Happy New Year. Or words to that effect.
That was the message from several Jets today as they talked with reporters on a conference call on the occasion of the players' return to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center for the start of their voluntary offseason strength and conditioning program.
"To me it's really the first day of the 2012 season, and I say that because you finally get your players back in the building," head coach Rex Ryan said of the start of "Phase 1" of the NFL's offseason calendar, when players can hear from the coaches, sit down for meetings, but then work out only under the supervision of strength coaches, with trainers and equipment personnel also available, for the next couple of weeks.
"Quite honestly, we're focused on 2012, so I'm definitely confident we'll be better and I think going through the experiences we went through in 2011, I think we'll learn from them and be better because of it."
"It's a new football season," said WR Santonio Holmes, in his first interview with beat reporters since the end of the season. "New faces are going to be around here, new expectations are going to be expected. We're all excited to be a part of what's going to happen with this 2012 New York Jets team."
"It was a little hotter than I expected," replied center Nick Mangold of the warmest North Jersey morning so far this year as temperatures reached into the mid-80s around noon. "Rex's message was just that it's 2012, a new year, a new beginning. It's time to get to work, and I think that was taken to heart. For the first day, a lot of good work was put in. Every day it's going to be building off of the day before, make sure our foundation's there, and keep building upwards."
Ryan detailed the agenda, such as it was: a brief team meeting, during which strength coach Bill Hughan about the conditioning programs ahead and manager of football administration Jacqueline Davidson went over some of the language in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that will affect the players during this time. Then the players split into offensive and defensive units for another set of meetings during which playbooks were distributed.
Because of the start of the "new year" and the fact that, in Holmes' case, he hadn't fielded questions since immediately after the Jan. 1 season finale at Miami, reporters wanted to revisit some of the issues from the way '11 ended, on a three-game losing streak that finished the Jets' season at a playoffs-less 8-8. But in all cases, the Jets preferred to focus on the two-faced god Janus, doing double duty this year in April as well as January, looking to the future rather than the past.
Regarding talking with Holmes this offseason about the way things ended for him and for the Jets, Ryan said, "We had some discussions. Both of us, all of us, are really excited about this 2012 season. I think as a football team, we recognize that we made some mistakes in 2011. But we're now focused on 2012 and learning from things. We want to be at our very best. That's all of us. And I'm excited about that, I know that."
"Last season was a blur for all of us," Holmes said. "A lot of things didn't go the way we had planned. ... Things fell apart for our team. This year we're looking to pick ourselves up and get back in the playoffs in the Rex Ryan system."
Holmes talked a little bit about the work out last week — call it a New Year's Eve party, perhaps — when QB Mark Sanchez, Holmes and a few other Jets and NFL players got together in Florida for informal practices before today's day one on the new calendar.
"It was a part of building our chemistry," Tone said. "We got a new coaching staff this season. We wanted to get a head start on things we can work on, things we know we need to connect on. What better way than taking a week before the offseason program, getting in a week of work, throw a couple of passes, get a feel for each other, and start it early."
Holmes had words of praise for Sanchez's organizing these drills.
"I think the leadership part for Mark, he was portraying those leadership qualities, reaching out to me, sitting for a while to chat about things. I think it was great for he and I to put things behind us. We're both competitive football players. We look to make the best out of every situation. And we're going to do that this year."
Of course, the best-laid plans in January, or April, don't always pan out the rest of the year. But resolutions can turn into reality, if everyone involved is, well, resolute about the road ahead and equally resolute about not letting the past dictate the future. "We're not bickering little schoolchildren," Mangold said of the way last season ended. "I think we're able to understand that things happened in the moment, in a different moment in time. This is a new time. This is not the 2011 Jets, it's the 2012 Jets. We're looking forward to making it a much better year than it was last year."