Coles can break 1,000 receiving yards on the season with 79 yards at the Metrodome
As an unseasonably warm second week of December sweeps through Long Island's Nassau County, members of the New York Jets football team have had minimal opportunities to enjoy it. The Jets are preparing for a skirmish in Minnesota's Metrodome on Sunday and in doing so, the club is holding the bulk of their practices inside a 70-yard indoor facility – the "bubble" - located at their Hempstead complex.
As witnessed all season long, the Jets have consistently practiced in whatever elements Mother Nature throws their way, not once seeking shelter inside the bubble prior to Wednesday. Coach Eric Mangini has pushed his squad through it all, from triple digit temperatures at training camp to a monsoon-like rain storm on Thanksgiving morning. For Mangini, moving his team to indoor practice is just another element of preparation.
"I don't love practicing in the bubble, but I think playing in the dome is just another environment that you have to get used to," Mangini said. "The noise factor can sometimes be an issue, but we have practiced with sound for a long time. It is something I feel pretty comfortable as far as our exposure to it. It's like playing in the heat or the cold or any of those situations – it is just another environment that we need to be able to execute in."
When browsing at the schedule in the off-season, some Jets probably looked forward to this week of practice as a salvation away from the usual wintry weather. Mangini, a self-proclaimed outdoorsman, says the Jets have had to make arrangements for their indoor facility.
"It is difficult because it's not a full field," Mangini said of practicing inside the bubble. "If you do all the individual work inside the bubble, you really can't do the things you want to do. We did our stretching outside, and we did part of the special teams that you really need more space for outside. After that, the offense went inside for the individual periods. The defense stayed outside, but all the team related drills were inside."
Despite the shuffling around, players have welcomed the dome preparation. Rookie running back Leon Washington has never had to adjust to erratic weather prior to this season as the FSU alum had spent his entire life in Florida. The swift rusher says dome-life might suit him well.
"One can say that it fits my style of running better," Washington said. "At the same time, whatever the elements are: outside, inside a dome, whatever, you have to be able to control yourself as an offensive player. I guess you could say it suits my style better playing in a dome."
"It felt different working indoors because we've been outside so long and practicing in the elements so much," he added. "It felt good to get in there and be able to execute things without being able to worry about the elements. It was a good change-up."
Washington's shifty running style will most likely benefit from the fast, dry turf, but he will have a hard time matching the success quarterback Chad Pennington has experienced indoors. Even though his last indoor performance came in an overtime loss to the Rams, Pennington's numbers when playing inside are outstanding. In 2002, Pennington lit up the Detroit defense for 229 yards with dead-on accuracy, throwing just five incompletions. His four touchdowns and one interception rounded out a fantastic day at the office, giving him a 126.9 rating inside the brand new confines of Ford Field. A year later, he torched the Indianapolis secondary for 219 yards and three touchdowns for a 158.3 quarterback rating – the highest quarterback rating possible. For his career, Pennington's passer rating in domed stadiums is124.3.
Pennington's favorite target that day against the Lions was wide receiver Laveranues Coles, who hauled in seven receptions for 114 yards. Even with Pennington's successful past indoors, Sunday won't be a walk in the park for his signal caller.
"He has to play," Coles said Thursday. "Numbers are numbers, but the main thing is you still have to come out and execute. Once they kick that football off - none of those stats matter.
"I don't think anybody is thinking about stats when you're playing the game," continued the seventh-year veteran. "Everybody is just trying to focus on the job at hand and beat the guy in front of you."
For Coles, his preferred playing conditions are a natural grass playing surface and the cozy warmth of an August or September afternoon. Jokingly, Coles admitted that finally getting inside the bubble to practice seems more like a privilege than a preparation tactic based on Mangini's insistence to practice in the elements.
"I think coach is taking all the necessary precautions by allowing us to finally practice indoors for the first time this year," said the Jets' leading receiver. "It has been excellent; I actually get to see what the inside of our bubble looks like. I think it's one of those things where I might have to grab a camera and take a picture because it's going to be a while until we get back in there."
Thursday Injury Report Jets Questionable: FB B.J. Askew (foot), CB David Barrett (hip), LB Matt Chatham (foot), Eric Smith (foot) LB & Bryan Thomas (shoulder)
Probable: *RB Kevan Barlow (calf), *LB Brad Kassell (shin), *WR Justin McCareins (foot), *DL Rashad Moore (hand), *QB Chad Pennington (calf), *DL Dewayne Robertson (shoulder), *TE Sean Ryan (thigh) *WR Brad Smith (shoulder) *S Jamie Thompson (ankle) & *DL Kimo von Oelhoffen (shoulder)
Vikings Questionable: RB Chester Taylor (ribs), QB Brooks Bollinger (shoulder)
Probable: CB Cedric Griffin (neck), LB Napoleon Harris (wrist), WR Marcus Robinson (ankle) & DT Pat Williams (knee)
*Denotes players who participated in practice