A Successful Island Homecoming for the Jets

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8/12/09 Training Camp Practice Photos at Hofstra

More than 6,500 fans came out to Hofstra University's Shuart Stadium for a Jets reunion Wednesday evening. Rookie head coach Rex Ryan, son of former Jets assistant Buddy Ryan, led his team through a brisk 90-minute walkout at their former home base.

"This is outstanding for us, to come back here and be where a lot of the fan base of the New York Jets really is. It's great to come out today and see all the fans. Our players know, we're doing like a half hour of autographs, so I saw a lot of new haircuts and I saw Kareem Brown run with a ball for 80 yards, so you can tell it was special tonight," Ryan said while his team mixed with the fans afterward.

Brown, who made the off-season transition from defensive line to tight end, looked like a natural route runner as he hauled in a long strike over the middle from rookie QB Mark Sanchez in 7-on-7 work. With a lot of FieldTurf ahead, Brown didn't stop running.

"It was a sharp, efficient, short practice," Sanchez said. "That's exactly the way Coach Ryan wanted it and I got a few completions, offense looked good, defense looked good. It was exactly what we needed."

While the Jets called Hempstead, N.Y., home until last August, all Sanchez has known in his short professional career has been Florham Park, N.J., and Cortland, N.Y. The talented rook received a lot of New York cheers after he zipped a short ball to Wallace Wright and his favorite camp target got a good chunk of yards after the catch.

"This is pretty special. The veterans told me about it, they just said get ready for an electric atmosphere and that's exactly what our Jets fans brought," said the Southern Cal product. "The Green & White looked great tonight. It was just a blast to see all the fans like this."

Kellen Clemens directed a first-team offense that was less than full strength. C Nick Mangold (knee) and LG Alan Fancea (finger) watched the workout and RT Damien Woody (head) was not on the field. They were replaced in the lineup by Rob Turner, Stanley Daniels and Wayne Hunter respectively and the Jets' line will be less than full strength Friday evening when New York's AFC representative kicks off the preseason schedule against the St. Louis Rams.

"We have a lot of confidence in those guys," Clemens said. "I think they shouldn't miss a beat."

Ryan has named Clemens the starter for the preseason opener and Sanchez will follow, but neither is likely to play all that much. Erik Ainge will get the bulk of the snaps at the Meadowlands and he could be in early with the Jets being a little banged up.

"I don't think we'll go as long with those two [Clemens and Sanchez] as we would have liked to," Ryan said in reference to the juggled line. "That's why we did a two-minute here and Ainge was leading the two-minute drill to the second quarter and Harvard [Chris Pizzotti] was leading the fourth quarter. So it did affect our plans a little bit."

But gray skies didn't ruin the Jets' return trip to Long Island. The crowd was charged and noisy throughout the workout. It was like old times.

"I've been a Jets fan my whole life," said Joe, a Brooklyn native. "I was really sad to see them go [to Florham Park] but whatever is going to get them to the Super Bowl, whether it's here or Taiwan — whatever it takes."

After the 30-minute autograph session officially closed, Leon Washington was still out there signing, posing for photos and talking up a storm.

"This is great, man," said Washington, a fan favorite. "You can see how it is out here. You can barely leave. Everyone is chanting our names and they miss the Jets so much. I miss Long Island, man. Hopefully, we can make this day an annual event. My first three years I spent there on Long Island and I have love here on Long Island." 

Practice Highlights

Clemens attempted to connect with Jerricho Cotchery on a long heave, but Lito Sheppard displayed his closing speed and came up with a nice PD on a ball that was almost picked.

There were a pair of thefts. Corner Ahmad "Batman" Carroll made a good read on a Pizzotti pass and hauled in his first INT of camp. Then right at the conclusion of practice, Emanuel Cook, an undrafted free agent safety from South Carolina, made a one-handed grab.

The Jets signed K Parker Douglass. A South Dakota State alum, Douglass was in camp with the Browns until July 31. To make room for Douglass, the Jets waived WR Huey Whittaker.

Ryan headed over to Chris Mortensen's bus for an interview as Mort's ESPN Tour stopped at Hofstra. We shot a Jets TV piece with Mort earlier this afternoon and he is an incredibly gracious gentleman.

You can put those Thomas Jones trade rumors to rest. "I promise you, that's ridiculous," Ryan said incredulously. "I'd like to know what we could get for him. Shoot, I'm not going to trade that, you know what I'm all about. This guy is huge in our plans. I'm not going to trade a running back that led the AFC in rushing. I would for three first-round picks and something like that, maybe, but we ain't dealing him. No way."

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