Baker racing past the defense
Just a young pup a few years back, Jets tight end Chris Baker is already in his seventh NFL season. And now that he and the Jets have agreed on a reworked contract, Baker hopes to end his career with the Green & White.
"It's a resolution for both of us and it kind of assures that I'll pretty much be here for the rest of my career, which I wanted to be from the start," Baker said today. "It's rare in this day and age for a guy to start in one place and finish there. Hopefully I can do that and I'm excited about that."
After expressing displeasure with his former deal during the spring, Baker showed up for training camp in July and was content that his representation and the Jets would not break off communication.
"The biggest thing for me is I wanted to be here for sure, no matter what. Like I said, the most important thing for me is to be ready for this time of year," he said. "Had I gone the route I was going back in the spring, I probably wouldn't be ready right now. My personal belief is to get ready for the season and let everything work itself out."
Baker, a 6'3", 258-pounder, caught two balls in the Jets' season-opening win against the Dolphins. Brett Favre completed 15 passes last weekend, to seven different receivers.
"He's a guy that gets the ball to everybody, especially the tight end. Some of the things that he's done over his career have been amazing, and to be out there out with him on the field, it's a lot of fun," Bake said of his new quarterback. "It really opens up everything for everyone in the locker room — the running game, the passing game — and everybody gets a part of it."
The new contract will take some weight off Baker's shoulders. He said it's been a stressful time for his family because they weren't sure where he'd be next season.
"I have one [20-month-old Chris Jr.] and I have a stepdaughter [Britney]. She started high school this year," Baker said. "When they're starting high school, that's like their time when you want to be settled in. I moved around obviously in high school and things like that. You get through it, but if you can be somewhere and be a part of the community and know the kids you're going to school with, that makes a big difference."
Situated in an apartment in New Jersey, Baker might buy in the off-season, but he loves his Baldwin Harbor home that he shares with his fiancée, Yadi, back on Long Island.
"My place is on the water, so every time I go back I get on my boat and go fishing," he said. "I don't know where I'm going to do all that stuff around here, so I try to enjoy it as much as I can."
A third-round pick out of Michigan State in 2002, Baker is a New Yorker who hails from St. Albans, Queens. The 28-year-old appears to be reaching his peak and put up career numbers last season (41 catches and 409 receiving yards) despite a challenged offense. He is also one of the longest-tenured Jets.
"I can remember my first year and the Colts game when we played them up here in the playoffs. It doesn't seem like it's that long ago but you look back — that was '02 so that was a long time ago," he said. "I wouldn't say it's a blur, but it does go a lot faster than you ever would think."
The Jets have a nice trio of tight ends in Baker, Bubba Franks and rookie Dustin Keller. While Keller possesses dangerous speed and Franks is known for his end zone prowess, Baker is as steady as they come and he's a complete football player.
"His role really has not changed. I think Chris did an excellent job last year in terms of catching the ball, in terms of being a complete tight end, run-blocking and all of those things," said head coach Eric Mangini today. "He made an amazing catch yesterday, a left-handed, one-handed grab, kind of off-balance. He has outstanding hands."
Baker modestly said he just reacted on a ball that sailed a little bit on Favre.
"As I've gotten older, you just get a feel for the ball and I can catch the ball with either hand," he said. "I don't look at it as 'Oh, wow, I can't do that.' I kind of expect myself to make those plays and I'm kind of disappointed in myself if I don't."
Nobody's disappointed today. Bake wanted to remain with the Jets and GM Mike Tannenbaum and his talented staff were able to reach another important agreement with a player.
"It's exciting to be on the team you grew up watching, to get drafted by the team and remain here," Baker said. "I started my career here. I feel hopefully I can play another six or seven years. If I can do it here, then why wouldn't I want to do that?"