Miller lays out RB Ahman Green
Justin Miller, the New York Jets' lone representative on the AFC Pro Bowl 2007 roster, practiced Tuesday for the first time with his teammates gathered in Honolulu, Hawaii. The second-year speedster from Clemson says the team took a slow approach to their workout.
"It was way different from an Eric Mangini practice," said Miller with a laugh during a phone interview with newyorkjets.com. "It was laid back. We were out there enjoying Hawaii."
Miller, the Green & White's record-breaking kickoff return man who averaged 28.3 yards a return in the regular season and brought two back for touchdowns, lined up on defense and shared a laugh with Bengals receiver Chad Johnson.
"The tempo was by far 100 times different than a regular season practice," Miller said. "We were out there in shorts. Nobody was really doing anything. Practice was really like a walk through. We just kind of went out there and talked about basic football. They may have run through like 10 basic plays on offense, and we kind of stood around on defense kind of laughing and joking. I played around with Chad Johnson when we were lining up. It was just kind of laid back."
Practice actually began with Miller getting his hands on the ball. Miller, who has already returned a franchise-best three kickoffs for touchdowns, will return both kicks and punts when the AFC battles the NFC Saturday at Aloha Stadium.
"We did some special teams work. We did kickoff returns and kickoffs," he said. "That was the first thing we did. I got a chance to return a couple punts, so I'll have a chance to do that too."
During his rookie season, the 5'10", 202-pound Miller fielded six punts. Before he departed for Hawaii, Miller actually got some work in on his returns.
"I don't think I approach it any differently," he said of his punt duties. "I worked out before I left, catching balls and everything. I feel comfortable I still can do what I did."
Following a year under Mangini's tutelage, Miller now is receiving instructions from one of his coach's mentors. Bill Belichick, the accomplished leader of the New England Patriots, will not be a Miller rival for at least the next few days.
"He basically said to us, 'I know everyone wants to come out here and have fun and nobody wants to be out here really practicing, but let's just go through it and get things done right,'" said Miller of Belichick's initial instructions.
On Thursday, Miller will participate in the NFL Skills Challenge. He will compete in the Fastest Man competition, a 40-yard dash to determine the NFL's fastest man.
"I am going to see if I can keep up," he said. "I am not sure about all of the competitors, but I know DeAngelo Hall for sure because he won it last year."
But the 22-year-old Miller says the players will have a lot of free time during the week. He would like to allocate some of that time for philanthropy.
"I just got out of practice and had to do a couple of different interviews with NFL Films and the Skills Challenge people. The Nike reps were showing me some of the new stuff that they had, and they gave us a few gifts," he said. "Other than that, I am going to try to do a couple of charity events. I think I am going to visit the Hospital with my mother tomorrow."
Miller's mother was scheduled to arrive Wednesday. She is a member of the U.S. military and Justin was unsure if one of her tours had included Hawaii.
"I know she is going to want to do some things. I am going to spend some time with my mother and enjoy this," he said. "This is an opportunity for her to take a vacation and enjoy herself us too."
While the wind chills hover around zero back in Hempstead, Miller might take advantage of his Hawaii stay and get in the water. Not surprisingly, he will choose a high-speed activity.
"I don't know about surfing," Miller said. "I might do some jet skiing. I know how to jet ski, and I haven't been on a jet ski since college. It's too cold in New York to do something like that. By the time the weather warms up, it's time for camp again."
You could almost see the Miller smile when he spoke on the phone. He is a happy man, enjoying his first Hawaiian experience.
"When I left New York, it was bitter cold," he said. "It is 80 degrees and sunshine here, and a real nice breeze. Oh man, it is beautiful right here on the water."
Later in the week, we'll chat with Justin about practice, the Skills Challenge competition, and also get some of his pre-game thoughts.