The Jets have landed in Cortland. And Rex Ryan is eagerly looking forward to what lies down this central New York State runway.
"I've got to tip my hat to SUNY Cortland and the surrounding areas," the Jets' first-year head coach said with a smile shortly after two team buses pulled up in front of the team's Cortland dorm. "Really, I'm excited. You drive up, you see all the signs in the windows. It's great and we certainly appreciate it. I had a vision for what I wanted our training camp to look like and the feel of it, and I think this maybe exceeds what my expectations were."
Of course, Rex is the boss and so you wouldn't expect his players to disagree with him. But none of the rookies and veterans who came off those buses or the remaining vets who made the 3½-hour drive in their own cars had any hesitation about their new home away from home until Aug. 21.
"We're in unfamiliar territory," said linebacker Bart Scott. "Being here allows us to mesh together, build chemistry. We have no distractions, nothing but football to focus on each other and get better."
"Oh, yeah, no doubt being here will build team structure," linebacker David Harris. "It'll be a good three weeks. I'm looking forward to it."
Wide receiver David Clowney had a definitive way of evaluating the situation.
"I'm not out of my comfort area," he said. "I'm with my team playing football, so I'm right in my comfort zone."
For more than a few players, this camp would have been a change of pace no matter where it was held. Take Kris Jenkins.
"Everything for me as far as training camp is concerned this year is different. I feel born again," said the big nose tackle, who drove up to Cortland with Shaun Ellis, his next-door neighbor on the D-line. "I just got married in July, so I needed to rearrange my priorities. Football doesn't come first in my life anymore. My family's first instead. But it's a beautiful thing. You're in position to provide everything for them and make things happen."
Jenkins said he made weight. And what weight was it?
"Three-sixty, of course," he said with a laugh. "You think I'm going to lose more weight than I have to?"
Guard Alan Faneca said it's always about bonding, just as it was when he was a Pittsburgh Steeler.
"You see teams go away for training camp. You go to places off the beaten path," he said. "They don't want the distractions. They want you to hang out together, to find something to do together and kill time. I think in Pittsburgh there was a running whiffleball game every night. It was just the kinds of things we ended up doing."
For kicker Jay Feely, last year at this time he was a Dolphin, and then a few days later he wasn't with any team. He didn't become a Jet until after the opening game of the regular season.
"I'm excited for this opportunity," Feely said about being the Jets' kicker, no more questions asked. "I want to be the best kicker in the NFL. I just want to help this team win any way I can."
That is the feeling of all the Jets, who are ignoring any expert analysis and any buzz about other teams in the division.
"I think we can accomplish everything that we set out to do here and make this a close-knit team and get better," Ryan said. "When we come out of training camp 3½ weeks from now, we're going to be a good football team, an excellent football team."
And it all begins on the Cortland Stadium Sprinturf and surrounding grass fields at 8:15 a.m. Friday.
Pace Speaks on Suspension
The only player who hasn't arrived yet is running back/kick returner Leon Washington, whose agent and the Jets front office are still said to be in discussions on a restructured contract. Eric Allen will have that story for you shortly.
And one player is here in Cortland and will participate in training camp and the preseason games but then will miss the first four games of the regular season due to his NFL suspension. That is LB Calvin Pace.
"It's disappointing because I feel we have a chance to do some great things. I let the team down," said Pace in his first public comments since the suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. "With all of that said, I don't want my situation to be a distraction to what we're trying to do, which is win games. I just have to take the punishment, I'm not going to cry about it, when I come back for the last 12, I'll do my thing."
Pace, who said he took a supplement that wasn't banned last year but is this year, said his role now is to push the players who will be taking his place, Vernon Gholston and Marques Murrell.
"I'm going to try and push the guys so that they practice and perform like starters," he said. "I think with the new regime and how they preach it — practicing hard and carrying that over to the games — I think they'll be fine."
Already in Shape
The Jets' rookies were given their conditioning tests earlier this week. The veterans got their gut-churning tests today before everyone headed for Cortland. The results: All passed with flying colors.
"The rookies came in in great shape and so did the veterans. It was impressive," Ryan said. "Usually this time there are several guys that don't pass the test and get put on the PUP list. This group is in great shape and you will see that when everyone gets on the field tomorrow."