The Cradle of Pro Football. Titletown, USA. Home of the Cheeseheads.
In the coming days, the current Jets will be immersing themselves in two training camp practices with the Packers and then a preseason game at hallowed Lambeau Field. A few players might be a tinge awestruck by the change in venues and cultures from the New York/North Jersey to Wisconsin.
As for Jets right guard Greg Van Roten ... been there, done that.
"It was pretty surreal, honestly, just considering the path I took to get to my first training camp," Van Roten said Tuesday about starting his NFL career as an undrafted free agent O-lineman with the Pack as training camps were starting up in 2012. "And then you walk into that locker room and you have players like Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson, B.J. Raji, AJ Hawk, some guys on the offensive line — Jeff Saturday was there my rookie year.
"So it was pretty cool to be around those people and it was even cooler to be in that building, because when you think of football, it's hard not to think of it without the Green Bay Packers."
Van Roten is one of the few Jets who can provide his current teammates with inside info on what to expect against the Pack. Backup QB James Morgan could also help in this area, who was steeped in Packers culture from an early age as he played his scholastic ball at Ashwaubenon HS in suburban Green Bay.
To be sure, the Green & White defense will be tested again, as a different group of Jets were tested by Rodgers and the Green Bay offense at MetLife in the 2018 regular season. Meanwhile, the Jets offense, led by second pick of the draft Zach Wilson, will go up against a Packers D that last season was ninth in the league in overall yards allowed, seventh against the pass and tied for 10th in sacks.
But GVR said ZW should be good to go after his limited but solid showing last Saturday against the Giants.
"Everyone was curious how Zach was going to be in a live situation, and he exceeded all expectations as far as rookies go," Van Roten said. "He was not overwhelmed by the moment, he was very in control in the huddle. ... He's been very open about how 'this is my time to learn what I can get away with and how I operate in this system.' He has a very experienced and veteran mindset for someone as young as he is."
For most of the rest of the Jets team, Van Roten said the Packers mystique will wear off quickly once the teams start popping pads.
"You're going against the same defense every day, they're your guys, the drills can get a little tedious," he said of camp so far. "And now it's, all right, we're doing kind of the same drills, but you're going against different guys. It's still practice but it gets very competitive. I've been a part of a few joint practices in my career and it's definitely exciting to go against somebody different and just kind of see what you're made of."
And for Van Roten, the opportunity is amplified by the fact that he's representing his favorite team growing up — he was an all-state left tackle for Chaminade HS in Mineola, NY, a short stop up the Meadowbrook from the Jets' former Hofstra University home — and going up against the team he called his own for his first two pro seasons.
"Going back, it's going to be exciting," he said. "I played there once in my career after leaving, so it's going to be interesting just to stay there for a few days, practice against them and then have a preseason game against them. I'm looking forward to all that."