Ahmad Gardner has a great philosophy about fighting for starting jobs and playing time, whether it be at MLK High School in Detroit, in three seasons with the Cincinnati Bearcats, or this training camp with the Jets.
"At the end of the day, we've all got the same goal," Sauce said. "We go into practice and try to be competitive, not combative, because we're all on the same team."
Maybe a little of that motto showed up in a "100-yard interception return" at Saturday's fourth practice of camp at the Atlantic Health Training Center. And no, Gardner was not the one with the return.
"It just told me we're building a brotherhood," Gardner said of the D.J. Reed pick-and-run against QB Zach Wilson's throw into the red zone end zone. "I told him today, 'I need to get a pick. I bet I get one before you.' But I didn't get one today. He did, and he ran 100 yards with it."
Wilson tried to find WR Elijah Moore with the pass but threw it behind him. Reed was right there for the pick-and-go. The "100 yards" above are in quotation marks because the officials working the practice blew their whistles early. But Reed — and Gardner — kept running the length of the field.
When Reed got to the far end of the practice field, he did a backflip over the goal line. Then Gardner, without the ball of course, also flipped into the end zone. The fans in the stands roared their approval.
"I hadn't done a backflip since I was 12 years old," Sauce said. "I'm not one of those guys that hates or knocks on the other guy. I'm just flying around, happy for him."
Not that Gardner is necessarily fighting Reed rather than third-year CB Bryce Hall for position and playing time, but with no roles yet etched in stone at corner by Robert Saleh and his staff, who's to say? Yet Sauce will continue to lay it on thick for his secondary mates as well as for the wide receivers he's trying to blanket every day. And vice versa.
"He's really a dog," fellow first-round rookie Garrett Wilson said of Gardner. "He's handsy, good with his hands. Going up against Sauce, you've got to go in with a plan, and you still might not win against him. He's making the whole receiver room better. Seeing him messing up people who aren't Jets on gameday, I'm looking forward to that for sure."
See the Green & White on the field during Back Together Saturday at Jets Training Camp.
"I'm just being myself, flying around the field, smiling like I always do," Gardner said. "They drafted me here for a reason. They drafted me to be the best version of myself. That's all I do. I try to be the best teammate and help anyone I can."
And that version appears to already be helping the Jets' still young but rapidly maturing corner contingent.
"I just feel like everybody's buying into the program," Sauce said. "I don't know how things were last year, but I know we've got a lot of great talent, from free agency to the draft to coaches. Everybody's feeling it. As long as we're all on the same page with that, it should be pretty easy to make something happen."
Complete at the end, perhaps, with handstands and applause.