Ratliff dropping back at Jets minicamp
ESPN took advantage of the coincidences, as did Associated Press Jets beatwriter Dennis Waszak. A few days ago, both news organizations let fans know how well "Brett" was playing at quarterback at Jets training camp.
The worldwide leader in sports programming even put up two mugshots on SportsCenter to illustrate its story: One of Brett Favre and one of Brett Ratliff.
"I've yet to see it," Ratliff told newyorkjets.com this week, "but I've heard from a bunch of people and hopefully it was a good picture they put up of me. Any publicity is somewhat good, but it is nice for my family to see me back home."
Ratliff's home of Chico, Calif., is half a country away from Kiln, Miss., which is the celebrated hometown of the Packers' renowned and recalcitrant retiree.
But Ratliff is having the better camp, even if it's primarily because Favre and the Packers still haven't decided how their situation is going to play out. Despite some national media and a portion Green & White fans still clamoring for a Favre trade, the Jets' Brett lets it all roll off his back.
'I'm not worried about that," Ratliff said. "I'm just trying to go out and earn a spot, just earn a job and do whatever I can."
That elusive job has gotten a little closer to a reality for the former Utah QB who spent all last season on the Jets' practice squad. Playing behind Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens, Ratliff continues to see reps and keeps making some nice plays against the second and third defenses and even getting some reps vs. the first D. In Tuesday's late practice, for instance, he found TE Jason Pociask for a couple of red zone touchdowns.
A far cry from what head coach Eric Mangini described as Ratliff's first Jets camp a year ago.
"Brett was Leon-esque squared in his first camp," said Mangini, referring to Leon Washington's preemergence camp difficulties in 2006. "He struggled. He came in, great guy, great worker. But getting out the play, it was like an act of Congress to get that done in the huddle."
Ratliff smiled about the Congressional reference.
"I don't know if it was that hard. I struggled a little bit with it last year, but I've definitely improved on that," he said. "It's not quite as hard to get a play off now."
That being said, Mangini lauds Ratliff's emerging traits — his 6'4", 235-pound size, his strong arm, his intelligence.
"That quarterback room sets a pretty high bar for work ethic, and he's right there with them," the coach said. "He's impressive in terms of just continually absorbing the chunks of information and getting better. The guy that's here now versus the guy that was here a year ago, it's night and day."
And it took a long year's journey on the P-squad before Ratliff got to spend a little time in the sun.
"I didn't really have any expectations," he said of his first season as an undrafted free agent. "I was just thankful for the opportunity I was given and i tried to take advantage of that. Last year my opportunity was to be on the practice squad — I played receiver for most of the year."
In fact, you'll still see No. 5 split wide sometimes when the offense goes through its position drills early in practices. "Just filling in, just filling in," he said.
It's hard to say what's ahead for the Jets' QB depth chart, even assuming the Packers' No. 4 won't be coming anywhere near the New York/New Jersey metro area this year. Mangini said Tuesday that his thinking in the Pennington-Clemens competition is that whoever is named the starter, the other would be the No. 2 QB.
Can the Jets keep Ratliff *and *fifth-round rookie Erik Ainge? That remains to be determined, but that's another subject that he shrugs off as he prepared for his most recent exposure, today's single midafternoon practice.
"When I came out in the spring and for minicamp, it was a lot easier than it was the year before," he said. "I wasn't thinking as much as I was actually playing. So far it's gone well."