Nametags weren’t needed but the Jets’ locker room following last week’s OTA felt like a team building activity in corporate America. After all, with the myriad of offseason additions the Jets have infused into their locker room, the work off the field is as important as the work being done on it. Maybe more so.
“We know each other from workouts and lifting in the offseason,” said linebacker Calvin Pace. “But it’s good to see what it’s all about when the helmet and pads are on.”
The usual dozen or so undrafted rookies and free agents were on hand, plus the several new marquee signings this offseason. Several new additions have brought the Jets under fire over the past few months as being players who might disturb the team’s chemistry. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie earned a reputation in Oakland as being a difficult teammate during the end of his stay with the team and wide receiver Santonio Holmes will sit out the first four games of the season with a league-mandated suspension due to an off the field incident.
And with the new additions came veteran leadership losses. Gone are Alan Faneca, a locker room cornerstone and Thomas Jones, known as the hardest worker in the weight room. Yet, the Jets bristle at the idea of being called the “Raiders of the East.”
“We’ve got a real good locker room and it has been that way for a few years. It all started with [former head coach Eric] Mangini and the picks and signings he made,” lineman Damien Woody said. “And it’s continued on, that feeling around here with Rex and what he adds with his bravado. It’s really good what we have here.”
So far so good for the Jets, who were visibly laughing and smiling in practice, a rarity on a NFL practice field. Linebacker Jason Taylor, an offseason signing from Miami, said that he was impressed with how the team has opened up to him. Coming from Miami and the strict, almost oppressive locker room run by Bill Parcells, life under Rex Ryan has been an eye opener for Taylor.
“I don’t want to call it relaxed like it’s lackadaisical,” Taylor said. “It’s [just] a little more calm.”
And the Jets are a notoriously tight locker room and this offseason they are counting on that as they blend the new additions into a team that was one game away last year from their second Super Bowl appearance. As important as all the work is, the camaraderie is equally important.
“Championship teams aren’t made in August at camp,” Pace said. “They’re made in May.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for questions, comments and crude remarks at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012