With each new season comes transition. New faces enter the fray, coaches tweak the playbook, reliable veterans call it a career, and others are traded away or released. The Jets have seen their share of movement in the last two weeks, losing more than simply names on a roster. They have also lost leadership.
"We have other good locker room guys," said running back LaDainian Tomlinson. "Obviously it's tough to lose guys like [Damien] Woody and J-Co [Jerricho Cotchery], but we've got a lot of other guys that can fill that role."
Filling the leadership voids on the offensive line and at receiver is an ongoing process. However, head coach Rex Ryan has jumpstarted that process by singling out one player in particular.
"He's constantly grabbing me and pulling me to the side, telling me, 'Tone, I just need you to lead by example,' " said WR Santonio Holmes. "Everything is going smoothly. Whether it's running a route or beating a guy downfield differently than how he should be, that's pretty much the only thing that we have to correct with these young guys."
In addition to Holmes, Ryan has decided it is time for his quarterback to take the next step in his career. Before training camp even began, Ryan bestowed upon Mark Sanchez a captain's "C," an honor not taken lightly by the third-year QB.
"It was a tremendous honor," said Sanchez. "That means the world to me. To be named captain of your team is important, especially in this city."
Sanchez's teammates are not surprised with his new label. The QB's maturation is obvious to his teammates, who support him wholeheartedly.
"He's stepping up to the plate," said Holmes. "He's willing to take over this team and he's going to wear the 'C' on the side of his chest with pride."
Tomlinson echoed Holmes' thoughts and is not surprised that Sanchez will be called upon to step up this season.
"People say you get more progress from year one to year two," said Tomlinson. "Then year two to year three is when you start to really figure it out and you take over as the captain, the leader. Mark has proven that."
Tomlinson himself may be asked to take on a larger leadership role as well. The 32-year-old is entering his 11th year of NFL experience, and Ryan would like to see him impart his knowledge to the younger Jets.
"You've got a guy that has so much more to give," said Ryan. "A lot of these veteran players provide that, because they've been there and done that. They were the hotshot kids right out of college. They've been through the growing pains of their rookie years and all that kind of stuff."
Rookie wideout Scotty McKnight has noticed just how influential the veteran players can be in his brief time as a Jet. Specifically, he mentioned how helpful tight end Dustin Keller has been in assisting the rookies with learning the offensive playbook, and also raved about the Jets' fourth-year center.
"Nick Mangold is a great leader," said McKnight. "Not only is he an unbelievable talent, but he's great with the young guys."
Another member of the offensive line addressed the need for younger voices to emerge, but stressed there is no need to panic.
"We've had this transition period every year since Rex has been here," said G Brandon Moore. "He does a good job of keeping everything together and letting the guys understand what their role is on the team. Guys will step up, but yes, it's definitely a period of transition; especially on offense."
Despite all the steps taken to assure the Jets will have leadership, one veteran understands that the process will happen over an undetermined period of time.
"We've got a lot of leaders, but you can't force leadership on guys," said Tomlinson. "It kind of just falls into place and just happens."
Spoken like a true veteran.