In what will go down as perhaps the most unique training camp in franchise history, the Jets have started to practice at One Jets Drive. But in the midst of a pandemic, injured players, coaches, scouts and media members are all wearing face coverings as league protocols are strictly followed.
"You're wearing the mask and that's the only thing that kind of reminds you," said head coach Adam Gase of the current landscape. "You see everybody spread out. You can see the spacing around the field and everybody was aware. I do think you get lost in the moment a little bit because it's football. You see guys out there working extremely hard and you're reminded that you're back to work. At the same time, you're not forgetting about the protocols that are put in place and you're trying to do everything right."
But for many healthy players, the time back on the field could be seen as an escape. After a virtual offseason, weeks of daily testing and changed boundaries inside the team's facility and an acclimation period, the Green & White finally were able to participate in a team setting on a football field.
"I feel like we're back to normal, just getting back out there and competing with my brothers," said veteran cornerback Arthur Maulet. "I'm happy to be back out on the field and get back to my job."
See the Best Photos from the First Full-Team Practice at Training Camp
Gase, who wore a black mask throughout Friday's session, says his communication has become more limited with his quarterback and that's a good thing. Even before he finishes a play-call, Sam Darnold, entering his second year in the same offensive system, already knows where Gase is going next.
"I'll start calling plays and he'll walk away," Gase said. "He knows what's coming. He's getting to that point where he's really comfortable and then setting things up with the protection, Mike points, the run game and the little adjustments. It's not splitting the atoms. It's happening quick, which allows him to worry about other things like identifying the coverage, throwing an accurate ball and the right ball placement."
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will keep both Darnold and Gase on their toes throughout the summer. Although the Jets won't have preseason games, Williams is going to throw a lot of different looks at the offense and he wasn't holding back this afternoon.
"When you're going against our defense, you get the full gamut out of the gate," Gase said. "We saw like 30 coverages on Day 1. It's good for the offense, we have to make a lot of adjustments. It's maddening for a quarterback sometimes, but he gets the full gamut."
Connor McGovern, who could be Darnold's center in September, says the competitive environment is necessary in preparation for the regular season.
"I think practice against our defense and the way the Jets practice is plenty good for going in this season," he said. "I'm excited to get after it in practice every day especially without being spring and stuff, you have to practice like you play this year. We have less practices, which means you can practice a little bit harder and really get after it and treat every day like a gameday."
And while it wasn't gameday on Friday, the Jets are back. As the fight against COVID-19 rages on, some Jets felt child-like exuberance to play the game that they love.
"I was happy was heck. I felt like a little kid at a candy store, so I'm glad to be back out on the field and strapping the helmet back up," Maulet said. "I was grateful and happy."