With the blistering training camp sun, dorm rooms and SUNY Cortland behind them, the New York Jets are back in New Jersey and refocused on the next step of their season. After traveling to Carolina to face the Panthers, the Jets held their first of three days of practice in the tristate area today in Florham Park, and everyone seems to be pleased with their return home.
"I'm just happy to be able to sleep in my own bed," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "I just wake up in the morning, I can go downstairs, go into my own fridge, different things like that. It's just fun to be back home."
Still, it was clear that the nearly three weeks spent in Cortland, N.Y., were beneficial for this Jets team as many of the pieces of the offense and defense have come together. Although safety Brodney Pool said it wasn't quite like training camp in "Remember the Titans," being in a rural setting and far from home was a great way for this team to bond. As a result, head coach Rex Ryan feels very confident about the status of the team moving forward.
"I think we're right we're right where we want to be as far building our team," Ryan said. "It's always great to go away, I think the team becomes closer. They just have each other and all that. I think that's where we're at right now. Now we have to get better as football team and that's what we're working on doing."
Ryan's sentiment was echoed by a number of players, who generally were more than ready to return back to their families and to a sense of normalcy that comes with the routine of being home. While Cortland did a wonderful job of making their town the Jets' home, it's difficult to match the amenities of the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
"It feels great to be back," linebacker Jamaal Westerman said. "Cortland was a great place for us for training camp. They really took care of us up there and people were nice, the crowd was always good every day. Our staff and their staff worked together real smoothly and everything was run very well. Of course, it's better to be home, though."
Just because the Jets have returned home doesn't mean they are becoming complacent. The offseason is still in full swing for this team, and most of the players are still trying to take care of their individual responsibilities before entering the mindset of "regular-season mode" after the third preseason game.
"I think the only comfort is being home," offensive lineman Rob Turner said. "Is it technically training camp? No, because we broke camp. But it's still the preseason so it's still the same thing. Longer days, guys still fighting for jobs."
While Turner and the Jets have noticed a little bit less mixing and matching between the starters and the reserves as the season approaches, some of the second-string players are still getting chances all over the field. Although there is hardly game-planning yet, the Jets did a little scouting today for Friday's contest against the Washington Redskins. The first offense and first defense were seen playing against reserves.
"Every game that we play now is getting more and more preparation for Baltimore," Pace said of the Jets' first regular-season opponent. "The third one coming up, the guys are going to get extended playing time against a good group in Washington so it's going to be good for them."
Getting in the habit of scouting and preparation is useful for the Jets, who were given a personnel packet and basic scouting report this morning. They're continuing to learn the base offenses and defenses in order to help them with schemes they will likely confront during the regular season.
Many Jets fans were excited to see their team return from Cortland, but sadly for them, heavy rains Sunday night and this morning forced today's practice into the complex's fieldhouse, where it was closed to fans.
"It was unfortunate," Ryan said. "We had this practice, it was going to be open to the public but the weather never cooperated."
With rain and drizzle on the horizon for the next two days, the practice schedules for Tuesday's midday practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center and Wednesday's evening practice at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium on Long Island could also be affected, so check for updates on newyorkjets.com.
But whatever the weather, the Jets will continue to work toward the start of the 2010 season, now just three weeks away.