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Schwartz: The Jets Head Back To Camp Cortland

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

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By Peter Schwartz
» More Columns

When Rex Ryan became the Jets head coach in 2009, he wanted to take the team away from the NY/NJ area for training camp so that the team could bond and avoid any distractions of being at home.

So the team looked around for a new training camp site and they selected SUNY Cortland in central New York. The Jets were so pleased with how things went in 2009 that they signed a new three-year deal and returned to Cortland in 2010.

During the two years that the Jets held camp in Cortland, they went to back to back AFC title games.

The lockout prevented the Jets from returning to Cortland last year so they held camp at their practice facility in New Jersey.

The Jets finished 8-8 last year and did not make the playoffs.

Coincidence?

Probably not, as the Jets suffered through a tumultuous season that had as much to do with not going to Cortland as playing in Giants Stadium all those years contributed to the Jets on-going Super Bowl drought.

“I don’t know if it changed too much,” said quarterback Mark Sanchez. “We weren’t as good as we wanted to be last year, plain and simple.”

However, getting back to Cortland could not have come at a better time for the Jets. They are trying to turn the page on the locker room turmoil of a year ago as they look to regain the chemistry and the magic that they had during the first two years of the Ryan era.

“I think it can only help us, especially with the off-the-field stuff, like camaraderie, keeping team morale high and getting guys excited,” said Sanchez. When you live with guys for two or three weeks, you know everything about them. That’s the best way to go into a season, really understanding each other.”

Aside from mending fences and singing “Kumbaya,” the Jets will provide plenty of story lines throughout the summer.

One of them may or not be the Darrelle Revis contract situation. It’s been reported that Revis is expected to report to Cortland despite the fact that he wants a new deal.  An indication that Revis was going to report popped up a couple of weeks ago when his business manager John Geiger recently tweeted this picture of Revis taking part in a promotional photo shoot for Monday Night Football.

july 2012 004 Schwartz: The Jets Head Back To Camp Cortland

(credit: Peter Schwartz)

On Friday night, Geiger posted a tweet asking followers “Where is a good place to stay in Cortland?” The tweet was removed but that night Dennis Waszak from the Associated Press broke the story that Revis was expected to report to camp.

After signing a four-year “band aid” contract following his 2010 holdout, Revis and his representatives have been under the impression that the Jets promised that they would talk about a new contract after this past season.

“There was no promise,” a Jets source told me.

Revis may very show up for the start of training camp, but that doesn’t mean that he is happy. It also doesn’t rule out Revis being a problem this summer. Remember his behavior at minicamp in 2010?  Don’t be shocked if Revis continues to let it be known that he’s not happy.

The only difference is that this year, unlike 2010, most Jets fans will not side with Revis. They will support the team.

Then, of course, you have the media created quarterback controversy between Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. I was wondering how the city of Cortland was preparing for “Tebowmania” and this report from YNN in Central New York provides a few answers….

I’m not going to rehash everything that I wrote in a previous blog, but here’s the cliff notes version…..

I feel that with Sanchez (#6) and Tebow (#15), the Jets have hit 21 in blackjack. Sanchez is the starter and Tebow is the backup/wildcat specialist/punt protector and any other tasks that the Jets can find for him. Tebow is not nearly the accomplished quarterback that Sanchez is so this whole notion of a competition is about as real as my chances to be Jets kicker.

tim tebow mark sanchez Schwartz: The Jets Head Back To Camp Cortland

Tim Tebow, left, and Mark Sanchez at OTAs. (credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

By the way, there will be a real battle at that position between incumbent Nick Folk and Josh Brown.

There are a few other things to look at in training camp.

The safety situation bears watching as the team crosses its fingers that free agent signing LaRon Landy is fully healed from an Achilles injury in time for the start of the season. Just to be safe, the Jets brought in Yeremiah Bell who had a good off-season program with Gang Green after coming over from the Dolphins.

How the wide receiver group fills out will be interesting to see. After Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley, the Jets will look for contributions from the likes of 2nd round pick Stephen Hill and Patrick Turner. Bringing in a veteran at some point should not be ruled out.

Any votes for Braylon Edwards?

I can also see the Jets bringing in a veteran running back during the summer, maybe Cedric Benson. Shonn Greene is the starter but the jury is still out on him and Joe McKnight has become more of a factor as a return man.  Keep an eye on rookie Terrance Ganaway, a draft pick from Baylor.  I thought he looked good at mini-camp and don’t be surprised if he opens up some eyes in training camp.

While the Jets maintained during the off-season that Wayne Hunter would remain the starting right tackle, he now has some competition after Gang Green acquired Jeff Otah from the Panthers in exchange for a conditional draft pick.  Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum made a very low risk/high reward deal. Otah started four of the first five games for Carolina last season before going on injured reserve with a knee injury. If he can stay healthy, Hunter may be watching from the sidelines.

On defense, the Jets will continue their search for a pass rush. They hope they found it in first round pick Quinton Coples.  The Jets have a solid front line anchored by Sione Pouha, Mike DeVito, and last year’s first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson, but they need to get some more pressure on the quarterback.  Rookie Demario Davis has caught the eye of Rex Ryan and could see some time before the season is out.

I don’t think there are that many roster spots up for grabs, but there are certainly opportunities for players to earn bigger roles.

SANTONIO IS RIGHT…SORT OF

Remember that scene in the movie “Back To School” when the business teacher asks his class the question “So where do we build our physical plant?”

Thornton Melon, played by Rodney Dangerfield, replies “How about fantasyland?”

Sometimes I think that Santonio Holmes lives in fantasyland, especially when he makes comments like he did last week about the New York media.

“If you guys want to be, and this is for the New York media,- if you guys want to be a part of our team and want to feel so important, be there to support us, not to try to break us down,” Holmes said during a podcast on NFL.COM. “Because (there’s) not one day that we all step in that locker room and we try to break each other down, that we talk bad about the way that person played, because it affects the team the way one person plays if they don’t play to perfection.”

Wait! There’s more!

“So, if the New York media wants to be a part of our team and wants to continue writing about us, write positive things,” said Holmes. “Stay away from the negative, because it doesn’t do anything good for our team that you want to report all the negative things that happen and that’s all you want to talk to us players about. We live for one thing, and that’s to play football, and not to entertain you people in the media.”

Holmes is an absolute knucklehead for saying this, but you want to know something?

He’s not entirely wrong.

I’ve been covering the Jets on and off since 1989 and there’s one thing that’s 100 % clear.  There have been beat writers and columnists over the years that have tried to cause problems with their line of questioning and writing.

Some have failed and some have had success.

A former Jets player once told me that the players could tell when a writer was trying to divide the locker room or simply take the negative side of an issue that could have gone either way.

“The guys know who the s**t stirrers are,” said the former player.

There was also the time at Lucas Oil Stadium a couple of years ago when a beat writer had a bit of a breakdown in the press elevator after the Jets wild-card win over the Colts.  The writer was very unhappy that the Jets won and that there will be another week of work. The writer threw some expletives towards the Jets and towards Colts quarterback Peyton Manning for “not getting the job done.”

I’m dead serious.

That is not the type of attitude that a beat reporter should have.  I’m not saying that you have to be a cheerleader either.  Let’s be honest, most of you probably know that I’ve been a Jets fan since I was a kid, but you don’t see me showing up for games and practice with my Dennis Byrd jersey on.  I haven’t let my emotions affect my job.

Neither should reporters who, for some reason, feel some sort of hatred to the team.  You are a reporter and should be objective.

So act that way!

This has been going on with the Jets for years and years and years.  In fact, and Jets fans who read the newspapers should know this, but there’s one prominent NFL columnist for a New York paper that is clearly trying to divide the room with his reporting of the Sanchez/Tebow situation.

The situation is there, but Holmes looks bad for being honest.

Really bad!

BUSINESS IS ABOUT TO PICK UP

When the lockout prevented the Jets from holding training camp at SUNY Cortland last year, it brought a great deal of disappointment to the entire region. Having the Jets there in 2009 and 2010 brought a sense of pride to the community and it also meant a boost to the local economy.

As the Jets get ready to return, the anticipation is evident.

july 2012 006 Schwartz: The Jets Head Back To Camp Cortland

(credit: Peter Schwartz)

“Everyone at the College and in the community is excited about the Jets returning to Cortland,” according to SUNY Cortland President Dr. Erik Bitterbaum. “The visibility for the College and the town was exceptional and it meant an additional $5.8 million was added to the community coffers.”

Jets training camp attracted 34,000 visitors to the area in 2009. That figure jumped 21 percent to 41,000 in 2010 despite the fact that the Jets had five less camp dates that year.

This year, the Jets will hold 16 training camp practices in Cortland with 12 of them being open to the public.  Local businesses are gearing up for a financial windfall.

“From a business standpoint, the first year we saw about a 20% increase in sales and about 28% the second year,” said Mark Braun, owner of “Doug’s Fish Fry”, a restaurant that became a popular destination for the Jets staff, media and fans in 2009 and 2010. The place is filled with Jets memorabilia as Braun is a die-hard Jets fan and a season ticket holder.

july 2012 007 Schwartz: The Jets Head Back To Camp Cortland

(credit: Peter Schwartz)

“I expect an even greater spike this year,” said Braun. “The whole town has been excited for this year’s training camp. We really missed not having them last year.”

Jets training camp brought a lot of visibility to SUNY Cortland in 2009 and 2010. In addition to the additional students that applied to the school after visiting the campus during training camp, the Jets presence also means internships for existing students and the potential to land a coveted job.

“The list is lengthy when you consider all the positive effects that the Jets training camp have done for the school,” said Bitterbaum.

A trip to Cortland for Jets training camp doesn’t have to be all about football.  With most practices starting at 8am, there will be plenty of down time for those of you that will be staying in town for multiple days. Some suggested activities would be frequenting downtown’s restaurants and shops as well as visits to the Brockway Museum, the Historical Society, Ithaca and the Finger Lakes.

Here’s a link to the official website for the city of Cortland…

The Jets will report to training camp on Thursday and will hold their first practice on Friday. The first practice that is open to the public is on Saturday. The later part of camp will shift to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, New Jersey and there will be a Family Night practice at Hofstra University, the Jets’ former long-time training camp home.

For more, go to the Jets official website….

That’s all for now Jets fans! If you’re coming up to Cortland for training camp, have a safe drive and stay tuned for more!

Jets fans, are you ready for camp? Leave a comment below.