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Baker Turns Down Heat, Prepares for Return


Baker finds the end zone during OTA's in June

Even though Chris Baker didn't practice with his teammates today, the veteran tight end was more at ease than he's been in months.

Baker, who voiced displeasure with his contract situation back in June and whose mind wandered at minicamp, says his representation and the Jets are in talks to find a reasonable solution.

"At least the two sides are talking," he said. "It's best that I let them handle that part of it but at least they're talking now, so that's a good thing. "

Not divulging too many details, the 6'3", 258-pounder spoke with reporters for about 10 minutes after practice. There will be no repeat of the Pete Kendall stalemate this summer as Baker wants to remain with the Green & White and contribute in 2008.

"I didn't feel like I was a part of the team the whole off-season, not being here and not knowing all the guys that are out here," he said. "I wanted to leave that part up to them [his reps and Jets management] and let them work that out, so when the season comes I'm ready to play."

The Jets placed Baker on the Active Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Monday but Bake doesn't expect to be there long. He worked out under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi this morning and is inching closer to donning a helmet and pads.

"I feel a little bit better each day and I'm pretty confident I'll be out there soon," he said.

Jets head coach Eric Mangini said his expectations are that Baker will return "sooner rather than later." Mangini acknowledges the business side of football and he didn't let Baker's previous complaints affect their relationship.

"Chris has been great. He has been excited about getting going. He and I have always had the same relationship," Mangini said at his news conference. "That hasn't changed, whether it was the OTA period or now, and what he's looking to do is get into the flow of camp and go and help the team, contribute. I can see that and that's what I would expect from Chris."

Last season, Baker set career highs in receptions (41) and receiving yards (409). In a Game 14 contest at New England, the Michigan State product hauled in a career-high eight passes. He also is considered a good blocker and the Jets added depth to the position in the off-season with the free agency signing of Bubba Franks and the first-round draft selection of Dustin Keller.

Baker talked today of "helping those two guys get ready, especially the rookie because he is learning the game itself and the offense at the same time."

Simmering until recently, Baker was relieved when his agents reached out to the Jets and they agreed to talk before camp.

"Probably a week ago, I still didn't have an idea of what was really, really going on and I still wasn't in a good mood," he said. "They started to at least talk and work towards something. Once they started to do that, then I had to completely switch my focus and really get ready to go out and have a good training camp."

Now Baker seems to be in a better mental state and ready for football. Any practice now, he'll be back catching passes for the Jets.

"It's encouraging because I wanted to come into camp and be ready to just get back on the field and concentrate just on football," he said. "The season's hard enough and I just wanted to really focus on that aspect of it and not be bitter and really be into the football aspect of it."

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