Entering his eighth season with the New York Jets, nose tackle Sione Pouha understands the importance of building team unity during training camp. As a one of Gang Green's elder statesman, Pouha is more than eager to spearhead the team's preparation during the dog days of summer.
"For all veterans this is part of the refinement before you go into the season," declared Pouha. "You have to go through this melting period to be able to form who you are as a team. Every team establishes their solid foundation in training camp. That's the mindset that everyone takes. Your body is almost tuned in to the time of the season and it's time to be here in Cortland and it's time to get to work. "
As a seasoned veteran, Pouha is mindful of his training camp necessities. While there's nothing "soft" about the 6-foot-3, 330 pound defensive tackle, he refuses to leave home without his comfy blanket and pillow set.
"One common mistake that rookies and young players make is they bring too much clothing," noted Pouha. "It's Groundhog's Day when you get up here. You just put on the same shirt and just make sure you take a shower and have a tooth brush. My essential is that I have to have my favorite blanket and pillow."
Last season's rocky finish certainly stirred nightmares for New York's man in the middle.
In spite of the Jets falling shy of expectations, Pouha refuses to dwell on the past; instead, he appears to be chomping at the bit to reunite with his teammates.
Plagued by dissension and inner turmoil last season, the Jets appear ready to turn the page and get off to a fresh start this time around.
"I couldn't tell you what the feelings are from last year," uttered Pouha. " We've put that so far behind us. In terms of the offseason OTA's and minicamp everyone has anticipated coming up to Cortland again this year. With the hiccup we had with the CBA last year we weren't able to make, but we're here now and ready to go. "
In light of last year's NFL lockout, the Jets did not travel to SUNY Cortland to open training camp for the first time in Rex Ryan's head coaching tenure. Oddly enough, last season the Jets missed the postseason for the first time under Ryan's watch after knocking on the doorstep of a Super Bowl during his first two years at the helm.
"I don't know if it's a coincidence that we went to the AFC championship twice," said Pouha of returning to Cortland for training camp. There are some bonding experiences that you have in Cortland that you wouldn't otherwise have if you were somewhere else. Here, we're all we got."
With the majority of New York's core roster intact, the acquisition of backup quarterback Tim Tebow has created a media tidal wave this offseason. While critics contend that an evolving quarterback controversy between Tebow and incumbent starter Mark Sanchez could tear apart the locker room, teammates including Pouha are gushing over his leadership skills and drive to succeed.
"Tim Tebow is a great teammate," said Pouha. "I think the thing that makes him great is he's a winner and he wants to be a winner. The whole goal of this team is to win games. He's just a part of the team and as long as everyone has that common denominator we're good."
Far removed from the buzz and hype of New York City, Pouha and his teammates will have plenty of quality time to spend together in Upstate New York. With ample downtime built into the training camp schedule, Pouha has a few fun events on the agenda.
"I'm sure we'll find something to do like hopscotch or hula hooping," quipped Pouha . "I think those times will be utilized for team bonding. Here we're with each other and we're going to find a lot of team activities to do."