For close to two hours on Tuesday, the practice fields at One Jets Drive were a collection of familiar sounds with pads popping, music blaring and young men communicating and celebrating the game they love. But then after a rep in a team period, second-year OL Cameron Clark lay motionless on the ground after sustaining a neck injury. Head coach Robert Saleh ended the practice and team doctors and medical personnel attended to Clark. For approximately 10 minutes, there was silence before Clark was placed on a stretcher and cart, and finally moved into an ambulance.
Meeting with reporters after his team's sixth training camp practice, Saleh remained optimistic about Clark's condition and said "God willing, everything is going to be just fine." Late in the afternoon, the Jets received news that Clark had sustained a spinal cord contusion and is expected to make a full recovery. He will remain in Morristown Medical Center overnight for observation.
"I caught it out of the corner of my eye," Saleh said of the Clark injury. "It looked like he was kicking into protection and then he was on the ground. I'll have to go to the tape to see exactly what happened."
The Jets were scheduled to have another team period before the Clark injury, but Saleh said that there was no point continuing.
"It's never good because football goes away at that moment," Saleh said. "It's about the person, his family, his mom and everything in his life. So that's what takes precedence at that moment. Football kind of goes away. You get empathy in the sense that we all have families. Everything's going to be good."
QB Zach Wilson and DE Carl Lawson expressed their concerns for Clark after the workout.
"Man, it's scary," said Wilson, who later added, "It's just a scary situation when someone is getting carted off the field. You just pray that he's going to be all right. You hope God can just watch over him and everything he's doing. It kind of just shocks everybody a little bit."
Lawson credited Saleh for ending the session as thoughts from everyone on the field turned to Clark, a fourth-round pick of the Jets in 2020 who did not play his rookie season.
"I think the sentiment was for everybody, even the fans, that we're hoping nothing is seriously wrong," Lawson said. "He's in everybody's prayers. We had a moment of silence. It shows what type of man Coach Saleh is to at that point realize the situation and cut practice from there to make sure he was OK."
First Padded Practice
For the first time in training camp, the Jets were in pads and 1-on-1 drills featured competition in the trenches. While the main attraction continues to be Carl Lawson-Mekhi Becton and (the latter fared well against the explosive rusher in 1-on-1s), there are other intriguing ones as well like DT Folorunso Fatukasi and C Connor McGovern. Fatukasi's sheer power was on display Tuesday, but it's important to keep in mind the Jets are often going to get McGovern on the move in many blocking situations. During team drills, Lawson continues to get consistent burst off the edge and he's a nightmare because he can quickly transition inside.
"I attribute my success to last season. Everything is muscle memory now," Lawson said. "I have a heightened sense of awareness and I'm still adding to my game. So now I found the formula and I've been tweaking over the offseason and now it's like boom. I attribute that to being available and get all the experience I did last season, so I can carry it over into this year and continue to improve."
Wilson Eyes More Energy
With the Jets DL buzzing the tower quite a bit around Wilson, the rookie quarterback will benefit from what he's seeing daily. Early in practice, Wilson connected on a deep pass to Vyncint Smith for a huge gain despite the ball getting hung up in the air a bit. That pairing almost made it 2-for-2 down the field, but CB Bless Austin showed impressive recovery speed and was able to collect a pass defense. Wilson did hit veteran Jamison Crowder on a crossing route and the savvy vet picked up a lot of YAC.
"From an offensive standpoint, it's always going to be a little farther behind than the defense and that's because of the install and how much information there is," Wilson said. "But you can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as things are going. We have to increase our energy in practice I'd say and fly around a little bit more. From yesterday to today, there's more improvement. I'm happy with today and how I was getting through my reads and finding guys. The receivers, the O-line trying to understand what we need to accomplish in situations and different things like that, I feel like we're doing a good job and we're getting there. It's a process and it's going to take time."
See the Best Images from Tuesday's Padded Practice at Jets Training Camp
Both OL Chuma Edgoa and DL Jabari Zuniga left practice early. Robert Saleh indicated that Edoga has been dealing with a knee ailment and he's waiting for a medical update on Zuniga. … The Jets want to simulate game-like situations as much as possible in practice and that means limited periods of 7-on-7. Saleh said: "The reason we don't do seven-on-seven is because we want as many live reps as possible in terms of quarterback feeling the pocket, O-line, D-line feeling their partners. And then, obviously, the timing of the play for the receivers in that you have to get in and out of your breaks, you have to capture edges and you have to get out of your breaks as quickly as possible." … Veteran OL George Fant was in his practice gear on Tuesday but did not participate. "Part of the COVID protocol he's got to go through, and the return play protocol," Saleh said. "And also, for us, the return to play, the acclimation part for us. He's good to go, this is more to make sure that his health and his safety is in regard and is held in high regard, so we can get him ready to play." … Both Jets kickers had solid rounds Tuesday, but rookie Chris Naggar (4-for-4) had the leg up on the recently signed Matt Ammendola (3-for-4) by virtue of him nailing a 53-yarder.