Laveranues Coles is not afraid to speak his mind. And as a team captain, the standout Jets wideout will have even that much more of a platform to deliver his message.
"It is a great honor to be elected by your teammates and for them to view me as one of their leaders," Coles said today before the Jets' afternoon practice. "I'm not a very vocal person, I've always been a jokester, but for the guys to pick me and allow me to be the voice of the team and go up there and talk to Coach and express what they feel and what they want to get done this season, it is an honor."
Coles joined his quarterback, Chad Pennington, as the Green & White's two offensive selections. Both DE Shaun Ellis and LB Jonathan Vilma return as defensive captains, and the players voted K Mike Nugent and LB Brad Kassell to serve as special teams ambassadors.
Calling him an ideal teammate, head coach Eric Mangini talked about how much Coles cares for the players.
"He's a very selfless guy. He's one of those guys that if you're stuck at the airport and nobody is picking up the phone at home, you could call him and he'd come and get you," Mangini said. "He's the guy that would help you move. He's that type of guy. I just respect where he's coming from and the things he says."
Mangini made the captain announcements at a Sunday squad meeting. All six received applause, including the man known for his levity.
"He is a jokester, man," fellow wideout Jerricho Cotchery said. "You need that type of guy in the locker room because you don't want things to get too tight and for everyone to be uptight. He keeps everyone loose with his jokes. He is just constantly joking about everything from the head coach to your teammates. Everyone is fair game with him when it comes to jokes."
But the 5'11", 193-pound Coles knows there is a time for everything. His teammates selected him team MVP last season, a memorable campaign in which LC caught a career-high 91 balls for 1,098 yards. Despite various bumps and bruises, he is the only receiver in the NFL to start all 96 regular-season games from 2001-06.
"He is a competitor. He is going to play. He goes hard and goes 100 percent," said Vilma. "He also brings a little comedy and a little life into the locker room, so it's always good. But it stops there. When we are out there practicing or playing, he is serious and we know he's going to play."
The captaincy means more responsibility for Coles. His teammates are already loading up the suggestion box.
"I didn't get a chance to change out of my clothes this morning. They were already putting in their requests," he said. "We are going to take it one thing at a time and we'll go from there. It's Coach's team and it's ultimately his decision to decide if we are going to do something. All I can do is voice their opinion, say, 'I understand where they are coming from,' and that's pretty much it. Hopefully he'll work with us."
"We were waiting for someone to step up in that role," said Cotchery. "When he got in this morning, we had some things for him as far as the schedule goes. We were like, 'Hey captain, can you take care of these things for us?' "
And you know Coles won't be afraid to knock on his head coach's door.
"Another thing you've got to love about LC is he says what he thinks, he says what he feels," Mangini said. "I like that. I like the way he's giving me feedback."
Through a leadership initiative, the NFL has placed a renewed emphasis on the role of team captains.
"Team captains are a key element in building team leadership and enhancing communication between players, coaches and management," said Ray Anderson, the league's executive vice president of football operations who will oversee the program. "A perfect example of the benefit of this kind of communication is that the players themselves suggested the concept of reemphasizing the team captains."
Other captain reactions from the Jets' locker room:
Vilma: "It's flattering like last year. The players voted me in, so that says a lot about what the players think of me. I appreciate that. Aside from that, I just want to do what I did last year and try to get us to the playoffs."
Nugent (former Ohio State team captain): "It is good that it's not my first time being captain — it is obviously in the NFL. I think I'm so comfortable with my teammates and I feel like hopefully all the guys can come to all the captains and say, 'Hey, we have been thinking about this, maybe we can try this out.' "
Kassell: "I always have taken pride in my job and helping other people do their job. It's no difference — it's just the title. But with the guys we got, there isn't much patrolling you have to do. They patrol themselves."