Physically, Matt Slauson says he's ready to hit the trenches.
"Without doing a whole lot in the spring, I'm still breaking off a little bit of rust," said "Slaw," the Jets' starting left guard for every game the past two seasons who underwent a shoulder procedure early in the offseason. "But all in all, I'm feeling good, I'm feeling strong."
Mentally, it's no problem at all ... except maybe when he's lining up at tackle, which he did for a handful of plays at today's first practice of training camp at SUNY Cortland.
"I am working at different spots. ... They walked out today and said, 'Hey, you're going to take a couple of snaps at tackle,' " he told newyorkjets.com. "I was at right tackle with the first team for, like, two plays, then I did second team for two plays and third team for a play or two."
Considering this was the first time Slauson has played tackle since his junior season at Nebraska, how did things go?
"It was a little weird," he said, rejecting the cliché about picking up an old skill without a hitch after not using that skill for a while. "Tackle is not like riding a bicycle, especially when you're used to playing guard so much. It's a little bit different world out there, so there's a little bit of an adjustment."
Slauson also told Jenny Vrentas of The Star-Ledger not to read anything into his RT reps, which he said were more of the "just in case" variety. And head coach Rex Ryan noted that in fact while Slauson got some looks at RT, he's also being pressed at LG by third-year man Vlad Ducasse.
"Yeah, I think it'll be a good competition," Ryan said at today's midday news conference after practice. "Vlad's had a tremendous offseason. The fact that Matt unfortunately had surgery and all that allowed Vlad to get some reps there with the ones. So that's some competition there. The other thing is we're looking at Matt to help as a tackle, we're giving him some reps at right tackle and even at center."
We could speculate that Slauson at tackle is one more wrinkle in the fabric of creating competition for Wayne Hunter at RT. Another was the trade for Jeff Otah, with the trade still up in the air due to Otah being placed on the Active PUP list. Otah did arrive at Cortland and was at practice on the sideline this morning. Asked about passing his physical/conditioning test, the former Panther said, "We'll see."
But at this point it's still about finding what Rex referred to as "hidden depth."
"We kind of saw that last year. You need two, three guys to play center. If I'm a guard I need to learn center, maybe tackle, maybe tight end," Ryan said. "All that stuff is your hidden depth because you don't have the roster. You've got 53, then 45 active for the game. Don't be surprised if [Antonio] Cromartie learns how to play some receiver — that's something we've talked about. When you learn the system, that makes you more valuable."
Slauson expressed no nervousness about the LG competition or his reintroduction to RT, a position he played today for the first time in five years.
"I don't care where I'm at," he said, "as long as I'm on the field."