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For Dearth, Special Teams Is Still a Snap


James Dearth doesn't sweat the small stuff. He could've complained about the heat wave that has put temperatures into the high 80s and mid-90s in Cortland, N.Y., for the past couple of days, but he didn't.

"Texas is like 105 right now," said Dearth. "Where I'm from is East Texas, southeast of Dallas. It gets real hot there, blazing hot, humidity gets high. This is nice. I'd take 95 here any day."

Dearth, the ninth-year long-snapper who has played in 128 consecutive regular-season games with the Jets from 2001-08, feels he's in good hands at this year's training camp with head coach Rex Ryan.

"Camp is going great," he said. "Rex has a nice schedule. He is allowing us to recover. I couldn't ask for a better camp. We are getting rest when we need it."

This year the Jets have been doing the practice rotation a bit different than they did under Eric Mangini, with a special teams practice scheduled for every other day. From 2006-08 special teams was worked into regular practices. Under Herm Edwards, teams would practice once every three days.

Dearth, who has been a vital part of the Jets' special teams for so long, sees the benefit in having this work every other day.

"We are doing more special teams now than we have ever done," he said. "That gets you excited, too, because now everybody has the opportunity to learn what special teams is all about, and when you can do that, when you have a group of guys that are learning that concept together, you just are able to play so much faster and without thinking you go 100 miles an hour. That's what posts results in the game."

The Jets have experienced a shift in coaching personnel this year, with 16 of their 23 coaches in their first season with the Green & White. One coaching aspect that hasn't changed over the past eight years is the special teams unit under Mike Westhoff. During his tenure, New York's AFC representatives have annually been regarded as one of the best special teams units in the league.

"Westhoff has been great," Dearth said. "I love playing for him. He's a hard guy to play for but he makes me a better player. His expectations are so high, he almost expects you to be perfect.

"When your expectations are up high then everyone tries to reach that," said Dearth. "But if they are down low, then everyone knows the expectations and the result is not near as good."

Even though the two have been together for eight seasons, there are still things that the native Texan picks up from coach.

"If I have a snap that's a little bit off, he's coaching it up," Dearth said. "So that's good for me because I never get comfortable. I always feel challenged. I always feel like I can get better. Plus the guys that I have catching the ball make me look consistent, so that helps."

One of the guys he was snapping the ball to at the beginning of camp, punter T.J. Conley, has recently departed and has been replaced by Ken Parrish. He and Reggie Hodges will be battling it out, and the coaches will make a decision on a kicker once they see consistency.

"It's always good to have healthy competition," said Dearth. "You get one guy pushing another and then they both start punting really well, so again anytime you bring good, healthy guys in, it's great competition."

The 6'4", 265-pounder likes to make the most of his role on the team. Often he's seen running down the field after snapping the ball, beating most of the unit to the punt returner.

"That's just something I do," he said. "As a snapper, a lot of guys just want to snap. I want to be able to block and I want to be able to cover, too, so that's something that I take pride in and work extremely hard to do."

Westhoff, said Dearth, "wouldn't expect anything less."

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