The Jets adopted a businesslike approach in the weightroom this season and the defensive line has set the tone week in and week out.
"When you walk through the doors," says defensive tackle Sione Pouha, "you want to exit better then when you came in."
Those doors to the Atlantic Health Training Center weightroom would have been a paradise for a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's any workout enthusiast's paradise. The workout room — equipped with treadmills, iron plates, Olympic bumpers, dumbbells, barbells, kettle bells, chains, power racks and medicine balls — is almost 11,000 square feet and close to double the size of the team's designated area at the old Hofstra facility.
"We can accommodate a lot more players at once," says Sal Alosi, the Jets' head strength and conditioning coach. "There's not a lot of waiting around for a piece of equipment because there is now more of what we use. We can have 30 guys in here if we wanted to and nobody would have to wait around for anything."
As a result, the team's workouts have become quicker and more efficient.
"The time in here is maximized whereas maybe a 30-minute in Hempstead takes only 20, 25 now, so now we're getting the same work done in a shorter period of time, which means the recovery process starts faster," Alosi said. "We're getting more out of our training session at our highest peak of energy and testosterone levels."
During the season, the Jets are required to lift with the strength and conditioning staff twice. They have an option to get a lower-body workout in either Tuesday or Wednesday, then everyone lifts upper-body on Thursday. If head coach Eric Mangini gives the players a "Victory Monday" following a win, then that light-body weight circuit workout designed to keep the heart rate up becomes a voluntary optional.
"We run two waves during the season, which allows us to hit two peaks," Alosi said. "The first wave ended on Week 7 and was followed by an 'unload' in Week 8. And then we have another six-week wave. You have to unload the volume and intensity periodically so they don't hit the wall. That's why the cards are updated weekly."
"You're constantly able to build that way," says veteran defensive end Shaun Ellis, who leads the club heading into the regular-season finale against Miami with eight sacks. "You don't fatigue your muscles. One week we may lift heavy and the next week we may have a heavy emphasis on quickness and speed. He does a good job of balancing."
Even if the Jets hit the wall, the D-line will probably knock it down. Just consider that Mike DeVito, an undrafted free agent end out of Maine now in his second season, holds the house record with a 700-pound squat while nose tackle Kris Jenkins squatted 675 pounds and easily bench-pressed 510 pounds.
"The competition goes into the weightroom," said Kenyon Coleman, a 6'5", 295-pound end who is one of the many D-linemen who often outperforms his required targets. "I think Kris has raised the bar a little bit because overall he's a strong guy, and it's the same way with Shaun. You don't want to slack off."
The D-linemen are equal-opportunity lifters and play no favorite workout partner routines. They find a member of their positional group and the challenge begins. Ellis says progress breeds progress.
"You don't want to feel left out. You're like 'I'm going to add another 25 on there since he's adding. He is, so why can't I?' "
"I've been impressed with them week after week," said Alosi, who is assisted by Mike Jones, a starting safety on the University of Georgia's 1992 team that won the SEC East, and Rick Lyle, who played 10 years in the NFL including a Jets stint from 1997-2001. "It might be somebody different each week who is excelling. It always seems like one of them has exceeded their program weights or their program speed — depending on what kind of program we are doing."
The NFL has reached its final weekend and by this point there is nobody who isn't suffering from some aches and pains. But you can find an edge on Sundays due to your physical preparation throughout the week.
"Even though you're nicked up, you still have to get in there and get your lift. You don't want the other muscles to fall away, too," Ellis said. "Sal does a great job of getting us the lifts and getting us specific things that we all need to work on."
You've heard all season about the character inside the locker room and the Jets carry it with them across the hall to the fitness room. Alosi raves about the work ethic of many veterans, including Leon Washington, Tony Richardson, Thomas Jones and Alan Faneca, and also praises the work of a number of the young developing players.
But the entire defensive line has been particularly outstanding. They've consistently exited the locker room better than when they walked in.
"As long as that happens, it's just like putting money in the bank," Pouha said. "When it's time to make a withdrawal on Sunday, there is something there because you deposited so much during the week."