Thursday Player Interviews

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Transcripts of selected player interviews after the Jets' Thursday morning training camp practice:     

QB KELLEN CLEMENS

On how he is handling the quarterback competition …

There's a lot of talk, there's a lot of rumors, there's a lot of conversation that goes on. I think inside the building we're all just focused on getting better and getting ready for the 2008 season.

On the offseason adjustments he has made …

I did a lot of work, not so much on my throwing motion. I did a lot of work on my footwork. It needed some improvement coming out of last year. That's where a lot of my time and work went in this year from a physical standpoint. Mentally, it was just diving deeper into the playbook and continuing to be a student of the game.

On being anxious to return to work …

I think everybody's excited to be out here. We made a lot of moves in the off-season and got some very good quality football players in the Jets locker room now, both offensively and defensively. There's an excitement and a buzz in the locker room right now. We're very excited to be out here and get to work.

On what he wants to see from himself in the next month …

The main thing is to improve everything. You take two to three things from each practice and say, "OK, those are areas I need to improve and focus on in the next practice." In the whole picture, you just need to continue to work to establish a good training camp going into the preseason, and put myself into a good position going into the season to get some playing time.

On how he will stay focused on winning the starting job …

Truth be told, the prize is something that we focus on as a team. It goes beyond the individual player. We're all looking at winning that first game at Miami, that's the first thing we're all looking for. We all have our individual goals, obviously, but the team goals definitely are more important than anything individually.

On feeling comfortable about competing against Chad Pennington …

I take nothing away from Chad. He's a great player, he's a great person, he's been around, I think he's going into his ninth year now. If you just look at it, myself, going into my third year, it's not so much an honor, but I'm proud of the position that I find myself in, being in a position to battle with a guy of his reputation. He's been there and he's done it and he's been successful, so I feel pretty good.

On if he is anxious after last season …

Last year was great for me in the chance that I had. I was able to go out, start some games, have some success. That showed me that I can do it and I can play at this level. Anxiety would not be the word as I mentioned before. Competition makes us all better and we're all out here to make the Jets better and win some games.

On if he feels there needs to be a timetable for the decision on who will start …

The decision is going to come down from upstairs. I know that Coach Mangini is going to make that decision. Both Chad, myself and the team trust him to make it in a manner that's best for the team. Coach Mangini, above everybody, wants what's best for the organization, so we trust him and when the decision is made, it's made and we'll go from there.

On the competition and what he has to look forward to in training camp …

The bottom line is, competition makes us all better. Especially at the quarterback position right now, there's a quarterback competition. That's going to make both Chad and myself better, which is going to make the team better. That's ultimately why we're all here.

On if he has ever been in a similar QB scenario before …

Yeah, going into my sophomore year at Oregon, I was in a competition with a guy who was going to be a senior, Jason Fife. Very similar situation.

On how he handled that competition

It was very similar, a veteran guy who was a good quarterback. There was no hostility; there was no anything. It's not an easy thing to do to say, "Hey, we're here to compete," but the ultimate goal is what's best for the team. When you're competing with a guy like Chad, that's the focus and it makes it easy because as I mentioned, Chad's a guy of very high character.

On what he needs to improve on to win the job …

Ultimately it's going to come down, for me personally, to being efficient, moving the football, taking the checkdown when it's there, and just ball control.

On what he felt he needed to reevaluate after reviewing video from last season…

One of the major things, and one of the things that I worked on a lot in the off-season, was footwork in the pocket — moving around, avoiding sacks and still staying in a position. There were a lot of scrambles last year. Some of them turned into a good thing and some of them were perhaps unnecessary. So, moving in the pocket and being able to remain a passer so I can throw downfield when the team brings pressure.

On talking with Eric Barton about the interception he threw to him during practice …

They were in a drop-eight coverage, which is always difficult to throw into. Barton did a good job of reading; I was trying to look him off to the right and trying to come back to Laveranues [Coles] on the left. He wasn't where he was supposed to be, and I threw it where he wasn't supposed to be.

That's a veteran play by Barton. I just wanted to ask him, "Why were you there?" We had a little conversation, so the next time when the play is called against that coverage, don't make the same mistake twice.

On if he feels confident because the organization feels that either he or Chad can be the QB and not someone outside of the organization …

That's definitely a positive. If they're looking elsewhere, and we're in a competition, especially after being in it all spring, it's never a good thing if you're one of the guys competing. The Brett Favre thing, that's Brett's deal. I wasn't even aware of it probably until about two weeks after, because I was back on the West Coast hanging out. I don't really have too much on that one.

On if Barton's interception bothers him more because he is in a competition …

Because Chad didn't throw a pick today [laughs]? No, this is more of a marathon than a sprint. I don't think Coach is going to make the decision this afternoon. If he was, then it's going to haunt me a little more. You never want to throw picks, but part of playing quarterback is you learn from it. You go over and talk to Barton, as I did, and you move on.

On his thoughts as to why he was at his best last season in the two-minute drill …

I don't know. It's something we spent a lot of time on, put a lot of emphasis on over the course of the year. It's something I feel comfortable with: try to put some different pressure on the defense at times. It's very interesting. Hopefully we don't have to have as much success in the two-minute drill this year because we won't be in it as much.

QB CHAD PENNINGTON

On if he was able to accomplish anything during the first practice …

Absolutely. I think you have to come out here with a purpose every time you step out on the field. You come out here with one or two fundamentals you want to stress with yourself and then work on getting better at your position.

On his expectations of how things will play out in the QB competition …

I am here to do one thing: play football. I am here to win this job. That is my goal and focus. That has never changed and won't ever change.

On if he embraces competition …

I am no stranger to competition. I've had it through the last three years and you have to react as a professional. You have to accordingly handle your business, handle it with class and move on.

On what he expects to see from himself during camp …

I just want to see individual improvement. I've been working hard on my mechanics. I've really tried hard to change my mechanics in the off-season to maintain consistent velocity. I know I have the arm strength to complete all my throws and make every throw. I want to be more consistent at making those throws and that's why I have changed my mechanics in the off-season. It's still a work in progress, but I'm really focused on that and really excited about that part of my game.

On what it is that fires him up when there is competition for position …

I think any man that is competitive, when your job is on the line, you're going to step up to the challenge and answer the call and don't back down from it, and that is the position I am in. I think that is part of being a competitor and it's part of being a professional and making sure you're doing everything you can within your control to take care of business.

On him tweaking his throwing motion …

I think to the naked eye or to someone who has not really studied me, they probably wouldn't notice a lot. There are a lot of things I am tweaking and changing because I want to get better. I want to become a consistent thrower down the field and really take my talent and accuracy and use it to my advantage down the field, intermediate, short. Wherever the ball needs to go, my goal is to put the ball there.

On if his receivers have noticed the difference …

I sure hope so. My goal is that by the end of the training camp and going into the season they can tell a difference from this year to last year. Right now, what your thought is as an athlete and as a thrower is every once in a while you fall back on what you've done for 25 years. When you change something like this, you really just have to be patient with it and be consistent with it and keep working on it.

On if he feels any pressure to perform …

That is part of being a professional football player and more importantly that is part of being a professional football player in New York City. You are going to get speculation, you are going to get questioned on your ability and how you can lead the team and how you can win and that is part of playing the quarterback position. That is why it is a premium position. I embrace that because there is no other position I would want to play and there is no other position I would want to be in.

On his mechanics and what specifically has changed …

It's a little bit of everything that I've really focused on. I've went back and looked at it, spoke to a lot of different people, and I think I have become more of a body thrower. You look at the good throwers in this league and they really use their bodies really well. They don't leave their arms hung out to dry where sometimes if you don't get your body in position, it's an all-arm throw and it doesn't matter how strong your arm is, it causes an inconsistency. One throw could make it there and the next throw may not.

If you use your body and really concentrate on your footing, your body causes a consistent throwing system and you're able to increase your accuracy and consistency in ball placement.

On the level of confidence he can demonstrate at QB …

In my position, I'm not a new player coming in. I'm a player that has played in this league and I am going into my ninth year, starting over 60 games. There is a lot of tape and film to look at but this is a different year. In this league, it's about what you're doing now, it's not about what you've done in the past.

You have to focus on that. You can't rely on what you've done in the past. You can't say, "Well, I don't understand why they haven't seen in the past what I can do." It's not about that. It's about taking it one day at a time, making sure you're doing everything possible to prove yourself again.

On how his ankle injury hindered his performance …

Over the last few years really having two surgeries opened my eyes to some things. Before the two surgeries, I could get away with some things and not see the intricacies of throwing the football and what makes you a better thrower. After two surgeries and over the last few years, it has been a process of getting healthy and feeling good and really taking a look at what you can do to make yourself a better thrower.

That's what I've tried to do. It also comes with the experience. I've talked to some guys and it just didn't happen for them until later on in their careers, and as a younger player you're just trying to get on the field and learn the system, do those things. As an older player, you get comfortable with the mental and then you can start honing on your physical.

On some of the guys he sought out to talk to …

Across the board from close family members to friends to professionals. It's really been a team effort and I really took a look at my training this year, too. I went back and started working with my trainer back in Knoxville. We've worked together since my high school and college days. I have worked out with guys down in Florida. We took our program here and worked with John [Mellody] and Sal [Alosi].

It's been a huge team effort. I've really focused on that and I think the biggest thing as far as my off-season program is to develop an 11-month plan. I think we do a good job of developing a plan to get us to camp because we get so caught up in everything, but to have an 11-month plan that maps out every step of the way — off-season, training camp, preseason, during the season, playoffs — and have that mapped out already, I think that really helps.

On if it is a vote of confidence that the Jets reportedly have no interest in Brett Favre …

In this business, you can't rely on votes of confidence. You have to rely on yourself because it's cutthroat. It's a business and you are here to prove yourself everyday and the organization's job is to make the team better. If you rely on votes of confidence, you're going to be disappointed a lot of times and then that takes your focus off what it really should be and that is yourself. I am here to play football and whatever happens, happens.

On if it makes him feel good that the organization doesn't feel the need to go out and find a QB …

I'm in a competition. I think all of us as individuals want the organization to believe in us and us, period, nobody else. Kellen, Brett [Ratliff], Erik [Ainge] — I want them to believe in me. I just don't look at it that way. I look at it and say, "You know what? I am here to play ball and get back to the basics of playing football and enjoying this game."

On his thoughts with all the Jets/Favre rumors …

Speculation, rumors are a part of this business. A great part for these fans is speculation for this business, when you guys write about what-if-this and what-if-that. That is all part of the business. That is what creates the excitement, that's what creates the coffee talk in the morning, so that doesn't bother me.

On his chances of returning after the team made the QB change last season …

It looked rather slim, to be honest. It didn't look too bright for No. 10 standing in green, that's for sure, but here I am. Let's take advantage of it and let's roll with it.

On if he thinks he can help the Jets …

I think Eric [Mangini] and Brian [Schottenheimer] stressed to me that I am player who can help us win and that's why I'm here and I think that's why all of us are here.

On how unhealthy he was last year …

It was tough, it was really tough. I had two torn ligaments in my right ankle. It was extremely difficult. It was an injury that I could have easily taken three weeks off. You guys know how I am — I don't believe in that. If I can walk, play and function, I am going to be out there regardless, and so it was tough.

The first two months of my off-season were to recenter my body. My whole body had reshifted to my left and I had to really concentrate on getting things back to normal with getting this ankle stronger with flexibility back in it. It's one of those injuries that showed me how your base is so important. If you don't have that base, it really causes problems.

On if he had surgery on the ankle …

I had rehab on the ankle and constant work on the ankle. Everything is connected from the ground up so it really throws everything off.

On if the mechanical changes hinder him in the competition …

I just feel like working out there by myself. When I do things right, it's just different. It's a different ball, different velocity and different everything. I'd rather do things right and look at the long haul. I've been successful throwing the other way. When I go back to the other way, it's not all that bad.

I am not going from worse to good. I am going from good to getting better. If I fall back on that every once in a while, I can survive. I can still make things happen and make throws. I am just looking to be at my best and that is what we all try to do. Anything to do to get better, I think this can help.

On if he thinks he is throwing as well as he has since the shoulder injury …

At times when I do things right and I do the things I want to do fundamentally, the ball is coming out of my hand. If I get caught up in a read or something mental and my body hasn't committed all that to muscle memory, then I go back and I may still complete the pass but if not it's OK, I want it to feel right.

On if he has spoken to others who have made mechanical changes in the middle of their careers like Tiger Woods …

That is the best example. I know Tiger Woods is not a quarterback, but he did his swing and everybody told him he was crazy. It took some time through the transition period. He just kept working on it and look at what it has done for him. I am excited about it and it has really given me something to focus on and go after.

TE CHRIS BAKER

On if he is anxious to get everything sorted out …

Yes, because I want to get out there and get on the field. I'm ready to get out there with the team. I'm excited to get out there and get back to business.

On his feelings about wanting this situation to be over …

That's what I've wanted since day one, to be out there, be back with the team, out on the field and things like that.

On if he expects to be playing this year …

I'm working hard and I'll be out on the field pretty soon.

On if he is worried that being placed on the PUP list will affect his negotiations …

No, it has nothing to do with that. It really doesn't have much effect on that aspect of it.

On his injury during minicamp …

I mean, I was injured enough to not be at practice for a day, but it wasn't something as serious as losing a game or something. But it was something that was enough to set me back for a day.

On encouragement for a resolution …

Well, at least the two sides are talking and I'll let them handle that part of it. They are talking now so that's a good thing.

On when they started resolving it …

Recently.

On his focus on football …

It's encouraging. I wanted to come into camp and be ready and get back on the field and concentrate on football. The season is hard enough. I just really wanted to focus on that aspect of it and not be bitter.

On if the Jets seemed more open on renegotiating his contract now than in the spring …

I can't really talk about that part of it. But as far as looking for a solution, that's the most important part of it.

On what would be a solution and why his stance has changed …

I can't talk about the specifics of it right now [laughs] — I know you guys were looking forward to that. For me it was a tough situation and I wanted to leave that part to them and let them work that out so when the season comes, I'm ready to play.

On regretting what he said a month ago …

No, because that's how I felt a month ago. I didn't say anything that was false or anything like that at the time.

On the Jets possibly trading him …

Well, regardless, I want to be here. Whatever the resolution is, it is what it's going to be. But like I said, at least it's something. They are working towards something. But whatever it is, I will still be playing ball.

On feeling like a member of the team …

When I came in for the minicamp and things like that, my mind was far from the football field — mentally, I wasn't into it. But now I feel a lot more ready. That was my own feeling. It wasn't like an outcast or anything like that, but it was just the time. But everything now is working towards the solution. That makes me feel better. I've got to get ready for the season because I can't take off this long and expect to just walk in and play.

On if the PUP move was the result of his actions at minicamp …

No, it wasn't at all. I didn't fail the tests or anything like that. It was something that was necessary for me. If it was something other than physical, I would say it.

On finding a solution …

Like I said, once they were able to talk and start to go towards something as opposed to no solution, that makes it a lot easier for me to say, "OK, they're working for me to get out here and do what I need to do and to be ready for whatever to happen."

On when his focus shifted …

Very recently, to be honest with you. Prior to a week ago, I really had no idea what was going on. But like I said, they started to at least talk and work on something. That completely switched my focus go out and get ready to have a good training camp.

On increasing his salary …

I don't know where it's going to go. I don't know. I am not saying they are or they aren't, but we're working towards a solution. It'll be whatever, but at the same time it's a solution. That's the important part; to say, OK, we'll do something and I'll do something.

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