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Bellore, Berning: Fast Friends ... Competitors

For many veteran players, training camp is purgatory, an extended period during the summer spent in blistering heat, listening to coaches preach the same fundamentals they did last year and the year before.

For rookies, and especially undrafted rookies, camp is the first stage of the preseason gauntlet by which they earn the right to don an NFL uniform.

Matthias Berning and Nick Bellore were college teammates at Central Michigan for the past four seasons. Both were signed last month by the Jets, and both are competing for roster spots.

"It's nice to know somebody once you come in here and not have to start from scratch," said Berning. "At the same time, he's obviously a very good player, and just looking at the big picture, he's just one more guy to compete against."

The two developed a friendship during their time at Central Michigan, and are once again on the same field together. Bellore tied the Chippewas record for most career starts with 52 and his 472 tackles is third-most  in school history. Berning, a native of Duisburg, Germany, made 26.5 tackles for loss and forced five fumbles during his college career.

Now they are pitted against each other. But their relationship has remained intact.

"It's great to have a familiar face around here," said Bellore. "Just like college, we're in the same room over at the hotel."

Reality is that Bellore and Berning may not be playing together much longer. Although it is possible both could break camp as Jets, it is not guaranteed. Knowing this, the two have taken their opportunity seriously.

"Nick and I have been here since Tuesday [July 26]," said Berning. "Up until Sunday, all we did was study together."

Studying is an important part of training camp for young players with pipe dreams; especially for students of the Rex Ryan School of Defense.

"In terms of scheme, I can pick it up," said Bellore. "Obviously, you've got to wait until you have the pads on for the first time to really have an appreciation for how fast the game is."

Berning echoed the thoughts of his teammate and friend.

"We have a pretty good handle on it," he said. "Right now it's a little bit confusing. I wouldn't say it's completely complicated, but it's a challenge for sure."

To help the two get acclimated to life in an NFL defense, Bob Sutton, the Jets' senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach, has welcomed them with open arms.

"He's a great teacher," said Berning. "His door is always is open, even before camp started. We came in and sat down with him, sometimes for an hour or two, and he'd go over the playbook with us and try to help us learn the defense quicker."

The playbook is not the only speed bump for rookies. Both attest to having to make adjustments in other areas.

"There's less room for error," said Berning. "You don't get quite as many reps to get it right. And obviously, the speed is a little bit increased; a lot faster than what we're used to."

Bellore also noticed the difference in speed, but was not overly concerned with adapting.

"Obviously, you've got to wait until you have the pads on for the first time to really have an appreciation for how fast the game is," said Bellore. "I think in a week or two, you'd hope you could get adjusted to the speed of the game."

Something else was on display early in Thursday's full-pads practice. Berning immediately learned just how physical the NFL can be after taking on fullback John Conner in special teams drills. "The Terminator" showed Berning the ropes, standing him up, throwing him to the ground and displacing his helmet. Welcome to the NFL, rook.

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