Before the Jets trotted out to the SUNY Cortland grass field this morning, head coach Rex Ryan told them to fasten their seatbelts and prepare for impact.
"This is a man's practice. Show guys who wants it more" is what he told players, according to QB Mark Sanchez.
Let's just say the Jets' first goal line session of this training camp didn't disappoint. On the first play from scrimmage, S Jim Leonhard (is there anything this kid can't do?) got great contain from the edge and helped stop Thomas Jones for no gain. The offense got its first score from inside the 5-yard line when Kellen Clemens hit FB Tony Richardson out of the backfield and the eldest Jet barely got the ball across the goal line.
But man, oh, man, the most surreal sight under a beautiful sun was Sanchez rolling right, tucking the ball under and heading for the inside. The only problem was No. 57 stood in his path and looked poise for a literal knockout.
Ryan made this drill live but Sanchez, selected No. 5 overall in April's draft, had the red jersey on. The Madbacker intelligently passed on the opportunity to deliver a career-shortening blow and Sanchez quietly tucked his head and crossed the goal line.
Sanchez may have "scored" but Scott just nodded his head at the fans here at Cortland because he put the stop sign on.
"Like I told the rookie, that was a bad career decision because once you roll out, I might blank out. I don't know what the red jersey means sometimes," Scott said. "If you come towards me, I'm coming towards you. But I blinked back into reality and I jumped out of the way. But bad career move, rook — throw it away and live to fight another day."
Fortunately, Sanchez will live to fight another day. And when that day comes, he'll go at it with a determined attitude.
"I wanted to go back and look at it on film, but there will be a situation some time hopefully in my career where it's me or the other guy and I'm betting on me obviously, whether it's Bart Scott or anybody," he said. "That's just the way you have to play as a quarterback, whether you're a rookie or not, and I think he liked that. It was one thing to talk a little smack to me and get after me a little, but at the same time I think he kind of admired the fact that this guy's going for it, Whether he's young or not, he's going to take it."
With the ones going at it, the offense faced fourth-and-1 from the 6-inch line. After Jones was stopped for no gain, Clemens threw an incompletion (he probably would have been sacked by DE Shaun Ellis) and TJ was stopped short again, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer went to a little "trickeration." Clemens faked a handoff to TJ and then scooted around untouched for an easy score.
"It was Schotty's call. He saw some things that they were doing and said, 'Hey, if it's there, keep it,' " Clemens said. "It's always a good thing when you take that gamble and it pays off but it's just a credit to how much of a threat Thomas is coming on the inside. They have to put all 11 guys to stop them with T-Rich and our offensive line. A lot of times they forget about little old me sneaking on the back end."
Both Jones and RB Jehuu Caulcrick tallied TDs in the goal line period. Leonhard gave a nice push out of bounds to Sanchez on another run to prevent him from scoring and S James Ihedigbo made a nice PD of an Erik Ainge fade to Dustin Keller.
"For the most part it was evenly matched," Clemens said. "The defense won their share and the offense won ours. It was a good drill and again a live-tempo drill. We got done what we needed to get done and nobody got hurt."
Scott said that these past days were clearly the Jets' most physical of camp.
"Whenever you do goal line or short yardage, it's mano a mano," he said. "You have to get riled up for it. You can't do goal line without emotion."
Other notes from this morning's practice:
Ryan said Richardson suffered a hip pointer. The Jets don't know the seriousness of the injury, but he'll miss at least a few days. … Sanchez looked particularly sharp in the 7-on-7 period, disguising his targets and zipping the ball. "I felt right on. I was delivering the ball well and the guys were running the right routes. It just shows that our chemistry is getting even better and better and how things are improving. Wallace Wright — he's still my guy. He's doing well again. He's all over the place." … Ihedibgo, the third-year player from UMass, has made tremendous strides and is getting a lot of work in the nickel package.
For those wondering what the final offensive plays of practice were all about, the Jets were finishing offensive clock-killing drills. The situation was fourth down, no timeouts left, and five seconds to play in the game. First Clemens, then Sanchez dropped back seven stops and threw passes high in the sky. The idea was to burn all five seconds before the ball landed. Both succeeded, although Sanchez's mortar shot was almost picked off at the sideline. ... Shonn Greene (ankle) left practice to work with the trainers. ... Kris Jenkins (calf) and Keith Fitzhugh (shoulder) didn't work. ... The morning attendance: 1,062.
And for those planning ahead to Thursday, the Jets' Green & White Scrimmage will start at Cortland Stadium at 7 p.m. A morning session that day will be closed to the public and media.