Kimo von Oelhoffen in drills during his 14th NFL camp
Kimo von Oelhoffen came off the field at training camp, his pants grass-stained, his shirt sweat-stained, following 20 minutes of extra work after practice had officially ended.
Extra work? Shouldn't a grand old vet like Kimo get to go into the locker room when practice ends? How many years NFL summers has it been, anyway?
"This is my 14th camp," von Oelhoffen, 36, said with his trademark smile and those eyes that crinkle one second and assume a 100-yard stare the next. "Each camp is all-important. One thing about this league is that it just doesn't matter what you did the year before.
"I'll tell you what. This quote changed my career," he said, lowering his head imperceptibly to pass on the secret by an unnamed NFL acquaintance. "The true meaning of being a professional is production. Period. How you play your role, produce in your role with consistency. You can't come into camp and not be productive."
This Jets camp has been productive for KVO. He's been working with the other defensive ends, and there are many — Kenyon Coleman, Shaun Ellis, Michael Haynes, Eric Hicks, Bobby Hamilton, Darrell Adams, undrafted rookie Mike DeVito — as well as taking reps at tackle.
Perhaps with the extra bodies at the position this season, von Oelhoffen's load has been lightened some. On the other hand, he clearly isn't averse to putting in overtime. Either way, he declines to characterize the degree of difficulty to enduring his second camp under Jets head coach Eric Mangini.
"It is what it is. This is what I do. I wouldn't say it gets tougher at all. They're all tough," he said, Hemingway-esque. "It's an attitude. It's all in your mindset. The body's amazing. If you have a bad mindset, you feel bad. If you have a great mindset, you feel good."
Von Oelhoffen's career has been a play with three acts: six seasons with Cincinnati, six with Pittsburgh — that last of which was adorned with a Super Bowl ring — and now two with the Jets. Last year's statistics, despite 16 starts at RDE, were among the lowest of his career (28 tackles, one sack), but he always approached his job with that professionalism of his.
I asked him this week, before he and the Jets take the field tonight for their second preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, what kind of goals he sets for himself after all these years.
"I guess you could call them goals," he said. "I don't have goals to play 20 years or go to the Pro Bowl. My goals are if I need to improve my pass rush, my goal is to improve my pass rush. If I need to improve my leverage points, it's to improve my leverage points. My goals are to get me to be the most consistent football player I can be."
He remains a voice of experience in the locker room. Of Kenyon Coleman he said, "I can say he's a great guy, a great player. I'm very, very glad we have him."
And of the D-line as a group, Kimo sounded bullish.
"It's a good line. We have a lot of depth," he said. "We have a great defensive line coach [Dan Quinn] who's helping everybody. We will be a good front. I feel sorry for the [Jets] people who've got to make decisions -- they're going to have tough decisions."
There will be difficult personnel calls at DE and elsewhere around the Green & White depth chart, as there always is this time of year. But von Oelhoffen's immediate goal is to keep on lining up, keep taking on other teams' tackles and guards.
"I'll keep playing football until they tell me I can't play anymore," he said, smiling his smile. "I love this game."