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Players Get First-Hand View of New Facility


Atlantic Health Jets Training Center Photos Tour

The access roads are still mud-dusty from the back-and-forth of construction vehicles. The unfinished walls still show recesses and holes where flat panels will go and electric connections have yet to be made. You can still see in between some of the beams from the outside to the back wall of the field house.

But there is paneling up on other parts of the outside of the field house. And there is glass and a finished look to the hallway looking out onto the fields. And one of the fields was being mowed and watered and giving a good impression of being ready for a football team to practice on it.

The Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J., is coming along. And this morning the Jets players and coaches, wrapping up their full-squad training camp with a series of non-practice events, came along in four buses to get their surprise tour of their soon-to-be new home.

A first impression: They were impressed.

"Very nice," quarterback Chad Pennington said.

"It's cool. It's cool," replied safety Kerry Rhodes.

"It's unbelievable," said head coach Eric Mangini, eager to get his team into its new digs. "It's well-designed — the amount of space, the functionality ... I did our tour early on, and I've been by again when we were looking at houses. Today it's much more real."

For most of the players, this was their first view of the impressive work-in-progress in the suburban woods of southern Morris County. They split up into several groups, donned hard hats — either caution yellow or New York Jets green and white with team logo on the front — and took a look around the building, getting a feel for where the important stops were: locker room, weightroom, trainer's room, classrooms, cafeteria.

For some players, it was a return trip. They were either on that early tour Mangini mentioned or at the February groundbreaking, or they came on their own. Linebacker Calvin Pace, for example, made his storied March surveillance of the facility from owner Woody Johnson's helicopter, touched down and saw the place from ground level, and shortly after signed a contract to join the Jets as an unrestricted free agent.

"It's changed — a lot," Pace told one of the construction workers he recognized today.

Fellow LB David Bowens was seeing it all for the first time, yet he understood where Pace was coming from.

"This is definitely the best in the league, and I've been to my share of teams," said D-Bo, who made stops with four NFL teams from 1999-2001 before staying awhile with the Dolphins and then moving to the Jets as a UFA last season. "This is going to attract a lot of free agents, that's the first thing I thought about when I saw it.

"If you come to work in an environment that's comfortable, you can really focus. With a lot of the little intangibles you've got to deal with at work, having a place like this makes it better."

Punter Ben Graham headed toward the buses with a smile on his face.

"You know the first thing I'm going to do when I get here?" he said. "Put on some cleats and try to hit the roof."

Graham was referring to the inside of the fieldhouse, a massive structure whose indoor roof will be a little harder to bounce a drop punt off of than the practice bubble at the Jets' longtime training base at Hofstra University. Someone said he heard the distance to the highest point in the fieldhouse is 94 feet.

"Ninety-seven," said Graham, who has already gotten the specs on the structure.

Finishing today's tour behind the players, team president Jay Cross took general manager Mike Tannenbaum and Mangini all around the building. They came to the auditorium, which at the moment has a number of concrete steps that give it a mini-Colosseum feel.

But on those steps will be fastened 160 seats, nearly twice the mount of the auditorium at Weeb Ewbank Hall, each seat fully upholstered, 24 inches wide, tested to hold defensive tackle Kris Jenkins and linebacker David Harris — in other words, 600 pounds. And something that caught some of the players' attention today: Each seat has its own temperature control.

And from the stage area, the coach will have clear sightlines to every seat, meaning undetected napping will be tough to accomplish.

Tannenbaum came outside, surveyed the project — whose pricetag is more than $75 million — and pronounced it a winner.

"I think it's great. It says everything about Woody Johnson and the commitment he's made," Tannenbaum said. "It'll be the best facility in the NFL."

With that, the buses circled out of the parking lot and headed for the next stop on their itinerary, a "team-building" morning of bowling at some nearby lanes in their new home area.

Then close to noon, the players and coaches pulled into nearby Delbarton High School, where the rest of the organization was celebrating Jets Family Day, an atmosphere that combined a barbecue picnic with meetings with area vendors offering products and services for those still trying to get their individual houses in order.

The momentous move is set for early in the season ahead, sometime shortly after training camp at Hofstra breaks in late August. And the mood of the players in their first team exposure to new home: We can't wait.

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