The Jets' Central New York portion of training camp officially comes to a close this morning. Three weeks and one day after Jets head coach Rex Ryan and 80 players arrived at SUNY Cortland by bus, the buses will roll out and head for home.
"I think camp was great here. We talked about it. It exceeded our expectations as far as the people here in this community have been tremendous to us," Ryan told reporters Thursday. "I liked the support of the fans. I couldn't be happier with the way everything was here in Cortland. It was absolutely top-notch."
There were many unknowns for the Jets when they left the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on July 31. Ryan would be leading his first training camp and the organization was set to move far from its home base for the first time in franchise history. The thought was to get players concentrated on football, keep the distractions to a minimum and establish team camaraderie.
"Cortland is a great city," said cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "We had a good time with it. I think Rex Ryan saw here as a time for us to bond as a team and get stronger together. I've been chilling out with the offensive linemen — different guys that usually I don't hang out with, but I think that's good to bring a team together for the season."
An instant fan favorite, rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez was usually the first player out at practice and the last one off the field. Growing up in Southern California and then playing at USC, the rook had a number of practice highlights and enjoyed the time he spent with his teammates and the locals.
"It's been beautiful," Sanchez said. "The weather's been great most of the time. There were some tough rainy days, but I haven't seen rain like that, coming from California, so that was different.
"They welcomed us, and all around town, when we had meetings off, we'd go out at night and go to the local hangout spot like Hairy Tony's and Dark Horse, just relaxing and having fun with the guys and getting some good food. They've been awesome. There were Jets signs everywhere."
The other competitor in the Jets' QB battle, Kellen Clemens is more familiar with the open space and the scenic farmland. Growing up on a farm in Oregon, KC liked returning to the small-town scene. The fans provided plenty of support and one of the great scenes from this camp were automobiles lining up on Stadium Drive for the Green & White Scrimmage on Aug. 6. It was a picture that reminded many of the cars headed to Iowa in the baseball classic "Field of Dreams".
"It's been awesome. The stands out there are pretty well packed every practice," Clemens said. "If there is a big play offensively or defensively, they put their hands together and make a little bit of noise, which fuels our energy a little bit. There are some times when we come out here and we're a little bit tired. You get the fans going and it gives you a little bit of a pick-me-up."
One Jet who had some mixed feelings about the move to Cortland was tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. It's not that Brick had anything against this quaint small-college town — he grew up in Freeport on Long Island, which is a 15-minute drive from the club's old hangout at Hofstra.
"Cortland is not like the city, so you can't go out and go to the local spots and hang out. You're here. You know, you're looking around and you see mountains and trees. Team bonding is definitely what's been accomplished here," he said. "Training camp is always hard, but I think when you're put in a different atmosphere that you're not used to, you focus and rely on each other that much more."
There were no team meetings Thursday as it was time for an annual NFL tradition. "The Rookie Show", which featured comical performances from the youngsters, was set to take place behind closed doors.
"We have a couple of impersonations, some look-alikes," Sanchez said. "The look-alikes will be good. We have some really good ones, so I might have to leak those to you guys. Depends on how the hazing goes."
The Jets' final two practices were held Thursday, and three weeks from Sunday, they'll open the regular season in Houston against the Texans. The folks back in the New Jersey/New York area will have the opportunity to view three practices — on Saturday and then on Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 26-27 — at the AHJTC in Florham Park before public access will be closed for 2009.
"This is the process. We get done with camp, now it's singles," Revis said. "It gets more into studying teams, studying our tendencies, studying the offensive coordinators and what they do and more gameplan stuff. We're ready for that and we're ready to move forward to the season."
But it seems likely the Jets will be back in Cortland in 2010.
"I would like more training camps here because I have a tough time believing that wherever we go is going to be much better than Cortland. Our time has been outstanding here," Ryan said. "I know sometimes with the particulars of it, whether it's the financials or whatever, there's a lot more that goes into it than my opinion.
"But my opinion is certainly that we accomplished everything we wanted to here and we had the facilities to do it. We had great support from the people of Cortland and I just think it was a great place to have camp."