A little over a year after Vernon Gholston was named 2007 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year by conference coaches, he's still getting acclimated to his new position as an outside linebacker — not to mention to playing in the NFL.
"It's always slow when you're first starting off. Everybody knows that," Gholston said today before the Jets left for their Sunday game at Seattle. "You start with a new job, of course things are different. It's a whole new world for me in certain aspects. But I like to play football and wherever that position may be, that's what I'm going to do.
Eyebrows were raised when Gholston was declared inactive for last week's game against the Buffalo Bills. But Jets head coach Eric Mangini minimized the significance of that decision earlier this week and cited veterans such as David Barrett and Drew Coleman, who have spent time on the inactive list this season as well.
In today's news conference, Mangini added that this week of practice may have been Gholston's best so far.
"I don't look at that situation as trying to motivate me or anything like that," said Gholston. "It was what it was. The numbers worked out that way and whatever's best for the team. For me, I want to be active and I want to be out there playing. So not to say I had extra motivation in practice this week, but it was just more of a focused attitude and I guess it paid off well."
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton also had good things to say about the rookie's progress.
"I think this week of preparation has been a very good one for Vernon," Sutton said. "He's done some really good things in individual drills that we had, some working against the offense and some just in the normal scope of practice. I think he took the challenge from last week and he's really stepped up and is showing signs that he can do this thing and do it pretty good.
"I think we're encouraged by what we saw and also encouraged by how he responded, which I think is big. All players have to develop a level of consistency. That's one of the things we're looking for from him. I think he took a step this week in that direction."
Gholston said as the weeks have gone along, he's gotten more comfortable with what the Jets are doing defensively.
"You learn more," he said. "Even if it's just one little thing, it kind of helps you be a lot more comfortable out there and that's been a process."
Gholston's teammates have been both patient and supportive, offering advice and reminding him to stay positive.
"Everybody knows the pressure that's on his shoulders," said fellow OLB Calvin Pace, "but everybody has taken it upon himself to help him and all the rookies just to get through this process. Rookie year is probably the longest year of your life.
"Watch what we do. Watch when we make mistakes. Watch when we do things right and try to get better. I think as the year has gone on he's done that."
"For me, it's all about the mental growth," said Gholston. "In terms of that, there've been weeks where I've really come on strong and others where it took me a minute. But overall, I think it's a constant growth process and I feel like that's how it's been going throughout the season."