Baker: Ancient Mariner, 'Total Package' at TE


Chris Baker with ball in hands at camp practice

Chris Baker sounded a tad creaky in between Tuesday's training camp practices.

"Definitely I'm feeling ... not old, but older," the Jets tight end said. "You're always learning as you get older. Your body's different, you've got to work a bit harder. If you ever get to the point where you feel like you can do everything, you're losing a step because everybody else is always trying to get ahead.

"Looking around, there's only maybe three or four guys who've been on the team as long as I have, and only two guys on the team when I got here — Laveranues [Coles], Chad [Pennington] and Shaun Ellis. And Laveranues left for two years."

It's almost enough to make us think Baker is ready to accept a green and gold watch from the Jets and start relaxing on that 24-foot bow rider that he keeps bobbing in the waves behind his Long Island house. Almost.

But this grizzled veteran, all of 27 and in his sixth NFL season, has learned a few tricks over the years, and maybe a new one is to lull opponents into thinking he's about to take a nap. However, he's been a wakeup call for the offense with decent blocking as usual and several nice receptions so far this summer.

There was the first practice of camp Friday, when he snared a Pennington pass and turned upfield with safety Kerry Rhodes in his wake.

"Beating Hollywood — that's always fun," he said.

Then at the end of Tuesday morning's longest practice of camp to date, he helped the offense complete a rebound from its first-half lethargy to a rousing win over the defense in live goal line drills. On the second play by the first O against the first D, Pennington faked to Thomas Jones and tossed to Baker, who had gotten free in the end zone and made the snag helmet-high.

"Yeah, that was our first live goal line drill of camp," he said. "I didn't know it was coming at that point in practice. But we installed the goal line, so we figured the way Coach Mangini is, whenever we ran it, it was going to be live."

Baker capped his day with a pair of short TD receptions from Pennington in team drills in the early evening practice.

"That doesn't say too much about our offense," Baker said of the morning goal line success. "The defense kind of kicked us around earlier in practice. So we had a little chip on our shoulders from that."

Besides a chip, the Jets offense has some C-Bake it can turn to more and more if it so chooses.

"I hope so. We have a lot of plays in the playbook for each player," Baker said. "Hopefully, I can show a few more things I can do and open up a few more of those plays. I've just got to work and see what happens."

But Baker, who was actually an unrestricted free agent for two weeks in March before re-signing with the Green & White, has gotten the confidence of coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Pennington, if last season's career highs in starts (14), receptions (31), yards (300) and touchdowns (four, matching 2004) are any indication.

"I've seen improvements in Chris ever since he was a rookie," Pennington said. "Every year he's gotten better. He came in as a strong run blocker. We knew he had good hands, but every year he's been able to hone those skills, really concentrate on the detail and try to put all those things together. He's got the total package."

And that came through last year even though Schottenheimer was installing his multiple bells and whistles and many players were swimming through camp and into the season.

Baker remembered that time a year ago even as he longs for a little boat time in the near future.

"I'd like to get to it at some point, maybe on our first day off," he said. "I'm going to get out there, relax, clear my head.

"But it's actually not that bad right now, knowing this offense. You're not swamped. It's not nearly as bad now that you know what's going on."

And Baker is ready to get out of his rocking chair and play whatever offensive role the Jets ask of him this season.

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