Change Not Necessary
Running back Curtis Martin, who was witnessed a number of changes throughout his career, is entering his latest Jets campaign with the simple goal of not changing a thing.
After coming off arthroscopic knee surgery just months prior to his 33rd birthday last December, Martin has progressed in his physical rehabilitation, while keeping his mental approach consistent to the way it's been for the majority of his 12 year career.
"I feel that you don't have to change," Martin said after the morning session at Friday's mini camp. "The approach that I've had has been to go all-out everyday and to give my best every time I come out onto the field, whether it's in the practices or the games. That's been working for me so I'm not going to change it."
His mentality and work ethic still reign supreme in the locker room, regardless of his recent bumps and bruises, and age. As far as he's concerned, 2006 is just another season to prepare for even if it means having to battle through rehab.
"This isn't the first year where I've come off an injury. Most years that I've played in the league I've come off an injury so it's basically the same approach," said Martin. "The one thing that I think is different was I was forced to take some rest and I think that worked out good for me."
Martin's strong mentality and hard-nosed approach make it hard for him to lie back a little, even upon coaches' orders. The Jets staff has had to physically hold Martin back from drills and conditioning on occasion because he never wants to miss a repetition.
"I like the fact that he does every single thing we ask him to do, and more. He always has exceeded expectations throughout his career," said Coach Mangini while addressing the media. "He's the type of guy that you have to almost pull back a little bit because he's just such a hard worker - nobody outworks him. I can't say enough positive about him."
Throughout the first two days of mini camp, Martin and Derrick Blaylock (leg) were both kept out of a regular rotation with the other running backs. But Martin has no plans of passing the torch as the regular starter and go-to-guy in the Jets backfield.
"I don't even worry about that, I don't think that way," said Martin, who in a similar situation in 2004 proved critics wrong by earning the league's rushing title. "I never doubt myself and I have never doubted myself. As long as I play, I never will. I can't even imagine myself doubting, it's just not in my personality."
The Martin character has certainly been molded through a dozen years in the league. He admits - at his age - he now has a lot more fun as opposed to when he was younger.
"I find that I'm having more fun. When you get older you learn to appreciate the smaller things that you were too ignorant to see when you were younger," Martin said. "I don't think that I take anything for granted. I appreciate this game and I appreciate what it's done for me, not just at a monetary way, but for what it's taught me - discipline and focus and willpower. Football is like the game of life to me and I approach it that way."
Perhaps the first official donation to "Chrebet's," the future restaurant and lounge directly across Hempstead Turnpike from the Jets practice facility, will be a gift from Jets quarterback Patrick Ramsey. Ramsey rolled out of the pocket under pressure during team drills and couldn't find a man open. Rather than grounding the ball, Ramsey flung the pigskin over the 12 foot fence onto - and most likely crossing - the busy turnpike.
Kerry Rhodes earned the highlight of the day with his leaping one-handed interception of a Ramsey pass. The play came on a Ramsey ball intended for Tim Dwight about 30 yards down the middle of the field. Rhodes, who made a terrific left-handed grab in mid-air, streaked up the left sideline laughing hysterically before tossing the ball back to the unhappy QB.
Offensive tackle Ed Blanton, a rookie out of UCLA, watched in street clothes with an undisclosed illness.
Those collecting punt returns during special teams drills included wide receivers Tim Dwight, Justin McCareins, Jerricho Cotchery, and Dante Ridgeway, as well as rookie running back Leon Washington. Dwight, a nine-year veteran, handled the majority of returns.
While Patrick Ramsey saw a lot of action in the morning session, rookie Kellen Clemens stepped in for a quick series. On Clemens' first play he found Deqawn Mobley on the left side, who made a tremendous leaping grab over the defender. On the ensuing play, Clemens stung Brad Smith in the numbers for another first down. By the third play, the defense caught on as Matt Chatham broke in for a would-be sack.
Coach Mangini cited defensive backs coach Corwin Brown and his assistance in obtaining free agent defensive tackle Monsanto Pope this offseason: "Corwin Brown knew a lot about Monsanto and he spoke very highly about him. That was a big part of the decision is that personal relationship, knowing how Monsanto worked, his ability to learn, all the things we're looking for."