Despite an unprecedented offseason and the recent blockbuster trade involving S Jamal Adams, Jets DL Steve McLendon hasn't wavered from his brick-by-brick approach.
"We want to stay singularly focused on the task at hand," he said. "Our mindset doesn't change no matter who's in that huddle or wearing a helmet, it doesn't change."
McLendon said this offseason has been challenging, but the 34-year-old knows the recipe to prepare his body for an NFL season. In February, he opened up the TEAM MVP gym in Flowery Branch, GA and trained with a number of his teammates including DL Henry Anderson, OLB Jordan Jenkins and TE Chris Herndon. But now that the team is back in Florham Park, McLendon won't allow himself or his teammates to look down the road as they start their strength and conditioning program.
"Right now, I'm just focused on the task at hand, getting through today and going into tomorrow," he said. "We can't get too far ahead because we don't even know what next week is going to hold for us.
"We're all excited to be back, but we just want to get started and get on the field with each other even though we have to take the necessary steps first. It's always amazing, always a great feeling for everybody to be able to put on that jersey, that helmet one more time and not only just putting it on but doing it together."
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McLendon, who's entering his 11th season, is also the team's father figure. He took DL then-rookie Folorunso Fatukasi under his wing in 2018 and did the same with 2019 No. 3 overall pick Quinnen Williams last season. Fatukasi was at McLendon's gym opening and McLendon and Williams constantly communicated with one another throughout the offseason.
"I just want him to be the best version of himself," McLendon said of Williams, who totaled 31 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 9 quarterback hits in 2019. "It's not my expectations, it's his expectation of himself. I don't put limitations on (any) man. I don't even put limitations on my life, so I just expect him to be the best version of Quinnen Williams that he can be."
Defensive line coach Andre Carter said younger players follow McLendon because of his humble beginnings — the Troy product broke into the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and each training camp is a reminder of that start.
"When you're an undrafted free agent, you're scratching and clawing to try to get on the 53-man roster," Carter said. "That will and determination has never left. He always knows where his foundation of becoming an NFL football player began. Also, in general, he's a guy that loves the game. I always tell players that if you love the game and you're committed to it not just from a physical standpoint, but also to improve your psychology and improve your mental game, that's what makes you an elite football player. Mac brings that level of football IQ to the game. If there's something that's misinterpreted on my part as a coach, he's able to take the kids off to the side, the locker room and discuss football.
"He's definitely the leader of the team. He's very vocal, but he lives by what he preaches and the younger players follow him."