrell, Parcells already had established his own reality series as the new sheriff from hell — or was it heaven? — for so many pro football players who passed through his neck of the woods.
Parcells was hardly the first rough, tough, son-of-a-gun pro football coach. But he was one of the best at rolling the good cop and the bad cop all into one larger-than-life persona. And that’s one of the reasons he’s in the Hall of Fame tonight.
“The thing about Bill was he kept you on your toes,” Wayne Chrebet, Jets fans’ favorite wideout, reminisced with me late Saturday night about his on-field boss with the Green & White from 1997-99. “You’re walking around the complex and he’s coming down the hallway toward you and you really don’t know what to say. You’re looking down and he’d say, ‘Don’t worry, kid. We’ll get ‘em.’ He’d extend that hand and pick you up. You’re smiling and he’d say, ‘What are you so happy about?’
“He kept you on your toes. He never let you relax. And he always got the best out of you.”
Aaron Glenn, who played corner on Parcells’ Jets those same years and then two more years for the Cowboys, had a similar story to tell.
“He had these mind games he always played on me,” AG said. “He’d say I was too small. He’d say I couldn’t cover the best receivers in the game. I used to think, if he thinks I couldn’t cover those guys, why’d he match me up against those guys in the games? I wanted to show him what I could do.”
Parcells, who I remember more than a few times denying that he played mind games with his players, let alone us reporters, had a number of favorite tactics to get through to “his guys” as well as the guys who were his for the moment on whatever team he was resurrecting.
“I remember as a rookie,” Curtis Martin recalled of the roots of his trademark ball security, “I fumbled the ball a couple of times in training camp and Bill made me carry that ball for, like, a week straight. I wasn’t allowed to be caught without the ball. When I was eating lunch or dinner or in meetings, I had the ball in one hand. He told the entire team to knock it out of my hands whenever they saw me. I was penalized if they were able to knock it out. That attention made me focus on the ball. It was a huge part of my game, to the level that giving up the ball was letting my team down.”
There was the time, Chrebet recalled, dusting off a classic Parcells-ism, that he told No. 80, “Hey, Chrebet, your career’s going over a cliff like a dumptruck with a cement parachute.” There was that other time, early in ’98, when Wayne suffered a bad ankle sprain going out of bounds and jumping rope with the chain crew on the sideline. And a week later Bill came by to check on Wayne as he was rehabbing the injury — by kicking him in the ankle.
“It hurt enough without him kicking it,” Chrebet said, “I looked at him like ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. What’s wrong with you?’ But even at the moment, I couldn’t be mad at him. He was just making sure I was really hurt.”
He wasn’t mad, but he got some classic Tuna payback late in the ’98 season as the Jets headed for the playoffs and their highest points of the Parcells regime.
“My family was Jets fans, of course, but they were diehard Giants fans,” Chrebet reminisced one more time for me. “It was ’86. I would’ve been 13 years old. And I’m watching and thinking it’s the coolest thing in the world when Harry Carson’s got on the yellow jacket and he sneaks up behind Parcells and dumps the Gatorade on him. I said I want to do that, and I want to do it to Bill, too. It was a pipe dream at the time.”
Then as events sometimes unfold, Chrebet got his chance. He doesn’t remember which game it was (maybe the win over New England in the regular-season finale?), but he was on the sideline late in the game and he said the thought struck him: “I’m gonna get this guy for all the stuff he gave me all year. I’m gonna douse this guy with Gatorade.”
“And he laughed. He took it. He wasn’t upset. He loved every part of it,” Chrebet said, no doubt looking at the Parcells-autographed photo of the prank hanging on the wall of his den. “He was just part of the team. He was right in our circle. He brought us all together.”
There were lots of other elements to the Parcells persona, naturally: Bill’s fierce, feisty competitiveness, his cadre of selfless assistants who implemented his one-voice philosophy, his attention to all the details in all the meeting rooms.
It all came together to produce wonderful results. Teams that hadn’t been winning started winning again. The Giants, Patriots, Jets, Cowboys, even the Dolphins whom he finished up with as team president, did better than they had been once he arrived.
And most of the players, especially “Bill’s Guys,” all sounded variations on the theme of what he meant to them.
Martin, as he was approaching his Hall enshrinement last year: “I know I wouldn’t be in this position I’m in had I not listened to him.”
Glenn: “He once told me, ‘I challenged you. I knew what you had and I wanted to get the best out of you.’ That’s something he can do with any player at any level.”
Giants great Lawrence Taylor to ESPNNewYork.com on Saturday: “If I’d played for another coach on another team, I probably would’ve been a good player. But Bill was the one who made me LT.”
“Somebody told me that if Bill doesn’t mess with you, you’re in trouble,” Chrebet said. “He messed with me a lot. We were both Jersey guys and he busted my chops. The good thing was you could fire back at him a little bit, but you knew your limits. But I wanted to coached, Bill knew everything that was going on, and everybody bought into it. This guy came in and I’m like, ‘I’m glad you’re here. I’m ready to win.’ “
For these reasons and many others, we’ll get to see Bill Parcells holding forth one more time from the field on Super Bowl Sunday.
Tags: Aaron Glenn, Bill Parcells, Curtis Martin, Lawrence Taylor, New Orleans, Pro Football Hall of Fame, Superdome, Wayne Chrebet
Posted in Randy Lange | 243 Comments »
It’s time for the NFL to sit back in NOLA, take a deep breath, and put its party pants on for tonight and tomorrow in advance of Sunday night’s Super Bowl. The Harbaughs conducted their I-Concur news conference this morning, Commissioner Goodell’s wrapped up his annual state-of-the-league Q&A, and there’s not much else of an official nature to do down by the banks of the Mississippi except to laissez les bon temps rouler.
Except for some serious work of 46 individuals who will be virtually locked in a New Orleans meeting room for eight hours beginning Saturday morning.
Those 46 are the members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee who will choose this year’s Class of ’13 for entrance into football’s shrine. Before them tomorrow morning along with their French roast coffee and beignets will be the list of 17 HOF final candidates, which they will proceed to prune away to no fewer than four and no more than seven members of this year’s class.
And the name on the list that most Jets fans will be keenly interested in is that of Bill Parcells.
Certainly it’s the top name on the list made by Curtis Martin, who made the Hall last year and was presented for enshrinement by Parcells in Canton last August.
“Bill’s more than deserving,” Martin told me from his Florida home this afternoon. “I’m not one of those guys that will look back and say he should’ve been in last year or whatever. At the end of the day it is what it is. But I’m really hoping and I do believe that he’ll make it this year, and I’m really looking forward to going back out there to Canton and celebrating it with him.”
Parcells was a finalist along with Martin a year ago, but unlike his superb running back, the Tuna couldn’t swim upstream from the final 10 candidates into the final five. In less than a day he’ll try to make that climb again.
Another who thinks he’ll do it is Gary Myers, the Daily News columnist and Selection Committee member who was the point man in guiding Martin’s candidacy to fruition last year and this year will also be making the Parcells presentation to the committee.
“Bill’s impact on the game, I believe, makes his a very strong case,” Myers said in his piece in the News this morning. “If Parcells isn’t a Hall of Famer, then just who is?”
Much of Myers’ presentation and the discussion “in the room” will no doubt deal with Parcells’ credentials with the Giants, who won two Super Bowls under his command, and his Patriots, who made one Super appearance. But his four-year stop with the Jets, from 1997-99 as head coach and in 2000 running the football operations, will also factor into the discussion.
Parcells arrived in ’97 and turned the Jets around from their 4-28 record of the previous two seasons into a winning team that was in the playoff hunt until their 13-10 loss at Detroit in the final game of the regular season. In ’98 he directed them all the way to a 10-0 lead early in the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game before their season came to an end at Denver. Injuries crushed the start of the ’99 season, but by the end of the year the Jets were the proverbial team nobody would’ve wanted to face if they had made the playoffs. The 2000 season was filled with promise until a disastrous December downturn.
And then Bill was gone. The one playoff berth and title-game appearance wasn’t what Parcells or anyone else in Jets Nation wanted, and yet he was the first coach in franchise history to produce 30 wins in a three-year span, the first to preside over 40 wins in a four-year span. The Jets were the third of the four franchises he guided to playoff berths, an NFL coaching record. He brought the Green & White back to relevancy as in the last 16 years the Jets have made seven playoff appearances and posted 10 winning seasons, as good as or better than the totals in those two categories over the franchise’s previous 37 seasons.
Of course there are no guarantees. The dynamics that last year kept Parcells out in his third time as a Hall finalist could repeat. A new field of well-qualified finalists could freeze Bill out of the final-five again.
But this year just feels like it’s “temps” that BP “roule.” As Myers said, if not Parcells, who? As Martin told me, “I can’t imagine Bill not being in the Hall of Fame two years in a row. Last year was kind of hard to believe. This year would be incredibly hard to understand.”
The Selection Committee members know that as well. Sometime shortly after 5:30 p.m. ET tomorrow, I suspect that Parcells will begin his ascension into the pigskin pantheon.
We’ll have a follow-up story on Bill Parcells’ Hall of Fame candidacy Saturday night/Sunday morning.
Tags: Bill Parcells, Curtis Martin, Gary Myers, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Posted in Randy Lange | 102 Comments »
It’s Pro Football Hall of Fame time again, and that means Bill Parcells again is in play to be inducted into the Canton shrine.
The Hall of Fame this morning announced the 15 modern-era finalists who will be considered for election into the Hall when the selection committee meets in New Orleans on Saturday, Feb. 2, the day before Super Bowl XLVII.
This is Parcells’ fourth time as a finalist, meaning final 15, and in this case it may well be that the third time plus one is the charm for the Tuna. Last year he made it to the final 10 during the day-long balloting process but did not advance to the final five, as did Curtis Martin, who was then selected for the Hall a year ago in his second year of eligibility.
Here is the Hall’s list of finalists, which includes the two senior nominees, DT Curley Culp and LB Dave Robinson, announced in August. (Four first-time nominees designated with an (f), two senior committee nominees with an asterisk):
Larry Allen (f) — G/T, 1994-2005 Dallas Cowboys; 2006-07 San Francisco 49ers
Jerome Bettis — RB, 1993-95 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams; 1996-2005 Pittsburgh Steelers
Tim Brown — WR/KR/PR, 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders; 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cris Carter — WR, 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles; 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings; 2002 Miami Dolphins
Curley Culp* — DT, 1968-74 Kansas City Chiefs; 1974-80 Houston Oilers; 1980-81 Detroit Lions
Edward DeBartolo Jr. — Owner, 1977-2000 San Francisco 49ers
Kevin Greene — LB/DE, 1985-92 Los Angeles Rams; 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers; 1996, ’98-99 Carolina Panthers; 1997 San Francisco 49ers
Charles Haley — DE/LB, 1986-91, ’99 San Francisco 49ers; 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys
Art Modell — Owner, 1961-95 Cleveland Browns; 1996-2011 Baltimore Ravens
Jonathan Ogden (f) — T, 1996-2007 Baltimore Ravens
Bill Parcells — Coach, 1983-90 New York Giants; 1993-96 New England Patriots; 1997-99 New York Jets; 2003-06 Dallas Cowboys
Andre Reed — WR, 1985-99 Buffalo Bills; 2000 Washington Redskins
Dave Robinson* — LB, 1963-72 Green Bay Packers; 1973-74 Washington Redskins
Warren Sapp (f) — DT, 1995-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 2004-07 Oakland Raiders
Will Shields — G, 1993-2006 Kansas City Chiefs
Michael Strahan (f) — DE, 1993-2007 New York Giants
Aeneas Williams — CB/S, 1991-2000 Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals; 2001-04 St. Louis Rams
All Hall of Fame candidates must go through a winnowing process that this year began with 127 nominees, then was reduced to 27 semifinalists. To be elected, a finalist must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent.
Bob Sutton Departing?
The Kansas City Star is reporting today that longtime Jets assistant coach Bob Sutton has been hired by new Chiefs coach Andy Reid as the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator. The Jets have not commented on Sutton’s reported departure and the Chiefs have not announced anything regarding the hiring of coordinators yet.
Sutton, the former Army head coach, was with the Jets the past 13 seasons, 10 as linebackers coach and from 2006-08 as Eric Mangini’s defensive coordinator.
Tags: Bill Parcells, Bob Sutton, Curtis Martin, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Posted in Randy Lange | 218 Comments »
We’re not about to say preseason doesn’t matter, but do you remember all those stories about how the Jets were the first NFL team in 35 years not to score a touchdown in their first three preseason games, or how the first offense had no TDs the entire summer?
Forget about them.
This morning, after the conclusion of the first week of the NFL regular season Monday night, the Jets find themselves in an unusual position at the top of another set of rankings: They are the top-scoring team in all of football.
The Jets’ 48 points in their season-opening bouncing of Buffalo lifts them to No. 1 in the league, ahead of Baltimore’s 44 points from last night vs. Cincinnati, Chicago’s 41 vs. Indianapolis, and the 40-point games from Washington and Atlanta.
When was the last time the Jets led the NFL in scoring? you might ask. It’s been a while — 136 weeks and virtually eight full seasons ago.
The Jets opened 2004 explosively. Led by Curtis Martin, beginning his finest season as a pro, and Chad Pennington, they topped the Bengals at home, 31-24, then went to San Diego and outpointed LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees and the Chargers, 34-28. Their 32.5 points per game led the league after two weeks.
Prior to that, the last time they even sniffed the top spot was after the opening week of 1997, when they began Bill Parcells’ short era as Jets coach with a 41-3 win at Seattle to share the top spot with the Patriots after their first game under their new HC, Pete Carroll.
The Jets have never led the NFL in scoring. Their best finishes were second in 1972 and third in ’73. And the only season they ever led the AFL was their first, as the Titans in 1960.
It’s still a little early to be crowing, of course. Let’s wait to see how this new offensive juggernaut thing works out until after Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh. The Jets have averaged 13.6 points in their nine games in the Steel City, and their best was the 22 points in their only victory there in 2010.
Other rankings of note for the Jets: They’re first also in third-down efficiency (71.4%, 10-for-14) and in punt-return average (68.0 on Jeremy Kerley’s one dazzling return), second in yards per pass play (9.9 yards), tied for the lead in sacks allowed (zero), 12th in rushing yards, tied for 13th in passing yards and 11th in total yards. And their four defensive takeaways against one giveaway has them tied for third in turnover margin at plus-3.
But the defense went from being a preseason strength to checking in 32nd and last in rushing yards allowed per game and per carry, thanks to the elusive C.J. Spiller.
A little later we’ll bring you a little more on rookie WR Stephen Hill’s sharp debut in green and white. But for now we’ll leave you with the nine teams with the highest point totals on opening day since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger (home teams in CAPS):
1971 — Cowboys 49, BILLS 37
1973 — Falcons 62, SAINTS 7
1986 — CHARGERS 50, Dolphins 28
1987 — BUCCANEERS 48, Falcons 10
1989 — Browns 51, STEELERS 0
1995 — DOLPHINS 52, Jets 14
2002 — DOLPHINS 49, Lions 21
2003 — 49ERS 49, Bears 7
2012 — JETS 48, Bills 28
Tags: Chad Pennington, Curtis Martin, Stephen Hill
Posted in Randy Lange | 65 Comments »
Two of the opinion leaders on the Jets were presented with the state of their team as perceived by “the experts” who have come out of the woodwork the past few weeks to predict how the Jets will finish in the AFC East (consensus has them third, behind Buffalo, ahead of Miami) and how they’ll fare against the Bills at home in Sunday’s opener (not well, according to the set of experts on CBS Sportsline’s crack staff, among others).
Head coach Rex Ryan said the Jets are “right where we need to be.”
“It does remind me a little bit for whatever reason of our first year here,” Ryan reminisced about the 2009 season. “But you’ve got to go back in and earn it and prove people wrong. Does that drive you a little bit? I’d be lying if I tell you it never did. Of course it does. Human nature is ‘I’ll show you.’ I’ve been that way all my life. It’s the reason I’m here today. I’m going to compete, our whole football team is going to compete, the organization is going to compete.
“I’d much rather be picked third and later be somewhere else at the end of the road,” he added, and he didn’t mean fourth.
Mark Sanchez had a similar take about the Jets’ competitive spirit but not about how the opinions of the football gurus grinds away at his gut.
“I think this team has something to prove to each other but not to anybody on the outside,” said the QB preparing to make his fourth opening-day start for the Green & White. As for those third-place predictions, “Who cares?” he said. “Is it human nature to say ‘Well, we’re better than what they said’? Who cares what they said. We’ve got to go out and practice hard and rely on each other.
“The home opener’s important,” he said, and he’s won two of his three home openers, not to mention five of six home games in September. “But you never want to put so much into it and make it bigger than what it is. We’ll just rely on the work we put in during the week and on Sunday it should be automatic. That’s my mental approach, and I know a lot of our guys feel the same way.”
Well, yes, except Rex doesn’t want to remove a little extra edge from this game. “We’ve got a ton of work to do,” he said, “and it’s all about this game and this week.”
The reported knee injury suffered by Isaako Aaitui on Monday led to his release and to the return of Marcus Dixon, the third-year man who was released at least in part because Aaitui had impressed with the Dolphins this summer at both NT and DT.
Dixon gave a bittersweet recap of his time away and his mindset now that he’s in some ways starting over again with the Jets.
“I kept the door always open” for a return, he said after today’s practice. “There were other options out there, but just the timing of my release, I couldn’t get moved anywhere.
“But I’m glad to be back here. I just know I’ve got to go out there and take it one day at a time, really. You never know. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder now — I ain’t gonna lie. But I’m going to go out and do what I’ve got to do. We’ve got the Bills this week and that’s my focus.”
He called his three days away from the Jets complex an eye-opener.
“It made me realize a lot of things that are important,” he said, casting a hard eye at his situation. “There’s really no guarantee. And I think I might’ve gotten a little comfortable a little bit. So I’m back on my, I guess, my college mentality, where I’m just hungry. I realize, I guess, that I’m always one of those guys who’s going to be on the bubble. I’ve got to prove my worth. So that’s what I’m going to do and help the team win.”
Dixon was a steady, honest contributor to the D-line rotation last year in his only full season with the Jets. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that maybe he’s got even more to play for than a lot of others when the Jets and Bills kick it off Sunday.
The first Jets injury report of the season is now available on newyorkjets.com. And this report shows the Jets leading in the number of listed players, 15-4, over the Bills. This is not necessarily a good score.
Yet still most of the Jets seem to be in the likely-to-play category. As you’ll remember, the first two days of the week each team reports only whether a player’s participation in team drills was full, limited or non-existent. Two Jets didn’t participate in today’s practice in the Atlantic Health Training Center fieldhouse (due to the heavy morning rain) — TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) and S Eric Smith (hip/knee).
Six Jets were listed as limited — RB-KR Joe McKnight (hamstring), G Brandon Moore (hip), D-linemen Sione Po‘uha (low back) and Mike DeVito (calf), and LBs Bryan Thomas (ankle) and Nick Bellore (shoulder). Six other Jets were full participants.
The NFL platform doesn’t allow us to give you the opponents’ report in chart form, but for the Bills, the two injuries to watch were to WRs Stevie Johnson and Brad Smith, both limited with groin injuries.
Buffalo coach Chan Gailey said Smith is “getting better. He’s going to go on the practice field today and hopefully he’ll be ready to do a little more tomorrow, a little bit more Friday. And hopefully we’ll get him for Sunday.”
See More of Curt in Canton
The Curtis Martin Hall of Fame Special airs for the first time tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET on SNY. The SNY crew followed Curt around Canton in early August, from autograph session to news conference to parade to gold-jacket dinner to enshrinement ceremony. Tune in to watch No. 28’s glorious weekend at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Curtis Martin, injury report, Marcus Dixon, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, season opener
Posted in Randy Lange | 60 Comments »
Curtis Martin followed up his emotional news conference before the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Gold Jacket Dinner on Friday night with a bravura performance running the anchor leg among the six members of the Class of ’12 at Saturday night’s enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio.
“This is God’s honest truth,” Martin said as the sixth and final member of the class to speak and to receive his bust at Fawcett Stadium. “I came up here, I had a chance to spend time with the older guys and the guys who have been inducted. I had a chance to listen to their experience. On Friday morning, we went and listened to Ralph Wilson speak. Just the passion that he has for this game, being one of the founders, one of the founding fathers of this game, there was something that rubbed off on me. And literally yesterday I felt like it was my first day as a fan of the game of football.”
Martin spoke the longest of the six enshrinees but none of the 12,100 in the stadium noticed the extra minutes passing because he timelessly captured the moment in typical Curtis fashion. He broke the huddle with an anecdote from the weekend on huge tackle Willie Roaf. He darted into how he got into football “for a purpose that was bigger than the game itself, because I knew that the love for the game just wasn’t in my heart.”
He cut back as smoothly as ever into soul-baring personal stories about growing up on the mean streets of Pittsburgh and his special relationship with his mother, Rochella, that left him again teary-eyed, and all of the thousands in the stadium silently weeping along with him.
And he strode toward his goal line this night with another anecdote about getting hit so hard in a game against Oakland that he saw black, and kept seeing black as he tried to walk it off, until he realized he was in the Raiders’ defensive huddle.
“I was asked earlier this week if I would allow my child to play football,” he said. “I said, well, football’s getting bigger, stronger, faster and tougher. I don’t know. I would probably be reluctant. But if my kid can learn what I learned from this game, I’d let him play. I think it’s worth the risk.”
Bill Parcells, Curt’s coach with the Patriots in 1995-96 and with the Jets in 1998-99, presented Martin to the gathered fans after helping him slip on his gold jacket at the dinner in the Canton Memorial Civic Center the night before.
”Curtis has tremendous compassion for his fellow man,” Parcells said. ”He is, I think, the poster child for what the NFL is supposed to be. You come into the league, maximize your abilities, you save your money, you make a smooth transition into society, and then you pass all those things on to other people. That’s what this guy has done.”
The Jets were represented at the ceremony by a strong contingent at the ceremony, led by owner Woody Johnson, president Neil Glat and GM Mike Tannenbaum, who helped orchestrate the restricted free agency offer sheet with Parcells that brought Martin from New England to the Jets in 1998. A number of current and former players were there also. I don’t have a complete list but I know Joe Namath was there, as were Kevin Mawae, Pete Kendall and current starting RG Brandon Moore. Eric Allen, Rich Gentile and the multimedia crew were also there, and we’ll have video of events from the weekend up on the Website shortly.
Some Curtis Memories
I couldn’t stay in Canton for Saturday’s festivities, but I knew I at least had to be on hand Friday to honor him. I don’t have any touchingly emotional stories, just small, telling glimpses about covering Martin for the Jets from 1998 through his glorious 2004 season and into 2006, when he tried and tried to get his body ready to play but knew his career was over.
There was the one training camp day at the Netherlands dining hall on the Hofstra campus, when this one beatwriter among many, covering the team for a smaller North Jersey newspaper, asked Martin on the way in to lunch if he had time to talk for a story. He said yes, but then he didn’t show, having taken the side door up to his dorm, no doubt for a nap before the afternoon practice. I accepted being stood up by a big-name player, no big deal, happened before.
Then as I was about to head back for the pressroom, Martin showed up and asked, “I forgot that I was going to talk with you. Do you still need me?” I sensed then the special qualities of No. 28.
He confided in me when he didn’t have to, for stories about goals for the season and playing in the pain that was his constant companion, although no one ever really knew because he never complained and never missed a game. I tried to get him to complain just a little about the way some reporters were willing to write him off one Jets season after a bad start due to some nearly crippling injuries.
“I probably would have written that I stunk, too,” he said.
And he had and continues to have a way with words. Like all other people in the media fishbowl, he revisits timeworn themes and familiar anecdotes during his interviews. But in the locker room day after day, he was never like the comedian on the road who recycles the same routine night after night. Curtis always looked in the questioner’s eyes and had a new word or two, a new phrase that resonated, a new way to make a particular point to reporters and the fans.
Such as Friday at his news conference. He spent perhaps a half-hour answering questions from all of us in the New York Jets media contingent as if he’d never heard them before. He gave details of the murder of his grandmother that he said he’d never detailed for a large interview session before. I’d never been up close to anyone who had bared his soul like that, and I was choked with emotion myself in trying to sum up the story to another reporter a few minutes later.
Being the New York Jets rep at this news conference, I had to ask Curtis about the recent announcement that the Jets will be retiring his uniform number on opening day, Sept. 9, at MetLife Stadium. It’s an honor that’s certainly not on the Canton level, yet I thought Martin might want to speak specifically about the Jets. And he did.
“New York has been the best time of my life,” he said. “I’ve appreciated both organizations that I have played for, but I’ve been at the Jets longer than I was at New England, three times as long as I was at New England. So between the city, the fans, the media and the team, the impact it’s had on my life, and now to be honored with Woody and the Jets deciding to retire my number, next to the Hall of Fame, I don’t know what would be bigger than that.”
Bravo one more time, Curtis. And we’ll see you again in September.
Tags: Bill Parcells, Canton, Curtis Martin, Fawcett Stadium, Mike Tannenbaum, Pro Football Hall of Fame, Rochella Martin, Woody Johnson
Posted in Randy Lange | 8 Comments »
Curtis Martin’s journey to the Pro Football Hall of Fame has very much been a theme for newyorkjets.com and for many other media and fan outlets since his quest began in early 2011 and came to fruition with his choice by the selection committee this past February. And it will continue to be something we’ll be involved in up to and through his enshrinement in Canton on Saturday, Aug. 4.
This afternoon, as the big day looms less than two weeks from now, Curtis made a stop for an international conference call with writers who wanted to chat with him for stories this week and next. He said even though the big day is drawing ever closer, he’s still kind of getting his grips on the event.
“I’m still having a problem really understanding that something that was so far outside of my dreams or my aspirations is actually happening right now,” he said. “I don’t think it hit me yet, and it may not hit me till I get to canton. But I’m definitely proud and appreciative of the moment.”
Something that always struck me about Martin was that even though he said he never aspired to this level, he was nevertheless always the consummate Hall of Fame-quality player throughout his career. And that includes not only fulfilling all his duties as a running back and team leader on the field, but off it as well.
Specifically, when he was in the locker room and talking with reporters before or after a game, he always knew exactly what to say and how to say it. That trait continued to come to the front during this conference call when, confronted with questions he’s answered any number of times, he still came up answers, in his inimitable football eloquence, that shed light onto his tremendous mindset as he went about fashioning his career as one of the great backs ever to play the game.
Here are a few highlights from the call that I gleaned for all the No. 28 fans out there:
Surely you must have dreamed about entering the Hall of Fame at some time during your career.
“That was never a dream. Football was never a dream for me,” he said. “I ended up playing football just to stay out of trouble and stay alive. Football was something my mother forced me to do just so I could grow up in the neighborhood I grew up in. The Hall of Fame wasn’t something I would even dream about dreaming about.”
Is there any player you looked up to and shaped your career after?
“I was never a football fan. I was never really a fan of the game. But when I played Pop Warner football, I wore a neck brace and goggles like Eric Dickerson. He might have been the closest player for me that I emulated when I played the game.”
Is there anyone you felt was your greatest opponent?
“For me there was a player like that on every team. I would always pick someone out. One of my favorite players to pick out was Ray Lewis. I always wanted to challenge him to see if I could win the game between us whenever we played Baltimore. But my biggest challenge was outdoing myself. Anytime I stepped on the field, I tried to out-compete myself. I don’t think anybody could compete with me as hard as I competed with myself.”
How about your legendary low fumble rate?
“I just took pride in it. I remember being a rookie, we were in [New England's] training camp and I fumbled the ball a couple of times. Bill Parcells made me carry the ball maybe for a week straight. I wasn’t allowed to be caught without the football. When I was eating lunch or eating dinner, I had the ball in one hand. When I was in meetings, I had the ball in one hand. He told the entire team to knock it out of my hands whenever they saw me and I was penalized if they were able to knock it out of my hands, even if we were in a meeting room. That kind of attention made me focus on the ball and that was a huge part of my game. I always felt that giving the ball up was letting my team down.”
What about your perhaps underrated skills as a receiver?
“I prided myself in being the best at whatever I needed to do. I’m very competitive. Even if I don’t like to do something, I’m determined to be the best at it. I don’t like second place, I don’t like playing second string. That’s just the way I’m wired. To me it wasn’t necessarily about being a good receiver out of the backfield. To me it was all encompassed in being a good running back. I wanted to be the best at everything I did.”
I never get tired of hearing Curtis Martin talk about football and I hope you don’t, either. We’ll have a few more stories about him as Canton looms before us. I’ll be making the trip to the Hall town to be at the big commemorative dinner on Friday, Aug. 3, and Eric Allen and our multimedia department will cover Curtis’ big day when he is officially enshrined at Fawcett Stadium, along with his 2012 classmates, Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Coleman, Cortez Kennedy and Willie Roaf, on Saturday night, Aug. 4.
Tags: Bill Parcells, Curtis Martin, Hall of Fame
Posted in Randy Lange | 60 Comments »
In just two months, Curtis Martin will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And before he makes that trip to Canton, we’ll talk to the legendary running back at the Jets Partner Summit on Thursday, June 7, and Jets Nation can tune in live to our exclusive show at 8:30 a.m.
“Curtis Martin: Countdown to Canton” will also be archived and available for view throughout the weekend and beyond if you can’t join us live.
Martin, who is the fourth-leading rusher in NFL history with 14,101 yards, rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first 10 seasons. That feat equaled an NFL record set by Barry Sanders for most 1,000-yard seasons to start a career.
On Aug. 4, Martin will become the 29th modern-era RB to join the Hall. Always a fan favorite, the humble Martin set a number of franchise records, including most rushing yards (10,302), most yards from scrimmage (12,741), most 1,000-yard rush seasons (7), most rush TDs (58) and most receptions by a RB (367).
If you have a question or comment for Curtis, please write us now on Facebook.com/Jets, on twitter @nyjets or right here with a comment to the Radar on newyorkjets.com. We will get to a couple of the questions during our visit. So remember to tune in to “Curtis Martin: Countdown to Canton” on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. or catch the archived show here on the site.
Tags: Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Posted in Eric Allen | 29 Comments »
Matt Slauson will be one of the guests of honor Monday night, April 16, when Our Time, a non-profit organization that has been helping children who stutter for over a decade, will hold its 10th annual benefit gala, “Tackling Our Fears, Defending Our Dreams,” at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.
Our Time continues annual tradition of celebrating an accomplished person who stutters by honoring Slauson, the Jets’ starting left guard.
“It’s truly an honor to be recognized by Our Time,” Slauson said. “As a person who has battled stuttering my entire life, I feel it’s important to help kids that are afflicted with this difficult problem. Whether overcoming this impediment completely or simply becoming more confident when speaking, I want kids who stutter to know they can be successful and accomplish anything they want to.”
Our Time will also bestow its first Advocacy Award to longtime supporter and Chair Emeritus, Budd Mayer. And the event will bring out some big names and professional artists for performances and presentations, including Rachel Dratch, Edie Falco, Victor Garber, Mariska Hargitay, Richard Kind, Jesse L. Martin, Matthew Modine, John Oliver, Ron Rifkin, Amy Ryan and cast members from “The Book of Mormon.”
For more information on the event, you can reach Our Time at 212-414-9696.
Curtis Checks Out Canton
At the beginning the week we brought word that Curtis Martin had selected Bill Parcells to be his presenter at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on Aug. 4. That came as part of Curtis’ visit to the Canton, Ohio, shrine to tour the Hall of Fame and meet with staff in preparation for his enshrinement.
You can go to the Pro Football HOF site here to read a short story on Martin’s visit and also watch a video in which Curtis talks about his career and his upcoming big day.
Tags: Bill Parcells, Curtis Martin, Hall of Fame, Matt Slauson, Our Time
Posted in Randy Lange | 73 Comments »