Jets head coach Eric Mangini and left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson have a running joke with each other concerning their weight.
Mangini's expertise is in food and eating, while Ferguson's is in athleticism and training hard.
"I can tell you I'm not over 315 right now," Mangini said during OTAs. "In terms of Brick, I think he and I have worked on our weight together. We're hopefully both going in the right direction."
For the past few weeks, coach and player have playfully tried to encourage each other's strengths. Mangini lost a lot of weight through hard training, and Ferguson jokingly consulting Mangini about how to put on some pounds.
"He's training hard, I'm trying to eat with him, so wherever we can meet a common ground, it's always good," a smiling Ferguson said Monday.
Ferguson, who says he is now playing at 305 pounds, has worked hard in many other areas this off-season besides increasing his waist size. He endured a rookie season and the natural expectations caused by being the fourth overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, being thrown into the fire right away.
Then in his first full NFL off-season, Ferguson took advantage of all the resources the Jets provided for him, including the presence of one of the greatest players that ever played at his position, Lomas Brown.
In 1985 Brown entered the NFL with great expectations as the No. 6 overall pick in the draft. He was an NFC Pro Bowler for seven consecutive seasons — starting in 1990, he earned his first six invitations with the Lions and his last with the Cardinals. It was in Arizona that Brown became teammates with fellow lineman Mike Devlin, signed by the Cards as a free agent in 1996.
Devlin, now the Jets' assistant offensive line coach, saw in Ferguson many similarities to his former teammate and decided to invite him to the team's off-season program.
Mangini said Devlin "thought it would be a good idea because of their similar styles to put those two guys together and let them spend some time together and talk through the left tackle play."
Ferguson has appreciated having Brown around as an additional mentor. The two could be seen carrying on light conversation after practice for about five minutes before the Jets tackle went back inside Weeb Ewbank Hall.
"He's a good person to really learn from, given the fact that he was a similar position," said Ferguson. "You even watch him on tape, how fluid he is and the types of technique he uses, it's great as a young player. You can look at that and say, 'Hey, this is a guy who's done it. Let me try to pattern myself after him.' "
Ferguson has tried to improve on his natural gifts, a unique combination of mobility, technique and size. Brown, who at 6'4" and 280 pounds has a similar frame, has helped Brick find ways to best utilize his body.
"Spending some time with [Brown], they've had some similarities in their types of play where they could talk about that and the challenges one would face having that style. That's been good as well," said Mangini.
During practice, Ferguson had some difficulty during one series of line drills containing linebacker Jason Trusnik. After Ferguson was shifted out of the drill, Devlin yelled out, "Use what God gave you — athleticism, hands."
For the remaining hour of practice, there was a noticeable improvement in his footwork and blocking.
"My goal is definitely to be better, to work on the small things that might have gone under the radar for me personally and just to work on the things the team needs," Ferguson said. "We're always trying to improve as a team, and that has to start with me improving my skill to give more, whatever that might be. That's what I need to do."