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Former GM (Bradway) Reflects on New Guy (Idzik)

Posted by Randy Lange on March 1, 2013 – 3:00 pm

We chatted up Terry Bradway on Thursday afternoon back in his office following his sitdown with Eric Allen on Jets Talk Live. And aside from the NFL Combine topics he hit on with EA in the interview, I wanted to get a few insights into Terry’s new boss, John Idzik.

Bradway’s a go-to guy on this subject. He’s been the Jets’ senior personnel executive since ’06 but from ’01-05 he was the Jets GM.

Needless to say, he wasn’t going to compare Idzik with Mike Tannenbaum, with whom he had a close relationship in the Jets’ front office for the previous dozen years. But John has brought his own past, procedures and personality with him from Seattle and Bradway has been impressed with the way the I-Era of Jets football has begun.

“Throughout his career he’s always been able to go out to a certain degree and cover players,” Bradway said, “and he’s been very involved in both free agency and the draft any place he’s been. He’s really is a good football guy.”

Idzik is also a people person, which obviously has come out early, from the team’s February personnel meetings through the combine. He’s formed opinions on many of the players who participated in the Indianapolis workouts, but he wasn’t going to dominate the discussions with the Jets scouts.

“John was very respectful of the scouts in terms of their presentations,” Bradway said. “He’s a great listener and I think he’s going to be able to generate great discussions and opinions as we come up with what we feel will be the final grades and evaluations on these players as we go into the draft.”

A small enhancement to the evaluations was an expansion of Bradway’s personal “+/N/–” combine grading system he’s used over the years. He puts a quick grade on each participant in each drill he watches each year — either a plus, “looked good,” an N, “looked average,” or a minus, “didn’t look good.”

This year he was joined in his grading by Idzik and new director of college scouting Jeff Bauer.

“This was the first time we’ve done it as a group,” he said. “It’s subjective, but it’s the eyeball test. It’s not the numbers — ‘Oh, he vertical-jumped 39′ — but it’s here’s how the guy moved, here’s how he did his position drills.”

If you haven’t seen EA’s interview with Bradway yet, the first half of the session was archived on NewYorkJets.com last night, and the second half should be available on the site this afternoon.


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Mike T Issues a Parting Statement

Posted by Randy Lange on December 31, 2012 – 2:43 pm

This is a tough day for us who work at the Atlantic Health Training Center. It’s another one of those days that comes around every so often before or after New Year’s Day on which the Jets begin to tear down and build back up again.

I’d been a part of these periods on the outside as a beatwriter in 1995 (Pete Carroll out), ’97 (Rich Kotite out), ’01 (Bill Parcells regime comes to an end) and ’06 — Herm Edwards to KC, Terry Bradway back to scouting, Mike Tannenbaum ascending to the GM’s office.

And today Mike T is cleaning out that office after owner Woody Johnson said he won’t be back for the ’13 season.

Here is Tannenbaum’s statement to the media, issued a short while ago this afternoon:

I want to thank Woody and his entire family for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime — serving as the General Manager of the New York Jets for seven years.

I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of rebuilding a winning tradition for Jets fans over the past 15 years. My days with Coach Parcells through my years as General Manager of the team that went to back-to-back AFC Championship games have been the fulfillment of a dream I have had since I was a little kid and I’ll always be grateful to Woody, the two head coaches, Rex and Eric, as well as all of the players, staff and the entire organization for this opportunity.

While of course it is disappointing to not achieve the ultimate goal of winning a championship, I am incredibly proud of our overall winning record and success. I feel very fortunate to have been the general manager who drafted cornerstone players during a period that yielded four playoff victories and 22 Pro Bowl appearances.

I appreciate that it is rare for someone to stay with one organization with such a wide range of responsibilities for so many years. My time with the Jets will always be special to me and my family and it has prepared me well for whatever comes next.

There are champions on this team that haven’t been crowned yet. I am confident that the base we’ve established will allow the New York Jets to continue a winning tradition for years to come and I wish everyone in the organization the best of luck.

As D’Brickashaw Ferguson said today in the locker room, “What happens now? I’ve only been here under one GM.” I could say the same: I’ve only been a Jets employee under one GM, who had a hand in welcoming me to the organization back in March 2007. But I know what I’ll do: More of what I’ve been doing the past six seasons, which is chronicling the people in the pads and the people upstairs who keep trying to rally all the champions on each team to bring home another championship trophy.

There were reasons for Johnson to make a forceful move concerning his GM’s office with an eye on the immediate future. In seeing certain developments over the past year or two, the owner’s in line with the many we’ve heard from over that span. Fans, beat reporters and columnists have all formed and expressed strong opinions about Tannenbaum’s seven-year tenure, and I won’t add to them now. But I do feel Mike should leave with a few positive words about his years on the hot seat.

For a while it looked like he might be the new model for NFL general managers of the new millennium. His creative salary cap management was often stunning, as were some of his draft-day trades. As assistant GM, he signed and brought in “the Four Aces” on time to 2000 training camp. His first two drafts as GM in ’06-07, the Jets picked Pro Bowlers Ferguson, Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis and a PB-caliber LB in David Harris. At the start of the ’11 camp, he was able to keep Harris in the fold as the last of the re-signed “Core Four.”

There were some trades and signings and non-signings that I as a fan of the team wished Mike T didn’t make, but that’s been the great thing about working for T and Woody Johnson, where a diversity of opinions was welcomed, from inside and especially from outside.

On a personal note, that was the best part of coming to work for the Jets. Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini had to sign off on the decision by then-EVP Matt Higgins and then-SVP Bob Parente to recommend bringing me, a former beatwriter and critic of the team, on board in ’07. Maybe T swallowed hard once or twice, but he welcomed me to the team from the start and never once suggested we take a particular point of view on newyorkjets.com. He accepted the consequences of making the Jets one of the most open teams in pro sports.

Revis was asked in today’s “baggie day” locker room session about Tannenbaum’s dismissal. At first he sounded hardened to the situation, but he quickly segued to the humanity of a departing leader.

“Everybody gets evaluated. In this business we get evaluated every week. It’s just the business side of it,” Revis began. “He did great things here for the last couple of years. It is really sad. You do not want to see anyone get fired or any players getting released in this manner but it happened. He had a great speech that he wrote in the team meeting. Guys clapped for him afterwards and felt sorry for him.”

Mike also crafted the statement above, which included unconditional thanks to the man who decided to end his tenure. And around the time media members were reading that first graph, Tannenbaum went from his second-floor office to the first-floor media room not to do a formal interview with the beats — that would have to wait for another day — but to thank the reporters for their coverage of him and his team ever since he arrived as Parcells’ “cap guy” back in ’97.

Does all that make Mike Tannenbaum a great GM who was done wrong today? No. As Laveranues Coles, T’s third-round pick in that famed 2000 draft made popular around Jets locker rooms, “It is what it is.” Tannenbaum is what he is, a football administrator who made some great moves and some moves that didn’t work out. He was dismissed on “Black Monday” but he’ll move forward, find a new job and start a new legacy. And we wish him the best.


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Landry Pleased to Get the Pro Bowl Call

Posted by jlholt32 on December 27, 2012 – 6:00 pm

LaRon Landry’s phone rang Wednesday afternoon and the person trying to reach him was Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

“At first I didn’t answer,” Landry told newyorkjets.com. “I was like, the GM called me, so I’m trying to figure out what the hell is wrong or what kind of insight he was trying to tell me.”

Landry would return Tannenbaum’s call once he made it home from practice and was relieved to know that he wasn’t in trouble.

“I’m contemplating the whole time, like, ‘What’s going on?’ ” Landry said. “But when I got home, I heard the news and it definitely was an honor.”

The news Tannenbaum passed along to No. 30 for the Green & White was that the sixth-year pro and first-year Jet had been selected to his first Pro Bowl. Landry joins CB Antonio Cromartie as Jets reserves on the AFC roster. The game will be played Jan. 27 in Honolulu.

“It’s definitely a bittersweet kind of situation,” Landry said. “Just to have the season we’ve been having, I just wish we could have made it to the playoffs, probably made it to the championship, and I’m sorry I couldn’t contribute to get into the playoffs. It’s sweet because it’s a goal that I’ve always been looking forward to getting, being six years into it.”

Landry was the sixth overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft and spent his first five years in the league with Washington. However, his final two seasons with the Redskins he played only a combined 15 games due to his heel injury. The Jets were aware of the injury when they signed him in March and have made sure he sits out of practice one day each week. The strategy has worked to perfection as the 6”0’, 220-pounder has played at a high level while not missing a game in 2012.

“It holds a lot of weight,” Landry said of being voted into his first Pro Bowl, “and it’s very valuable to my emotions because I was coming off a two-year injury.”

Fellow safety Eric Smith said he knew when Landry first arrived in Florham Park that he had the potential to make this year’s Pro Bowl roster, adding that he’s enjoyed his time as Landry’s teammate this season.

“He’s laid-back and has a good time,” Smith said, “but when it comes gameday, he’s focused.”

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine felt Landry was well-deserving of the recognition.

“I think LaRon really came on late in the year,” Pettine said, “when things started to click as far as the mental part of it and he was getting on the same page as everybody else.”

There wasn’t a particular moment this season when Landry said he realized he had a shot at making the Pro Bowl. He said he was only trying to be victorious with his teammates.

“It’s all about winning ballgames,” he said.

Heading into the Jets’ final game Sunday at Buffalo, the former LSU Tiger has produced four forced fumbles, two interceptions and one touchdown return. His Pro Bowl selection makes him the first Green & White safety to make the game since Erik McMillan did it 23 years ago.

“I’m just happy the way I got it with the Jets, coming off IR two years in a row,” Landry said. “It’s definitely a great accomplishment and it means a lot to me to be voted on by my peers of the NFL, coaches, and my fans.”

Landry has never previously visited Hawaii but has been told it’s a beautiful place. He’s glad he’ll be making the trip alongside Cromartie, his teammate in the secondary, and anticipates the experience to be one he’ll hold onto for a long time.

“It was definitely a goal,” he said, “and I didn’t do it alone. This organization as a whole, training staff, everybody within this organization helped me make it.”

Thursday Injury Report\

Greg McElroy’s concussion situation is detailed in our news story on head coach Rex Ryan’s decision to sit McElroy and start Mark Sanchez on Sunday at Buffalo. The good concussion news is that two Jets with head injuries, DE Muhammad Wilkerson and CB Ellis Lankster, have been passing their tests and both were limited in today’s practice. Also limited was WR Braylon Edwards, who didn’t practice Wednesday due to a hamstring/knee flareup.

Besides McElroy, KR-RB Joe McKnight (ankle/illness) didn’t participate in practice, nor did S LaRon Landry (heel), LB Bryan Thomas (chest), WR Chaz Schilens (knee), TE Dustin Keller (ankle) and CB Aaron Berry (hamstring). Berry late today was placed on injured reserve. All 15 other Jets on the injury report were full-go.

The Bills’ injury list, and in particular their “limited” section, grew today. Three DNPs from Wednesday all were limited — S Jairus Byrd (ankle), G Andy Levitre (knee) and DT Kyle Williams (ankle). Two other players were added to the list as limited in CB Justin Rogers (foot) and LB Chris White (hamstring).


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Mike T: J.Smith-for-Hunter Trade Now Official

Posted by Randy Lange on August 28, 2012 – 6:55 pm

Updated, 8: 10 p.m. ET

Mike Tannenbaum this evening gave reporters the ultimate final official word on the trade that sent Wayne Hunter to St. Louis and brought 2009 second-pick-of-the-draft Jason Smith to the Jets: It’s official.

“I want to thank Wayne for everything he’s done,” the GM said .”I really wish him well, and he’s going to see a lot of familiar faces in St. Louis. We won a lot of games with Wayne. And with that said, now we’re looking forward to Jason.”

Tannenbaum said Smith, entering his fourth NFL season, could play “a couple of snaps” in the Jets’ preseason finale at Philadelphia on Thursday night. But Mr. T stressed that the plan now is that Austin Howard, who replaced Hunter as the RT starter on Sunday night against Carolina, is the starter going forward and Smith is the Jets’ new backup LT and RT and blocking TE.

Why didn’t Smith succeed as a Ram? “It could’ve been a number of things,” Tannenbaum said, “the coaching change, some inconsistencies there. For us, it was more about what we think he can do. He has very good movement skills for somebody his size [6'5", 308], he can play both sides, we like his range. Again, I think he has to learn from what happened in St. Louis, but with that said, he’s coming here with a fresh start.”

Some reporters probed the GM on if that fresh start could lead to a fresh starter down the road. A natural question given Smith’s high draft status, but Tannenbaum, while stating only the current plans, gave the background that led him, head coach Rex Ryan, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and OL coach Dave DeGuglielmo to giving Howard the chance to win the starting role.

“That was an evaluation that was going on in Cortland every day, watching Austin in 1-on-1s,” he said. “It’s good to have the competition we have, to go against Aaron Maybin, Calvin Pace and Quinton [Coples] every day, and Austin was really starting to hold his own more and more. It’s like, ‘This looks pretty good. OK.’ Then he goes out against Cincinnati and looks OK. Then the Giant game he played pretty well. Then obviously there were more reasons to be encouraged against Carolina.”

Speaking of Maybin, Tannenbaum would sure like to see Smith blossom into a success story as has Maybin, the 11th overall pick in that ’09 draft who enters his second season as a Jet as one of their biggest big-play makers on the defensive side of the ball.

“Sure, we hope so. Sometimes they work out that way,” he said. “Sometimes a change of scenery works, sometimes it doesn’t.

“Aaron deserves all the credit for Aaron. He’s worked incredibly hard, he’s a great person, he comes in with great enthusiasm. And Jason’s set up for success. His work ethic and character are tremendous. All the research we did on him leads us to believe he’s going to come in and give himself the best chance to be successful.”

Injury Rundown

Rex’s rundown on the injured Jets’ availability for the Sept. 9 season opener vs. Buffalo:

“My biggest concern will be Eric Smith, I think, right now. That’s probably our biggest concern with his hip.”

“I feel good about [Jeff] Cumberland, David [Harris], Yeremiah Bell and Dustin [Keller] with his hamstring. Unless something happens there, we feel pretty confident all those guys will be ready to play.”

WRs Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens: “I think all three will play in the opener. Schilens seems to be getting better each day. It was good to see Tone out there [vs. Carolina], and Jeremy did a nice job on punt return.”

“Sione [Po‘uha], by the way, I think he’s doing much better right now.”

Practice Notes

This evening the Jets announced they have been awarded punter Spencer Lanning off of waivers from Cleveland. Lanning, the first-year man out of South Carolina, lost the Browns’ punting battle to ex-Jet Reggie Hodges, but actually had better numbers than Hodges in the preseason with a 50.5-yard gross and a 43.5 net on four punts. “We brought in a punter who’ll compete with T.J.,” Tannenbaum said. “I wouldn’t rule out further changes between now and Friday and probably through the weekend.”

 Joe McKnight was excused for personal reasons from today’s practice. … G Brandon Moore underwent a minor medical procedure and was also not at practice.


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Pennington’s Back on Sidelines…Today Only

Posted by Randy Lange on August 14, 2012 – 12:19 pm

Updated, 1:45 p.m. ET

A familiar face, with that familiar body lean and that familiar touseled blond hair was recognizable on the Jets’ sidelines at today’s training camp practice at SUNY Cortland even without his familiar No. 10 jersey. Chad Pennington is here for a visit and perhaps a little quarterback consultation on the side.

“Coach Sparano, Coach Ryan and Mike asked me to come up for the day,” said Pennington, that old Southern drawl sounding as calm and reassuring as it always did in the early part of the new millennium. “I’m actually going to be making a corporate appearance at MetLife Stadium tomorrow, so it worked out perfectly to come up here, visit training camp and see some familiar faces and friends and watch practice.”

Pennington’s presence resonates on so many levels here today. Besides his ties as a former Jets first-round draft choice — a member of the “Four Aces” draft class of 2000 that then-assistant GM Mike Tannenbaum got signed in time for the ’00 training camp — and their starting signalcaller around those traumatic shoulder injuries from ’02 through ’07, he has that Aqua & Coral connection. When Brett Favre came in, Pennington went to the Dolphins. Who just happened to be led in ’08 by first-time head coach Tony Sparano. And who just happened to be running a little number known as the Wildcat, with Ronnie Brown in the ‘Cat-bird’s seat.

Rex Ryan invited Pennington in to talk to the team and Chad told my partner Eric Allen on newyorkjets.com that his theme was that the game of football is a players’ game.

“With all the analysis that goes on around the game of football, fantasy football, all the entertainment value to the game, it’s still a players’ game,” Pennington said. “That’s where the magic lies, when you take a group of players, mesh them together and go after one common purpose, one goal. That’s what makes the game great.”

Pennington also chatted with reporters today and the early questions were about all those topics, such as Mark Sanchez’s development and Tim Tebow’s arrival and Sparano’s input into this intriguing story of making the Wildcat a significant part of the Jets’ offensive approach for 2012.

For fans who want to hear Chad chatting about Jets football once again, he moved into the studio with my partner, Eric Allen, for today’s Jets Talk Live show on newyorkjets.com. Pennington stepped into the lineup for Mark Sanchez, who was originally scheduled for the show but couldn’t make it. The show began streaming around 12:45 p.m. ET, beginning with EA’s interview with Bart Scott, and will be archived on our site shortly.

For all the rest of you who can’t wait and want to get one more Chad fix, here’s a partial transcript of his impromptu news conference with reporters this morning:

On what he’s seen of Sanchez…

Pennington: I think from what I’ve seen from afar and now being here, Mark is throwing the ball better than I’ve ever seen him throw. He’s got excellent control with his throws and his ball placement, and also just his body language and how he’s carrying himself in and out of the huddle, I think he’s doing an outstanding job. I think he’s definitely gotten better over the offseason and really made a point to take it up to the next level. And kudos to him for doing that because that’s a decision that you have to make as a professional, to listen to the criticism and then do something about it, and he’s certainly done that.”

On his experience with the Wildcat and how it affects quarterbacks…

Pennington: Most of the time in the Wildcat, you’re still calling the play as the quarterback, you’re just lining up different. To me as a quarterback, what’s the difference in taking a snap and handing the ball off and lining up at receiver? There’s really no difference. You’re involved in the game, you’re involved in the playcalling, and really and truly, it’s about finding an edge as a team. And if this can provide a spark and provide an edge for this team, I think it can be a great weapon, because whether you use the Wildcat or not, a team has to prepare for it week in and week out.

And it’s something that you can do so many things with other than your typical Wildcat formation. There’s all kinds of things you can do, personnel groups and plays, so it can become an X-factor. I think the key to the whole system is that the players make it their own. That’s what it’s about. Coaches coach, players play. The game is still about the players in between the white lines. As long as they take ownership in the system and handle it right in the locker room, it can be a neat story and a good, solid, successful story for them going into the season.

On Tim Tebow running the Wildcat compared to Ronnie Brown in Miami…

Pennington: Obviously, Tim adds another threat with the ability to do the zone-read concepts as well as being able to throw the football, and that totally changes a defense’s perspective. Now they always have to have a free safety in the middle of the field because of the threat of the pass. The Wildcat for us in Miami was a great short-yardage package, a great red-zone package. And points are a premium in this league. Games are won and lost by minimal amounts. And so anytime you can find an advantage somewhere, you want to exercise that and use that.

On adjustments a QB has to make in running it…

Pennington: If you are totally focused on winning, there’s no adjusting because you’re going to do what it takes to win. And the beauty about this league is there is no BCS ranking, there’s no computer guru, it’s either a W or it’s an L. And if the package allows you to win and be more successful at winning, you’re going to be all for it as a player. That’s the key, because I can promise you after a win, whether it’s 7-6 or 37-36, it’s much better than a loss on Monday mornings.

On quarterbacks who say the Wildcat inhibits their rhythm during a game…

Pennington: Well, I think that’s selfish. I think if you think as a quarterback that this game is solely about you, you’re sadly mistaken. This is the greatest team game ever invented, and this is not an individual game, and so for a quarterback to grip about whether he’s getting in rhythm or not — grab the football, make a play. That’s what it’s about, that’s what your teammates are asked to do. There are some guys that only get 10 snaps, and their performance and whether or not they have a job on a team is based on those 10 snaps. You think they’re worried about getting into a rhythm? They only have 10 opportunities. So I think that’s something that as a quarterback, I understand that, but at the same time, if you’re truly focused on winning, you’re going to do what it takes to win.

On how Sanchez has handled the situation since the trade for Tebow…

Pennington:  I think he’s done a great job and I think the key is their room, how they handle it as a room. It’s not just about the starter, it’s about the quarterback room and having the right relationship with each other as well as with your coaches and your playcaller. You have to be an extension of your coach out there because they can’t walk out there on the field with you. And the most important thing is communication, talking things out, understanding you’re in here for one reason and that’s to win and you’ve got to talk things out. And as long you keep open the lines of communication and you’re up front, I don’t think it’s a problem

On Sparano’s presence in implementing the Wildcat…

Pennington: Well, winning keeps everybody happy, number one, but I think Tony Sparano is a perfect hire for this team. I think he brings an edge to the offense. You can see him. He’s fiery, he’s a go-getter, he’s a grinder. And I think they’re going to like what Tony brings to the table. Tony understands the game is not played on the chalkboard, it’s played out in between the white lines, and it’s a game that has a human element to it. We try to make it Madden/PlayStation all the time and it’s not. They’re not robots out there. There’s a human element to this game. That’s why we love this game, because of all the different stories and intriguing things that come from the game.

On why Sparano’s so good at coaching the ‘Cat…

Pennington: I think what Tony brings to the table is he’s not worried about the next job or he’s not worried about the next promotion. He’s been at every level, be it head coach, coordinator, college, pro, high school. He’s here to win, and whatever it takes to win, he’s not going to allow his own personal interests or anybody else’s personal interests get in the way of the team winning. And that’s what it’s about.


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Looking Back on Curtis Martin’s Hall of Fame Week

Posted by Randy Lange on August 5, 2012 – 11:59 am

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.”

You can read Martin’s full acceptance speech here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Website.

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.


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Time to Power Down? Thomas Isn’t Letting Up

Posted by Randy Lange on June 15, 2012 – 9:43 am

Now begins the time on the NFL calendar for players to power down, recharge and gear up for the hard six or seventh months ahead.

With the end of the Jets’ minicamp, said veteran guard Brandon Moore, it’s time for “some rest, conditioning, lifting, getting ready for camp and just enjoying your free time because you won’t have any for a while. If you feel like it, a little extra time with your [play]book, just open it up and keep things fresh for a little bit. Get away. As a coach told me a long time ago, just enjoy your time with your family.”

Most players have already begun doing just that. But one Jets vet, even more senior than Moore, will be bucking the trend.

“My intention from day one of camp is to be back 100 percent, not taking any drills off, going through everything at 100 percent full speed,” said linebacker Bryan Thomas. “So that’s why I’m going to pretty much stay here the whole time.

“I pretty much go home every now and then at this time of year,” he added, “but this is new for me. You want to get away, enjoy your family, enjoy your kids. This is not something I normally do.”

BT has been making fine strides from last year’s Achilles tear at Baltimore and the subsequent surgery and rehab. He did participate in the minicamp on a limited basis.

“Bryan was in for pass drills only, but he took a couple of snaps with the team as well,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “He actually looked good running around, so that was encouraging.”

“Over these three days of the minicamp, I got some good work in. I felt pretty good,” Thomas said. “Hopefully I’ll be 100 percent once I come back, pretty much just trying be 100 percent so I can do all the drills and not limited drills.”

Thomas has been a steady performer for the Jets since they made him the 22nd overall pick of the 2002 draft out of Alabama-Birmingham. He’s had 31 career sacks, six fumbles forced and six recovered, his first pro interception in the Jets’ most recent playoff game at Pittsburgh in the 2010 AFC title game, and 438 tackles.

He had played in 124 consecutive games, including playoffs, until going down against the Ravens last year. It was natural speculation —and Thomas even said the thought crossed his mind as well — that his Jets career and maybe his NFL career might have just ended.

That’s not the way Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets saw it. They re-signed him in March, knowing the hard work he’d put in to get back to contributing to the defensive effort.

Thomas riffed on the Ryan/Mike Pettine scheme that he’ll be entering for the fourth season.

“I love it. I wouldn’t change anything about it. You can’t help but love it,” he said. “Pretty much all the guys, you have so many different things you have to learn. That’s what’s so unique about it. You’re not just stationary. Some defenses, you might see the right end just comes out at right end the whole time.

“This defense is multiple — multiple personnel, multiple formations — and you can’t help but love it. I’ve been here for four years. I love the defensive staff’s coaching style, just their attitude toward things. We’ve brought in a new D-line coach, Karl Dunbar. He’s been great. I get to work with him a little. He’s been very informative. And Mike Smith, he’s with the outside linebackers full-time now. He’s doing a really good job.”

Thomas is doing well as well. Will he be full-go for Cortland in late July? Will he retain his starting job? Will there be bumps in the road for BT on the way to Buffalo on opening day?

That remains to be seen. But for the next five weeks, Thomas will be at his North Jersey home away from home, chilling a little yet working a lot toward his 100 percent goal.


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Tony’s O: ‘I’m Excited About the Possibilities’

Posted by Randy Lange on May 3, 2012 – 4:08 pm

It had been a while since reporters had heard from Tony Sparano, and so today the Jets’ new offensive coordinator checked in with “the beats” on a conference call. To give you an idea of how hard he’s pushing it already at the start of May, his call was scheduled to begin at 2:15 p.m. ET, but he wasn’t able to break out of his offensive meetings until after 2:50.

And when Sparano talks, people listen. It’s not because of what he says about his players because like Rex Ryan he generally speaks positively about the players he’s working with, and what he says behind those meeting room doors will stay there.

As he said when a writer said that the players have described his style as “no-nonsense” and how would he describe his approach to those players, he replied, “Non-nonsense, honestly.”

Expanding on that terse retort, Sparano said, “My approach has been to spend very little time talking about things that happened in the past and worry about what’s ahead for us. We know we have to improve, every one of us. I have to be a better coach. From the players’ standpoint, we all have to do the job there. My deal with the players now is that we have a handshake deal — I’m going to give you my best effort every single day, you can bet on that, and I expect the same from the players on this side of the football.”

As for particulars, Tony had plenty. Eric Allen, my partner, will have a news story about the favorite topic of the day, which was Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, even a dash of Greg McElroy, the Wildcat, improvement behind center, and managing the QB situation. I’ll give you a few of the other topics that Sparano handled with his typical informational tone provided with his Connecticut/Massachusetts lilt that, somehow sounded to me as if it had a little Chicago thrown in, although to my knowledge Tony S has never worked in the Windy City.

Offensive weapons in general — “Honestly, I’m very excited about it. One of the things I felt coming in here were just some of the outstanding parts here, I think Coach Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum have done a great job that way, in putting together some of the pieces here. Our tight ends, even some of the young players at the position, we’re anxious to see how they develop. The wide receivers, we’re anxious to see how Jeremy Kerley will come along, Tone and his ability out there, then you add a player like Stephen Hill to that group. I was part of drafting Pat Turner in Miami, so to see how he’s developed, a lot of these players have developed really well along the way. … I’m excited about the possibilities we have.”

Santonio Holmes’ skill set — “I think he has special ability. There’s an interesting take when you’ve been on the other sideline, in the other room preparing for the players the Jets have here right now, having to figure out how you’re going to handle Dustin Keller, Santonio Holmes, or the running game with Shonn Greene and that offensive line. I think this guy has really special ability. He can catch it and run with it. He makes the hard catches, the acrobatic catches. He works really hard at it. The guy wants the football. The thing I’ve noticed about Tone in my time being around this guy is that he’s a competitive guy. I like that. With the skill players, I just love that fact that those guys love to compete.”

Shonn Greene and the backfield — “I’ve been really, really impressed with Shonn. First of all from the mental standpoint, this guy’s excellent. He sees the field really well, he’s got a good understanding of what’s going on at that position. … Those guys have so many things to think about in terms of protections, the different run keys and so on. He’s working hard this offseason and I’m excited about what’s going on. We have a good group of young players. Joe McKnight I’m excited about, Bilal Powell, and John Conner, having a fullback go in and block you. This is an exciting group of players to work with.”

Wayne Hunter and the right tackle spot — “We obviously have a long time to go here before we get to opening day. Rex might’ve mentioned this before as well, but when I was in Miami, Wayne was coming up prior to the Jets re-signing him. We thought an awful lot about him and we wanted to bring him down there at that time. I had some history with him, I know his college line coach really well, I know what he’s thought of Wayne. Wayne has been tremendous here right now with us. So I’m excited about it, all those guys up front. It’s a good group with some good players up there and some good young players coming through as well.”

Sparano was also asked what he’s thought so far of working with Rex in the same complex rather than working against him on opposite sidelines.

“Honestly, it’s been tremendous,” he said. “I can’t thank Rex and Mike and Mr. Johnson for giving me this opportunity here. But getting a chance to work with him every day now, being around him every day — it’s contagious. … The way he coaches, Rex Coaches with a passion. He cares about his players, he wants to win so bad. You just want to be around people like that. For me, I wanted to be on a team where winning is the priority and there’s lot of passion and enthusiasm. That’s what I have here right now. So I love it. Rex has been great for me and I just want to be able to return the favor.”

There’s not a lot of controversy here, but there’s a sense that “No-Nonsense” Sparano has rolled up his sleeves and has gotten to work. He’s not going to tell you everything that’s going on, but we know he’s focused on the future, not the past. And his work will soon be on display, at the rookie and full-squad minicamps and for all to see in Cortland beginning in less than three months.


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Mike, Rex, Joey Put a Bow on Draft Weekend

Posted by Randy Lange on April 28, 2012 – 10:02 pm

Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan and Joey Clinkscales came downstairs from the war room one final time this draft weekend to share their thoughts with the Jets reporters still holding their draft vigil in the media wing of the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.

No one knows better than Mike T of the perils of any draft and how it may or may not work out. But as he summed up for reporters and fans alike: “I do like what we got accomplished.”

The Jets made five picks today since Mike and Joey (minus Rex, plus Terry Bradway) made their last appearance. They did talk about those third-day picks, but questions naturally still involved those three studs drafted in the first three rounds.

“I’m going to be excited to see what these guys,” Tannenbaum said, referring to Rex and his coaches, “do with Quinton [Coples] week in, week out. Stephen Hill, he gives us something we haven’t had in terms of size and speed. Demario Davis, what we liked about him was that he’s a little bit different than what we have. He has speed that Bart [Scott] and David [Harris} don’t have.”

Ryan fielded a question about Hill, the Georgia Tech wideout, being considered a starting WR from day one. Rex didn’t flinch, and his answer segued into an interesting discussion of what Coples’ presence now means for the defensive line.

“Do I think Stephen Hill will start? Yes, I do,” Ryan said. “I think anytime you draft a guy that high … I used to tell [Ravens GM] Ozzie Newsome the same thing: ‘How are the teammates going to look at it?’ Well, they proved in college that’s why you had them there [on the board]. You had a vision for those players. That’s why you took them.”

And Ryan added, with Coples, the North Carolina DE, that’s what you’re looking at, too, a new starter in the front line of defense. And yet it’s not quite as cut and dry as that.

“It doesn’t mean this player or that player’s not going to start. There’s so many different roles, so many things they can start on, sub team, things like that. They’re all going to play significantly.”

The Coples introduction into the D-line rotation, for example, could impact Mike DeVito. Ryan acknowledged that, yet certainly sees DeVito in very important roles ahead.

“I can tell you this about Mike DeVito — he’s an outstanding football player, no question about it,” the coach said. “Some guys come in as free agents and are real success stories. Mike’s one of those players. I know he’s a tremendous player. But to explain his exact role, I really don’t feel I can do that right now.”

It’s all about the packages.

“Sione [Pouha]‘s in the middle, Kenrick [Ellis] is in the middle and all that. We do have unusual depth right now,” Ryan said. “We really have it set up where we can do a lot of things with those fronts. Quinton Coples, he’s not going to play 70 snaps a game for us, but he’s definitely going to have a huge role in our defense.

“I remember Bill Walsh would take nine defensive linemen to games. I’m not saying we only need seven offensive linemen, but you want to have guys that are fresh to rush the quarterback, ideally in the fourth quarter. I think the more of these guys you get, the better it is for your team. We’re excited to have all these guys, excited to have the depth we have.”

Another thing that excites Ryan is the Demario Davis deal. He went through the measurables and then added some intangibles of the ILB from Arkansas State.

“He’s a gifted athlete without question. And he’s a very mature young man, a leader in their locker room. He’s got a great presence about him,” Ryan said. “He reminded me of a young Bart Scott when he came in. You see a lot of the same qualities that Bart possesses. I just think it’s going to be great, Bart as a mentor for this young man. I think it’s an ideal situation to come in to with him and David. Nick Bellore I thought was a tremendous pickup for us last year and he’s been outstanding this year in the weightroom. And Josh Mauga. We’re as deep as we’ve ever been there at the inside linebacker position.”

Tannenbaum summed up today’s picks with a few observations that will be elaborated on in the coming weeks as these players arrive for next weekend’s rookie minicamp, get integrated into the veteran core for the mid-June full-squad minicamp and training camp beyond:

S Josh Bush: “We feel good about Josh. He’s going to come in and compete.”

RB Terrance Ganaway: “We feel good about him and about Robert Griffin, who were Baylor teammates. He’s a bigger back and we were looking for something different from the rest of the depth chart.”

Griffin: “He had a great visit. Rex and Joey and I, we like him a lot.”

S Antonio Allen: “We were pleasantly surprised we could get him where we did. He was very productive at South Carolina, very versatile.”

WR Jordan White: “He’s a great kid and we think he can come in and not only play but help us on special teams.” White returned punts his last two seasons at Western Michigan.

Clinkscales wasn’t called on much at this newser until the end, when the Jets’ vice president of college scouting was asked if, now that the draft is over, he can clear up those rumors about him leaving for the Oakland Raiders to work under new GM Reggie McKenzie, his former Tennessee Vols teammate back in the Eighties.

“I expect to be here,” Clinkscales said. “My job is talent evaluator. I understand where the connection comes in. Reggie and I played high school ball and college ball together. I’ve known Reggie forever. But this is where I started and this is where I intend on being.”


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With First 3 Picks, Speed Is Added to the Mix

Posted by Randy Lange on April 27, 2012 – 11:54 pm

There have been and will continue to be a variety of opinions on the Jets’ first three selections of their 2012 draft. But one thing the draft triumvirate of GM Mike Tannenbaum, VP of college scouting Joey Clinkscales and senior personnel executive Terry Bradway stressed in their Draft Day 2 wrapup news conference late this evening was that the threesome provided a commodity the Jets need.

“One thing we did today and yesterday,” said Bradway, “was that we improved the speed of the team.”

“First of all, we wanted to get the best player available, stick to our board as much as possible,” said Clinkscales. “But I’m sure that was in our mind. We wanted to get faster. The league is getting faster, and it’s important for us to add that as well.”

North Carolina DE Quinton Coples put his get-the-quarterback 4.78-second speed on display at the NFL Combine in February. Hill has a rare combination of size and speed that enabled him to, well, not exactly boast but predict to Clinkscales that he would turn in a 40 time in the 4.3’s.

“In our interview at the combine, that’s exactly what he said,” said the Veep, “and he did it.”

And Demario Davis flashed anywhere from 4.5-4.6 speed at linebacker to help him flash to opposing ballcarriers, whether they’re heading into the hole of for the flanks, and then apply his strength and tackling skills to drop them in their tracks.

“I think we’re off to a good start,” said Tannenbaum. “We got Quinton on the first day, then Stephen Hill, we were excited about that. And we feel we improved the athleticism at the inside linebacker position. There’s other things we want to get done. We’ll see what happens. Not to manage expectations but Matt Slauson, a starter for us, we got in the sixth round.”

One position not addressed yet is the O-line. Mr. T was asked about that and replied:

“There’s a number of young players on our offensive line. Wayne Hunter’s back for another year and he’ll be competing for a position here, and there’s Caleb [Schlauderaff], Austin [Howard], Vlad [Ducasse]. We really did stick to our board, and at the time we took the highest-rated player on our board all three times.”

Asked to clarify his statement about Hunter competing for the RT position, T said, “I’d say Wayne’s our right tackle now. The offensive line we’ve said we’ll continue to monitor.”

And Vlad? “He’s at right tackle now, too. We’ll look at that once we get through the draft.”

One thing Tannenbaum assured, no surprise really: “I think our roster will continue to evolve. We’ll try to sign another veteran player here and there, depending on how tomorrow and on how the spring goes.”

Every rock, every day.

Draft Notes

With no fourth- and fifth-round picks now, the Jets will enter Saturday and the final day of the draft with five selections — three in the sixth round (Nos. 187, 202 and 203) and two in the seventh (Nos. 242 and 244). Assuming they use all five, they will have spent eight picks on players this year, the most in a draft since Tannenbaum, in his first draft as the Jets’ GM, used 10 picks.

Hill is only the fifth Georgia Tech player selected by the Jets in the draft. The last Yellow Jacket taken was also the Jacket taken highest by the Jets, DE Coleman Rudolph, who was grabbed with the 36th selection of the 1993 draft.

In case you didn’t catch this UNC trivia, Quinton Coples is only the seventh North Carolina player to be drafted by the Jets and the first first-round Tar Heel. The last time the Jets went to Chapel Hill for a Heel, they took two. In the 1997 draft they tabbed DT Rick Terry with the first pick of Round 2, the 31st selection overall, and two rounds later they tabbed “The Natural,” RB-KR Leon Johnson, in Round 4. One other popular Carolina player drafted by the Jets was LB Eddie Mason, a sixth-rounder in 1995.


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