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It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Training Camp

There's a camp in the air.

The activity level is definitely picking up around the New York Jets' training complex on the Hofstra University campus this week. There are more cars in the small parking lot than there were last week. Behind the building on the Jets' own practice fields comes the sound of music — loud music — indicating the field speakers are being tested and tuned.

The Hofstra soccer fields, which double as the Jets' summer home, are freshly watered, lined and signed with sponsor banners. And ringing the fields are tents, some white, others with alternating white and green stripes, under which white and green merchandise is being placed on shelves and Generation Jets Fest stations are being set up.

It all has the look of a renaissance fair. And in a way it is. The second training camp of the Jets' rebirth under head coach Eric Mangini is about to begin.

The first two-a-days of camp don't kick off until Friday, and the veteran players aren't due in until the day before. But some vets are already showing up on their own. And the Jets' rookie class has been on the scene since a week of orientation began last Friday.

"The thing that has surprised me about the NFL is just the amount of hours it takes at this level," second-round linebacker David Harris said earlier this month. "I already knew you've got to put a lot into it. But here you've got to go the extra mile, take the extra step to become even that much better. It's all going to pay off for all the rookies here."

As soon as the Jets make the announcements that Harris and first-round DB Darrelle Revis have signed, the team will be whole and ready to enter Mangini Camp II.

The coach has already advised not to expect things to be any easier than Mangini Camp I.

"The whole process of OTAs and training camp is that everybody here is fighting for a job and trying to figure out how they can help us win and what role they can play," Mangini has said. "It's just that time of year when everyone is being evaluated and competition is fierce."

Mangini has said repeatedly that last year's 10-6 success and playoff berth are no guarantees that this year will be even better. Football people all know the truth of that approach. But one football man likes what he saw last season and what he expects to see this year from the Jets.

"No. 1 is coaching," said Charley Casserly, the former Texans general manager, now an analyst with CBS who visited the Jets and a dozen other NFL minicamps last month. "I was very, very impressed with the job Eric did. The sum of the whole was better than the parts when you watched the Jets last year.

"Thomas Jones was an excellent pickup — I tried to trade for him when I was in Houston. The two top draft picks are going to be starters in this league. And they signed a lot of guys for not a lot of money who can help on depth.

Casserly said there was no question the Jets exceeded expectations in 2006. "But," he added ominously, "the toughest thing is managing the new expectations."

Mangini is already in manager mode. He doesn't hear the hype of the fans and national media who see the Jets as this year's hot new team. He doesn't agree with other NFL voices who insist the AFC road to the Super Bowl goes through Foxboro.

"I think the road starts with training camp," he has said. "This is a process, and we're starting on the process."

In a matter of days.

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