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Wayne Hunter: Man on a Mission

Posted Jul 29, 2012

New York Jets offensive tackle Wayne Hunter understands the importance of his job.

Obviously, the 2011 season didn’t turn out as Hunter had envisioned it would. Yet many seem to forget that it was his first season placed into a full-time starting role, as his previous eight years in the NFL were spent as a reserve.

Hunter committed a team-high 11 penalties and one independent Website charged him with giving up 8½ sacks a season ago. Those statistics surely don’t go unnoticed and cannot be erased.

But it’s a new season for the Green & White and Hunter’s approach is to look forward rather than back.

“You take it one practice at a time,” he said Friday. “I’m not trying to look to far down the road. As long as I get better every day, I’m satisfied with that and whatever the outcome is.“

With the trade last week for former first-round draft selection Jeff Otah from Carolina, Hunter, possibly more than ever, realizes he will be battling throughout training camp to keep his starting job.

Otah (6'6", 340) has proven during his four-year NFL career that he has talent. However the concern is if he can stay healthy, and at this point it’s unclear if he’ll ever officially put on a Jets uniform (he was placed on the Active PUP list on Wednesday).

If Otah does in fact get cleared, Hunter considers it extra motivation thrown his way.

“I always welcome any competition,” Hunter said. “They come in every year, so it’s no different this year. It’s just him being a higher profile guy coming in. I think it’ll push me as soon as he can get on the field.

“I know it’ll push me. I want to keep my job, so I’ll fight for it.”

Despite only having completed three days of training camp, the 6’5", 318-pound Hunter has impressed several of his teammates.

Rookie DE Quinton Coples stated he’s enjoyed going up against Hunter during drills in practice.

“He’s definitely a great offensive lineman,” Coples said. “I think the sky is the limit for him. He has great technique. He’s definitely a veteran in this game.”

Guard Matt Slauson added, “Wayne is playing like he can. He’s an incredible guy. You look at him and he has the body of a Greek god. The guy can tear people’s heads off.”

Time will determine whether or not Hunter will be the Jets’ starting right tackle for the second year in a row. But like Hunter said on the first day of camp, right now helping the team achieve its preseason mission is most important.

“You always talk about goals,” he said, “and our goal like every other team is to win a Super Bowl. That’s always our goal. It’s never going to change. You have to go through the steps to get there, obviously, and it all starts off with this first day, which ended up being really good.”
Preseason Live: New York Jets