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A Final Predraft Visit ... from ESPN's Sal Pal


The Atlantic Health Training Center in Florham Park, N.J., is not only a grand new home for the Jets players and organization, but as a side benefit, it is also a magnet for NFL television megastars.

We had the full parade of league broadcasting teams come in here for production meetings during the season, of course, but already this off-season the Jets have gotten a number of visits, from ESPN's Chris Mortensen to SNY's Greg Buttle.

And today Sal Paolantonio is setting up shop in one of the glass-walled conference rooms on the AHTC's second floor.

Sal Pal is one of the very best NFL TV reporters in the game, and he was gracious enough, in between recording spots and meeting with Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, to sit with Eric Allen and myself for one more bonus show in this jam-packed week of "Jets Two-Minute Drive." (

But he is, after all, a product of Queens and Long Island before he moved down to Philadelphia newspapering and back northeast to Bristol, Conn., and ESPN. "Those were my teams growing up," he confided to me as we walked down to the spacious Jets Radio studio. "Jets and Mets."

EA's first question was about the new facility, and Sal didn't have to go far back in his memory to compare it to the Jets' previous home base. "This is spacious compared to Weeb Ewbank Hall back at Hofstra," he said.

My immediate thought was to ask Paolantonio about one of his most talked about early moments for the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Less than two years into his gig, he had the remote draft duty from Hofstra in 1997, reporting live from "the Weeb's" locker room before and after each Jets pick (while I and my fellow beatwriters were a few first downs away, sealed behind the green door in the old media room).

This, of course, was Bill Parcells' first draft as the Jets' football boss. Paolantonio remembered how the Jets traded the top pick of that draft twice to get down to No. 8 overall and take LB James Farrior. But when Parcells joined Sal Pal for that standup:

"All I could think about was Keyshawn Johnson's book, 'Just Give Me the Damn Ball!' We were even standing right in front of Keyshawn's locker. Bill always declined to talk about the book. We were on air and I asked him about it once and he said he didn't want to talk about it. I asked him again and he was a little more forceful about not talking about it.

"I asked him one more time about it and he rightly was upset. I didn't come back for day two."

Sal went on to report that he and Parcells have since reconciled and that the Tuna, now executive vice president of football operations for the Dolphins, was a valued resource for him as he wrote his book, "How Football Explains America" by Triumph Books, now in its fifth printing.

It is an excellent, well-argued idea book on where the game came from and where it's going, with many stops in between, such as alongside Joe Namath's lounge in Miami before Super Bowl III and for Parcells' short but telling stay at West Point on his way to the Giants, Jets and other teams.

As far as all the rumors about the Jets' interest in trading for Arizona WR Anquan Boldin or in acquiring another quarterback, Sal shared his intriguing thoughts about those topics with us and will again during his several-day stay here in my neck of the woods. I'll leave you to find his reporting on ESPN and his chat with EA and me on Jets Radio. His interview will be up on * *shortly.

Update, 10 p.m. — ESPN is reporting on its Bottom Line tonight that Tannenbaum told Sal Paolantonio that the Jets would like to trade up in the first round. There has been no statement about the Jets' trade intentions from the team.

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