In his last locker room appearance of 2008, Kris Jenkins talked about some challenges he faced in his first year as a 3-4 nose tackle, as well as his feelings on the departure of Eric Mangini as his head coach.
"All I can honestly say is that I'm appreciative of the opportunity I got," Jenkins said Monday, "and I'm thankful that Mangini was the one to give me that shot, gave me that opportunity. And I'm going to miss him."
Jenkins admitted to being surprised upon hearing the news that Mangini would not return for '09, but he understands that the transaction was strictly business.
"Everybody that's around, in their own way, is doing what they feel is best," he said. "So there's nobody that I can be upset at. You have to accept the reality of this game. I don't think that anybody could be mad at anybody.
"You know, I just had a great man for a coach and I've got to watch him go."
Jenkins dominated the opposition early in the season and the Jets' pass rush seemed to follow suit, so speculation as to the severity of Jenkins' injuries swirled when the team's sack production dropped later in the year.
"If you want the honest truth," said Jenkins, "did I deal with some injuries that concerned my hip? Yes, my hip and my back."
Jenkins explained why he struggled to keep healthy and how it affected his game.
"I had some issues with my hips and it's just because this is my first year in a new position," he said. "In a 4-3 you're coming off the ball, so the way that I'm coming off the ball I'm using different muscle groups. You don't have to roll your hips like you do with 3-4 nose that you do in 4-3. You've got to come off the ball some, so it was just getting accustomed to a new position over the course of a season.
"I got to learn the position and it's not just learning it in training camp so I could be good for the first game. Now I've got to learn how to be able to sustain that type of performance over the course of the season. So that's the deal.
Jenkins said that one of the hardest things for him to deal with regarding double-team blocks was dropping his hips, which in effect was dropping his center of gravity.
"That was a challenge that I had," he said. "It's not necessarily an issue when you're doing some things, but when you have to drop your center of gravity to do a lot of things, like shedding blockers and taking on double-teams, it becomes challenging."
"I know that's why it didn't look as violent as it did in the beginning. I need my hips. That's my game.
"A lot of people think D-line is about your punch or getting off the ball and things like that. Everything starts with your core. So I've got to have my core in the best possible shape and condition and that's it. I just wasn't aware of the type of little things that were necessary to be OK for a nose tackle. But if I've got to play 3-4 again, I know now. So that's it. Whatever it is, I can always get better and I'm going to get better."
Jenkins remains happy he made the move to the New York Jets early this year, but refused to speculate on whom the organization is targeting for a head coach to succeed Mangini.
"I don't know who the coach is going to be," he said. "I don't even want to get into that yet. Look, I'll be here to talk to you when we find out who it is.
"I mean, the reality of it is I don't know what is going to happen. I've got the opportunity, so that's cool, but that's one of the hard things that comes with having a new coach and new things. You've got a new scheme, you've got a new game plan, you've got a new way of practice, you've got a new way of getting accustomed to guys.
"If you have a new coach come in, there's probably going to be people in the locker room that you see the same, but there will probably be new people, too, because a new coach will probably come in and bring the guys in that they feel comfortable with.
"It's almost like starting all over again," he said. "This is my second first year in New York."