In the return to Cortland after the Jets' first preseason game Friday, running back Danny Woodhead is intent on keeping the focus and improving as a team.
"It's about getting your mind right again to camp mode and I think that's what we have to do today and that's something we have to continue to do," said Woodhead after Sunday's morning practice. "We have to use these days to continue to become a better football team."
Time is running out on those still fighting for positions on the depth chart, and each day those on the bubble will have to continue to put out their best effort. Woodhead is working hard to gain a spot on a team that's already as deep as it comes at the running back position with Thomas Jones, Leon Washington and Shonn Greene ahead of him on the depth chart.
With the running game expected to be a big part of the offense this season, there might just be room for the second-year back out of Division II Chadron State, whose 9,749 all-purpose yards is second-most in NCAA history.
"We have a great O-line and that's the start of a great running game," said Woodhead. "We have a lot of good backs on this team, and the fullbacks and wide receivers are more than willing to block. You need all 11 guys out there if you want this thing to work."
The Jets ran for 102 yards against the Rams without three starters on the offensive line — Alan Faneca, Damien Woody and Nick Mangold. With all five starters in the lineup, as was the case for all 16 games last season, the Jets ran for 2,004 yards and ranked ninth in the NFL.
"They spoke for themselves last year with what they did with Thomas and Leon," said Woodhead. "It's definitely going to be better with another year under their belt playing together, so I think they'll be really helpful."
The 5'9" 195-pounder originally signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent in May 2008. But his rookie season ended a few days into training camp when he tore his left knee.
Approaching the third week of training camp in 2009, the injury has not hindered his growth as a player.
"Surprisingly, there has never been a mental hurdle in the whole process," Woodhead told Jets Radio on* newyorkjets.com*. "I consider myself very blessed that I didn't have to go through that, because a lot of guys who hurt their knees, the toughest part is the mental aspect instead of the physical. I've been blessed that I haven't thought about it at all and that's made things so much easier on the field."
After receiving a blow to his head, Woodhead was held out of one practice in the first week of training camp and the following practice he had to wear the non-contact No. 8 red jersey. That one day was long enough — it was actually too long for the anxious Woodhead.
"I thought it looked horrible. It was a very bad looking jersey. It had quarterback-cut sleeves and that's something I didn't want to wear," he said. "It didn't help me to get over the mental hurdle. I was ready to go before that, but when it comes to getting hit on the head you have to take precaution."
Woodhead feels his play has improved since the beginning of camp in Cortland, citing technique and pass blocking as areas he's been focusing on getting better at recently. Head coach Rex Ryan had his own opinion of the back's strength last week.
"He's a tough little guy, he really is," said Ryan. "As productive as he was in college, you can see why. He's got great hands. He's got the best hands in the backfield in my opinion. He's got great vision. He's tougher than nails. He puts his face right in there so it won't be by lack of effort if he can't get something, done that's for sure."
Although Woodhead's not sure exactly what his role can be on this team, No. 22 will be ready when the coaches call his number, whether it's in the running game, throwing blocks in passing situations or special teams — he even got his first NFL statistics with a pair of kickoff returns vs. the Rams.
"I'm a day-to-day guy and in the NFL you kind of have to be," he said. "I'm just going out and trying to make this team, that's my number one goal, and do whatever I can to help us win the world championship."