Coach Mangini joked that the special teams scouting report would be festive
There are many sacrifices a football player must make when he enters the realm of the National Football League. One of those sacrifices happens to be holidays. During the NFL season, holidays generally are just another day of preparation. But in the case of the Jets, they will play a very important game come Monday.
For the first time in team history, the Jets will play on Christmas night, but the excitement doesn't stop there. The game – with Green & White playoff hopes on the line - will air on Monday Night Football and be televised in front of millions of viewers on ESPN.
"Guys enjoy playing the night games, they enjoy playing Monday Night Football," said head coach Eric Mangini. "We all grew up with those games. I know for me personally, there are a lot of great memories of watching Monday Night Football. It's just part of the NFL experience that we've all shared. When you get that opportunity to play Monday Night Football, it is special."
But playing in the big game comes at a costly price – time spent with loved ones.
"You would love to be home with your family for the holidays," Mangini said. "It's fortunate and unfortunate. It's a great opportunity for us, but we'd love to be with our families. The best gift we can all give to our families is a victory."
Once practice reaches a conclusion on Saturday morning, Mangini will dismiss his players and staff so that they can enjoy the rest of the afternoon and evening with their friends and families. On Sunday night, the team will arrive in Miami and quickly converge on meetings. Even though this trip is strictly business, the Jets front office made some kind arrangements for family members making the trip.
"There will be some rooms set up if guys have family down and if they want to spend some time," Mangini told reporters this week. "It will be decorated and I wasn't the party planner on this one. I was handing that off to Mike Tannenbaum.
"We have time off prior to leaving, and then when we get down there we'll do the special teams' scouting report and that will be festive," joked Mangini. "No, we really have to take care of that stuff that evening."
For veterans such as linebacker Matt Chatham, it's easy to shrug off the holiday spirit and get down to business. After spending six seasons in New England, Christmas usually meant preparing for a playoff run and not wrapping presents.
"I don't remember Christmas since college," Chatham said. "It's strictly business. December 25th is just a day on the schedule, and it's really irrelevant to guys in the NFL. You're going to have your family time and you're going to be able to celebrate Christmas, just not on that day."
How does Chatham deal with the many distractions?
"You kind of separate yourself from that because we're really the entertainers on that day," he said. "My personal family, we do it on another date when I'm not playing."
For rookies, playing not only on Monday Night Football but on Christmas is an eye-opening experience. While the elder statesmen offer the younger guys tips, running back Leon Washington tries to correlate the big game with some past experiences.
"It should be very exciting. I'm trying to find something that I can assimilate it to, but I think the closest thing is just plying in a big college Bowl Game," said Washington, the Jets' leading rusher. "I had the chance to play in the Orange Bowl a couple of times in college so I'm trying to relate it to that. It's fun; it's going to be exciting. The older guys remind the young guys of the opportunity. I can't wait to get there."
Fullback Stacy Tutt, who was activated to the roster just one week ago, can't wait to take the field Monday. The former Richmond quarterback was repaid for his hard work and determination signing originally as an undrafted free agent in May.
"It will be a lot of fun," Tutt said. "It's a different thing for me playing on the holiday, especially this late in the year. But this is what you sign up for; it should be exciting."
With being so caught up in the NFL grind, Tutt made an excusable rookie mistake.
"I forgot it was Christmas. It doesn't even feel like Christmas for me," he said. "I need to do my job and make sure I know what's going on. I don't let outside influences bother me or distract me."
Another recent addition to the active roster is Wallace Wright, who signed just three weeks ago prior to New York's 38-10 win at Green Bay. Wright is fortunate enough to enjoy his first Monday Night experience with some friends and family because most of them still reside in the Sunshine State.
"That's going to be insane cause I'm originally from Tampa, Florida, so I have about 25-30 people from my family coming down to Miami for the game," said a lively Wright. "Hopefully I'll go out there and make a couple plays for my family and see how it goes. I'm just going to try to go out and put a good show on for them and hopefully we can get this win. You can't ask for anything more."
Injury Report Jets Questionable: FB B.J. Askew (foot), CB David Barrett (hip), WR Laveranues Coles (back), RB Cedric Houston (calf) & DB Eric Smith (foot)
Probable: *RB Kevan Barlow (calf), *LB Matt Chatham (foot), *C Nick Mangold (hip), *WR Justin McCareins (foot), *OL Brandon Moore (back), *DL Rashad Moore (hand), *QB Chad Pennington (calf), *LB Anthony Schlegel (illness), *DE Bryan Thomas (shoulder), *S Jamie Thompson (ankle) & *WR Wallace Wright (thigh)
Doubtful: WR Marty Booker (ankle)
Questionable: CB Will Allen (groin/quad) & *RB Ronnie Brown (hand)
Probable: *QB Joey Harrington (ankle) & *DT Keith Traylor (knee)
Denotes players who participated in practice