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By Peter Schwartz
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Sometimes, you can go home again.
As far as the Jets go, they can never return to their former homes like the Polo Grounds, Shea Stadium or Giants Stadium, but they do have the ability to turn back the clock and return to their roots.
On Thursday night, the Jets will hold their annual training camp practice at Shuart Stadium on the campus of Hofstra University on Long Island.
Last year’s practice at Hofstra drew a crowd of over 10,000 fans creating an exciting atmosphere for a workout. A similar evening is expected on Thursday.
“It’s great,” said quarterback Mark Sanchez. “You get a lot of fans on Twitter and people you see in passing in the city or in New Jersey, wherever, ‘I’m from Long Island, I wish you guys were still out here.’ So this is kind of us paying respect to them and thanking them for being great fans for such a long time. Sure, we moved to New Jersey, but that’s still our home over there too, so we’re excited to go back.”
After training camp in 2008, the Jets said goodbye to Hofstra and packed their bags for the Atlantic Health Training Center in Florham Park, NJ. They may have relocated to a bigger and more spectacular home, but they left behind a lifetime of memories.
Training camps at Hofstra were special to those Jets fans that call Long Island home. Even after moving from Shea Stadium in Queens to Giants Stadium in New Jersey after the 1983 season, the Jets still conducted business, held training camp and practiced at a site that still connected to them to the biggest part of their fan base.
So for one night, the Jets get to go back to the future!
“I think it’s going to be great,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “We’re excited about it, it’s something that we want to do, for the next 20 years or something go back in there. It’s just one day. It’s a little inconvenient, but so what. It’s a big group of our fans, we’re proud of that and it just gives an opportunity for us to go in there and maybe some of the fans can’t get to games but they can see us at a practice. We enjoy it, it’s what we do. It’s one of the things we’ll do now. “
While Ryan is excited about the night at Hofstra, he’s also taking some measures to make sure that an embarrassing moment from last year doesn’t take place again. HBO’s “Hard Knocks” caught several Jets eating cheeseburgers on the field during the practice at Shuart Stadium and Ryan wasn’t happy about it.
How does he make sure it doesn’t happen Thursday?
“We will be traveling with our cheeseburgers on the bus this year,” joked Ryan. “If I have to go down here and buy them myself, there will not be that issue. At least there better not be.”
There’s no doubt that Long Island Jets fans will be hungry to see their team in person on Thursday.
One Jets player is really looking forward to the Hofstra practice and that’s left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. The Long Island native played his high school football at Freeport and used to watch the Jets practice at Hofstra all of the time. I had a chance to chat with “Brick” this week out in Florham Park.
For the fans, the dynamic of training camps at Hofstra changed over the years. There was a time where you could go up to a fence in between the field and Weeb Ewbank Hall and wait for the Jets players to come over and sign autographs.
As time went on, fans figured out that they had to make their way over to the cafeteria after the morning practice to try and meet their favorite Jets. The Gang Green faithful quickly learned that it was at the cafeteria where the players had to stop and talk to the media so they would line up along Oak Street waiting for them to arrive.
Jets training camp really became one of the most anticipated events on Long Island. There’s nothing better than something for free and if you were a Jets fan on Long Island, training camp was the place to be.
So it was appropriate that when the Jets left for New Jersey, they agreed to return to Hofstra for one night each summer.
“That’s where our fan base is,” said linebacker Bart Scott. “Being that this team was originally from Long Island, I think it’s good to not forget about the people out there and have them go out and see their team and interact with their players.”
The festivities begin at 4 p.m. with Jets Fest in the stadium parking lot. Practice begins at 6 p.m. and runs till about 8:15. After practice, players and coaches will sign autographs.
PRESSED INTO MORE ACTION
With backup quarterback Mark Brunell nursing a calf injury, 7th round pick Greg McElroy has seen an increased workload. He saw plenty of action in the victory over the Bengals and will be the #2 quarterback on Saturday against the Giants. This week at training camp, I caught up with the former Alabama star…
McElroy has shown a lot of poise playing behind the second and third string offensive lines. There’s no question that he has a chance to be a good quarterback in this league. My hunch is that he will be the backup to Mark Sanchez in 2012.
That’s all for now! Check back on Friday for a preview of Saturday’s Jets-Giants game.
Will you be there Thursday? Let us know in the comments below…