CORTLAND, N.Y. (AP) – Brian Jackson never had a chance once Bart Scott got his hands on the yellow rope.
The rookie cornerback was tied to a goal post by Scott and a few of his teammates at the end of the New York Jets’ morning practice Thursday, covered in heat balm and drenched with Gatorade. Some may call it rookie hazing, others may say it’s downright mean.
For the Jets, it was just a little more team bonding.
“I haven’t talked to Brian yet, but I heard he’s taking it as a personal thing, which is unfortunate,” coach Rex Ryan said with a grin. “I’ll get a chance to talk to him.”
Jackson, who has impressed Ryan and the staff during camp, apparently talked back to one of the assistant coaches. Bad move, rookie. And the NFL Films crew caught it all for HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”
“I’ve seen way worse than that,” Ryan said. “We’ve all seen the Tim Tebow haircut.”
The Jets have spent the last few weeks at SUNY Cortland learning more about each other, and trying to build the chemistry that was such a large part of the team’s run to the AFC championship game last season.
“I think off the field has been some of our biggest improvements,” quarterback Mark Sanchez said. “On the field, that will speak for itself when the season starts.”
They planned to spend their final night in Cortland entertaining themselves with the rookie talent show, a Jeopardy game, the King Ugly contest – selecting the ugliest person on the team – and even a performance by a magician.
“A lot of people could see, especially with ‘Hard Knocks’ going on, how close our team is,” Sanchez said, “how much fun we have, how serious we are when it’s time to get to work and how important we know our goals are and how focused we are when we get on the field.”
After a busy offseason in which several popular players were released or traded – Thomas Jones, Alan Faneca, Leon Washington, Jay Feely, Kerry Rhodes – and plenty of new faces were brought in, the Jets used training camp in Cortland as a bonding session.
They needed it, too. For a team with Super Bowl hopes, many fans and media were concerned the personnel changes could disrupt the locker room. Instead, the Jets insist their newest teammates – LaDainian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie and Jason Taylor, to name a few – have endeared themselves to the team. They’re Jets now, they’ve all said separately, and put whatever allegiances they previously had in the past.
“Off the field, I feel like we’ve grown as friends, as teammates, as family,” Sanchez said. “That transcends football. We don’t want to be just football players and show up to work. We show up for fun, and show up to have a really good time and hopefully win.”
Ryan said he will release the team after their activities Thursday night and give them a later curfew. The Jets will have a walkthrough Friday and then break camp before playing at Carolina on Saturday night.
“We don’t care what they do,” Ryan said. “They can have a bible study, go drink beer, go shoot pool, go to a movie, but you’ve got to do something with a teammate. That’s the only thing we ask for this last night.”
Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins briefly considered retirement in the offseason while rehabilitating from a torn knee ligament. He acknowledged feeling revitalized this summer, his 10th in the NFL, when the dog days of camp were also good days.
“You come out here for the work,” Jenkins said. “It’s nothing else. You need to work. You need the reps. You need to sweat.”
Jenkins added that the team did a good job of working hard together, something Ryan insisted would be the case – despite all the personnel changes. The coach used last season as an example of how important team bonding is, when the Jets had two three-game losing streaks and still made the playoffs.
“I think that speaks to the kinds of players we have, the kind of locker room we have and how the guys feel about each other,” Ryan said. “This is a new year, but I think this is a close football team.”
Notes: Ryan said the Jets’ starters will likely play for about a quarter against Carolina. They played an entire half in the preseason opener against the Giants on Monday night. … The Jets signed LB Boris Lee and waived P T.J. Conley, who was competing with Steve Weatherford for the starting job.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)