The Jets opened their doors today and welcomed in the WWE with the announcement that WrestleMania XXIX will be held at MetLife Stadium on April 7, 2013. Still a month away from WrestleMania XXXVIII in Miami, the stage has been set for one of the biggest events on the sports and entertainment calendar next year.
"I'm glad you don't have a roof on the building, because we sure would blow it off," said WWE Superstar John Cena.
The announcement was made by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who said the event would be a boon for local businesses. Much like the Super Bowl, WrestleMania includes a week-long buildup that includes a number of interactive experiences and Superstar appearances.
WrestleMania and the WWE took center stage at the event, with several Jets in attendance to lend their support. G Matt Slauson, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, CB Kyle Wilson and CB Donald Strickland all took the time to talk wrestling — and football — while at MetLife Stadium this afternoon.
In fact, Wilson and Strickland both volunteered that Wilkerson would probably be the best candidate to one day step inside the ring.
"Probably because I'm not the biggest but one of the biggest here today, besides Slauson," said Wilkerson. "I could probably do something in the WWE. But I'll stick to the NFL."
There's no doubt Wilkerson has the size and youthful exuberance to be entertaining in the ring, but his focus has not shifted away from the field. He recently began an offseason training program combining weightlifting and running.
Wilkerson started all 16 games in his rookie season, recording 35 tackles and three sacks. He believes he played "fairly well" but also admitted to having plenty of room for improvement.
"I'm sure others had high expectations of me because I was the first pick, but I'm not going to let other people dictate how I play," he said. "This offseason I'm going to mature my body, I'm going to correct any mistakes I had last year, and I'm going to be ready to go."
Wilkerson visited the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center last week and was able to reintroduce himself to Karl Dunbar, the Jets' new defensive line coach.
"First time I met him was when I went through the draft process visiting the Vikings," said Wilkerson. "From what I know, he's a great guy and I look forward to him coaching me. He had great success in that system with the Vikings, and I'm looking forward to him helping me grow as a player."
While Wilkerson has been able to start his offseason training, another Jets lineman will have to wait a bit longer. Offensive lineman Matt Slauson underwent surgery to repair an injured labrum, rotator cuff and biceps.
"The fact that I could still play and lift — kind of — I didn't think anything was wrong," said Slauson of his shoulder.
The injury hampered Slauson through most of 2011 and he realized once the season ended that surgery was probably the best option. Now over a month removed from the procedure, he said he feels no pain and was told Wednesday in a meeting with team doctors that his flexibility and range are "incredible."
The surgery normally requires five to six months for recovery, and Slauson is hoping to be 100 percent healthy by mid-June. Forecasting his future, he said he would likely be limited during OTAs but expects to be a full participant in training camp.
While Wilkerson is getting acquainted with his new position coach, Slauson also recently met his new offensive line coach, Dave DeGuglielmo, and new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano.
"Yesterday I went in to get checked out by the doctors, then went straight in with Sparano and then DiGuglielmo," he said. "I'm really excited about it. They seemed like great guys, really knowledgeable in their craft."
It may still be February, but it's never too soon to turn the page on the recently concluded season, which ended with a Super Bowl matchup so unfavorable for the Jets and their fans. Nonetheless, Slauson and his teammates have tunnel vision for 2012.
"You don't play well the entire year, you're not going to make it there," he said. "It was our goal, but we fell short. We're not focusing on all the drama of last year. We're focusing on bouncing back next year."