The Jets signed defensive tackle Sione Pouha to a contract extension on Feb. 29, but the off-season agreement was overshadowed by the acquisition of DT Kris Jenkins on the same day.
Pouha, after establishing career highs with 16 games played and 32 tackles in '07, including 17 stops in the last four games, received a commitment from the Green & White.
"It felt good, man," Pouha said of his new deal. "With all the things that have happened the last few years — with the injury and then me coming back and being able to try to learn my position and stuff like that, it's kind of like a payoff. I'm not there yet in terms of where I need to be and where I want to be, but it's nice."
The 6'3", 325-pound Pouha rebounded nicely after a lost '06 when a training camp knee injury sent him to injured reserve. For all intents and purposes, Pouha's '07 campaign was his second professional season.
"I think it was a significant bridge that I crossed in terms of trying to understand where I fit in the scheme," he said. "The most significant part is making football play more natural, more instinctive, more of me playing the game instead of me playing Xs and Os."
If you speak with Pouha for an extended time about football, you'll notice that he frequently uses the word instinctive. He is entering his fourth professional season and third playing under head coach Eric Mangini.
"My approach has been the same as the other three years: find something that I have to work on and get better at and be able to add to my bullets, I guess you would say," he said following a recent OTA. "Just because you sign a contract doesn't mean you've arrived or anything. It's just another steppingstone but you still have to get better and you still have to look for the edge where you can become a more instinctive player, in my case."
It's difficult to get a read on how Pouha and his fellow linemen are performing in OTAs. Reporters have been allowed to watch just a little more than a quarter of the sessions (four out of 15), and the workouts don't include pads.
"It's kind of like a crawling-before-walking mentality," he said. "In that aspect, you just work on the things you can, the things you wouldn't be able to work in a full-aggression-type game. The right hand placement, the right reads … "
Instead of backing up Dewayne Robertson at nose in the fall, Pouha will spot Jenkins as well as continuing to see action in sub packages. When the Jets had finalized the trade for Jenkins, Pouha was actually walking down the aisles at Sam Club's in preparation for a barbeque.
"I knew about him. The guy, Maake Kemoeatu, that I backed up at the University of Utah played right next to him in Carolina," he said. "They played together and I just knew he was a Pro Bowler and a guy I could learn a lot from him, so I was excited."
In Jenkins, Pouha sees a man who has the desire to be a dominant force. He believes being around the 360-pounder should help his own mindset.
"I don't know what it is — I'm Polynesian and we might have a kick-back attitude — but as far as the psychologies of the game, I probably can learn a lot from him in terms of viciousness and being that force."
Pouha, who started his career with more of a subdued tone, says he's at his best when the emotions aren't restricted.
"I think my rookie year when I made a tackle, I would just get up and come back to the huddle. I had no emotional contact with it because I was playing Xs and Os," he said. "But when you become more of an instinctive player, a natural player, you start to have fun, laugh and joke, and you just go out there and have a great time."
After minicamp later this week, Pouha will have some time off to spend with his wife, Katie, and the couple's two sons, Viliami and Sonasi Jr. The Pouhas purchased a house in New Jersey just a couple of minutes from the Jets' new Florham Park facility and Sione is going to work on his new home.
"We have a pool at the house and I'll probably do a lot of painting and a lot of things I wouldn't do normally during the season," he said. "Maybe I'll hang up some moldings and brush the leaves out from my gutter."