A linebacker's absolute worst nightmare? Maybe a combination of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Green coming out of the backfield? Nope. Dustin Keller, Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards wreaking havoc over the middle? Not quite. How about a 6'4", 308-pound fullback barreling down on them at the line of scrimmage? Bingo.
In certain situations, Jets offensive lineman Rob Turner turns those nightmares into reality. The versatile Turner can play four positions on the offensive line, plus tight end, fullback and special teams. "That's a lot of hats," head coach Rex Ryan said, "and he wears a bunch of them."
A favorite of Ryan's because of his physical style and selflessness, Turner has proven over the past three seasons to be quite an asset for the organization that signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2007.
"I think of myself kind of like a Swiss Army knife," Turner said. "I'm good in a lot of situations but I'm not great at any one. That can be good and bad. It's something that I have to keep working because I only see limited reps at one position and limited reps at another position. But that's the way I can help the team."
Currently slotted as the backup center to Nick Mangold, Turner provides quality depth along the entire offensive line. He has the ability to play both guard positions and could even play right tackle in a pinch. Furthermore, he has lined up at tight end, forms half of the two-man wedge on kickoff returns, and last season almost blocked a punt against New England.
His most interesting alignment, however, is when he moves to fullback.
"If that's something I can help contribute," Turner said in his Texas drawl, "and soften up those linebackers because they don't want to hit me and I have a hard head and I like hitting people anyway, then I'll do it."
The Austin native and New Mexico product started all 45 contests during his college career and was even tied for fifth in the country in consecutive starts as a senior. He was a preseason Lombardi and Outland trophy candidate and won the Lobos' Most Inspirational Player award in 2005. He has gotten less playing time with the Jets but has still played 25 games in three seasons (including 13 last year) and started two games while at the same time maintaining that rousing, unselfish persona.
"The biggest thing is guys are willing to sacrifice," Turner said. "I'm not worried about the money, I'm not worried necessarily about the playing time. I want us to win. That's part of being a Jet, that's part of being our team."
After biding his time and gradually improving over the last few years, Turner might have been a choice to compete to replace Alan Faneca at left guard. The coaching staff instead turned to Matt Slauson and rookie Vladimir Ducasse to battle it out for the starting job.
Although the competitor in him is slightly frustrated about not getting the chance to start, Turner respects his coach and knows his place on this team. He is one of the most physical players on the Jets, which in the hot sun at SUNY Cortland means he's typically right in the mix for the occasional training camp skirmish. For Turner, this is just a product of the aggressive nature that he's grown up with.
"That's not something that is new," Turner said. "That's not something because Hard Knocks' cameras are here. This is something that I've been doing, good, bad or indifferent, since the time I was 17 years old and showed up in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico."
"That's why he's here," Ryan said. "If he wasn't that kind of guy all the time, he wouldn't be at this level. He has to be like that. That's his mentality. He has to be tough. He has to be just a nasty guy and that's who he is."
Turner claims he's been fighting less this offseason than he has in the previous three training camps, but he's been seen getting tied up with a variety of defenders. Regardless of the brief tangles, he's known as a good teammate who works hard, provides value and always puts the group first.
"It's a team game," Turner said. "I may not be the best at any one thing but I'm pretty good at a whole bunch of things and I think that's where my value comes. I understand that. I'll keep working to get better."