2003 NFL Preview

Calling all Jets fans

Bradway's phone rings in start of training camp

Posted: Monday July 21, 2003 4:48 PM

  Don Banks

This is the first in a series of postcards's Don Banks will e-mail from his annual NFL training camp tour.

Monday, July 21

Team: N.Y. Jets

Jets training camp has begun here in Hempstead, N.Y., on the campus of Hofstra University, but I'm wondering if anybody here in Long Island (locally it's pronounced Long GUY-land) knows it? Fewer than 100 fans -- and I'm not exaggerating, folks -- showed up for the Jets' first workout of the new season, which took place in cool, comfortable temperatures perfect for summer football, with nary a break in the morning's overcast skies. Just imagine if New York hadn't won the AFC East and made its second consecutive trip to the playoffs last season? C'mon, lovers of Gang Green. Where's the passion?

1. File this one under the heading of "Stuff you can't make up." It seems the phone number to Jets general manager Terry Bradway's direct line at the team complex was mistakenly published Monday morning by Newsday, and identified as a fan information line that Jets supporters could use to get news about training camp practice times. Bradway told me he was swamped with dozens of phone calls from Jets fans trying to find out all sorts of information. It didn't take him long to stop giving his name as he answered the phone. And about those Laveranues Coles and Chad Morton free-agent defections, Terry ...

2. Newly signed defensive tackle Chester McGlockton, 33, is here at training camp, but he's not doing much of anything so far. Wearing shorts and a T-shirt, McGlockton watched both of Monday's workouts without taking part. To put it delicately, he's not in football shape just yet. Listed on the roster as weighing 334 pounds, McGlockton, the former Raider, former Chief, former Bronco is said to have approached 375 pounds when he weighed in last week, just before joining the Jets.

Head coach Herm Edwards acknowledged that McGlockton won't practice any time this week, and some believe it may be two games into the Jets' five-game preseason schedule before he's fit to play. McGlockton's body fat reading is said to be about 22 percent. Said one wise-cracking Jets beat writer upon spying New York's big new acquisition on Monday, "So that's why the sun isn't out today."

3. Curtis Martin is among the most articulate and intelligent of Jets. He thinks before he talks and speaks in complete sentences. But sometimes we're harshly reminded that football players aren't all that attuned to what's going on in the rest of the world. Asked if he was excited about the Jets' upcoming trip to Japan for the Aug. 2 preseason opener against Tampa Bay, Martin expressed hopes that the SARS epidemic has been cleared up in Japan.

Assured that SARS had swept through China, not Japan, Martin brightened considerably, saying, "Then I'm really looking forward to that trip to Japan."

4. Smart thing the Jets did this year, switching to the new artificial surface called Field Turf for training camp at Hofstra. The same stuff is scheduled to be installed at Giants Stadium, following last season's debacle of a natural grass playing surface. Remember how hopelessly chewed up the Giants and Jets' home field was late in 2002? It won't happen again, which is downright pivotal for an NFL stadium that's in use 17 weekends a year. Also, the Jets also have Field Turf in their practice bubble in Hempstead, giving them a rare bit of uniformity in the footing department.

5. The quote of the day was issued by one Vincent Frank Testaverde, who'll turn 40 in November. Now the Jets' backup quarterback behind Chad Pennington, the 17-year NFL veteran is sliding gracefully into a new role. Testaverde, wearing a T-shirt that said "Get your mind right," had this to say about entering camp as a backup for the first time since 1993 in Cleveland:

"Hey, I'm still here, and I'm happy about it. I think being around a lot of young kids keeps me young. As long as Chad plays well, I'll have a long career."

That's why I've always liked Vinny Testaverde.

6. The Jets' starting free safety this year is projected to be second-year man Jon McGraw, a second-round pick in 2002 out of Kansas State.

Jon McGraw. In New York. Perfect. If only the Jets played at the Polo Grounds.

7. Britney Alert. Miss Spears, that diva of pop music, is headed to Jets camp at some point this summer. It's part of her promotional duties for the NFL Kickoff Weekend concert she'll give in Washington on Sept. 4, when the Jets and Redskins open the season at FedEx Field. Spears is also scheduled to make the scene at Redskins camp in the coming weeks.

Don't say we didn't warn you.

Ian Smart. The 5-foot-8, 192-pound rookie running back/kick returner from nearby C.W. Post (it's in Nassau County) has a real shot to make this team as an undrafted free agent. Yeah, he's small and comes from a small school. But Smart scored 95 touchdowns in college, and that's an incredible number even if you playing flag football. The Jets are going to give Smart every chance to help them offset the free-agent loss of return man Chad Morton. He'll return kickoffs and punts this preseason and will be worked into the backfield rotation at times.

"He's a productive guy, and he's quick," Edwards said. "He's going to get a long look with us, you bet. Going to get a real long look, like long, long look. Like real long. I think he's a good football player, I really do. I just think he's got a little something to him. I think the players feel that too."

The Jets' offense has ranked dead last in the NFL in terms of total offensive plays for two years running. In 2001, New York ran just 928 plays. Last season, that number dipped to 917. Baltimore and Houston were next to last, with 947 offensive snaps. Edwards has targeted that trend as one that must change if the Jets' offense is to show the kind of improvement he's after.

"We've got to have more offensive plays," he said. "That's not enough."

Setting what the team says is a new standard for all of professional sports, the Jets' media guide will feature five -- count 'em, five -- different covers. The franchise is celebrating 40 years of Jets football this season (1963-2003, with the travails of the AFL's 1960-62 New York Titans being ignored) and decided to pair pictures of its current stars with a Jets icon from an earlier era. Thus, there's a Chad Pennington/Joe Namath cover, and others that feature head coaches Herman Edwards/Weeb Ewbank, running backs Curtis Martin/Freeman McNeil, receivers Wayne Chrebet/Don Maynard, and defensive ends John Abraham/Joe Klecko.

What, no Emerson Boozer? And yes, if you're wondering, the entire set of five covers can be purchased. The media guides will be issued Tuesday, and I'm guessing you'll see six complete sets listed on eBay by noon. At the latest.

Major League Baseball isn't the only sport that's trying to interject more of an international presence. One of the Jets' more interesting training camp stories this season is receiver Yoshinobu Imoto, a Japanese native who was signed after playing for the Amsterdam Admirals this year in NFL Europe. The 6-foot, 180-pound Imoto was one of the eight "national" players who dot each NFL Europe roster, without their rights belonging to an NFL team.

Imoto, 27, played college ball in Japan, for Ritsumeikan, that longtime Far East football powerhouse. Just kidding about that last bit. The first thing you tell me about the Ritsumeikan program will be the sum extent of my knowledge on that topic. But then you knew that.

The language barrier is a significant problem for Imoto, who wears No. 9, but the Jets are doing their part in that department. Tak Makita, a local Japanese photographer who has shot Jets games for years is filling the role of interpreter for Imoto. At one point in Monday morning's opening workout of camp, Makita was beckoned from the sideline to tell Imoto that he needed to stay closer to the Jets other receivers during segment drills.

After the morning practice session, Imoto stayed on the field for some extra work with Jets receivers coach Mike Canales. From what I saw, Imoto has decent hands and a big enough body to play in the NFL, but he needs to work on his route-running skills.

It wasn't exactly an Ichiro-like mob scene, but there were a handful of Japanese photographers on hand Monday to record Imoto's first full day in Jets camp. And with New York's preseason opener against the Bucs in Tokyo on tap, Imoto figures to be a huge story in Japan.

"I'm going to try and get him the ball," Jets head coach Herman Edwards said, laughing. "I'm going to feed him. I'm going to feed him, man. I'm going to make him a star."

And Imoto isn't all alone in his quest to become an international NFL star. The Jets also have Mexican receiver Carlos Rosado in camp. Rosado also played in NFL Europe this season, and starred collegiately at the University of the Americas in his native Mexico City.

Guess it's a small world, after all.

N.Y. Giants, Albany, N.Y.

Check back soon for more of Don Banks' Postcards from Camp.

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