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Grateful Jets Depart Cortland Today

Today the veterans will hop in their cars, the rookies will pile onto a couple of coach buses, and the Jets will meander their way down Route 81 on their way from Cortland, N.Y., toward Florham Park, N.J.

The destination is the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, where the Jets will spend the remainder of the preseason in preparation for their opening-day kickoff on Sunday, Sept. 8, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Head coach Rex Ryan decided in 2009 to take his team three hours away from its state-of-the-art training facility to the campus of SUNY Cortland to build team camaraderie and set up a football-only environment for the first three weeks of training camp.

"Oh, yeah, it gives us a great opportunity to bond," rookie quarterback Geno Smith said of the experience. "It kind of gets you out of your comfort zone, lets you know what we're about here. It's all about football. It's been football school 24/7 on the field, off the field, and it's helped every single guy grow."

While the tiny Central New York town is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the New York City area and the bright lights of MetLife Stadium, the city and the university have welcomed Jets Nation with open arms and created a comfortable environment for players, coaches and fans.

"To be honest, when I first came here I didn't know what to expect, but I like Cortland," rookie LB Troy Davis said after practice this week. "There are nice facilities here, the people here are very loving, the hospitality is by far the highest I've ever been around, and it's a great place to be."

While Cortland is few people's first choice for a vacation destination, the organization and the university have built near perfect practice fields and a variety of accommodations that were designed to enhance the fan experience.

"I've had a good time at Cortland," DT Antonio Garay said. "Cortland's shown us a lot of love. Cortland's been very good to all the guys here. Being out here in upstate New York, where there's probably every other fan but Jets fans, to still see Jets fans that come out and support and to see local people come out here and see what the Jets have to offer this year, I think it's big. It speaks volumes about what the fans do think about us."

Vladimir Ducasse expressed similar feelings on the team's summer home.

"It's a great place, I tell you that," the fourth-year offensive lineman said. "I love the weather, I love practicing out there and I love the fans. It's been a great experience up here."

While Cortland has provided a home away from home for the Jets, the players are looking forward to shipping back to Jersey in the next step toward playing the games that count.

"Yes, definitely," second-year WR Stephen Hill answered when asked if he was eager about leaving. "We're definitely enjoying Cortland as much as we can while we're here and making sure we do great out here. But then we have to transfer that back to New Jersey."

First-round draft choice Sheldon Richardson has also enjoyed his time at his team's August headquarters but says he is ready for the change of venue. "Great place, great town," Richardson said, "I had a blast here. But now it's time to go back to Florham Park."

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