Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Westchester Family Servies Star Gala

I'll be out at Jets rookie mini-camp tomorrow and will update on that. However, I had the great pleasure of attending the Westchester Family Services Star Gala tonight honoring Brandon and Mara Steiner. You know Brandon - he and his brother Jim run Steiner Sports.

Brandon and Mara have done some great work on behalf of this agency which helps families in Westchester County through a wide variety of services.

Jets greats Marty Lyons and Joe Klecko were there along with a bunch of Giants including Carl Banks, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Morris and Otis Anderson. On a personal note I met my hero Bucky Dent, but that's another story. (And I grew up a Mets fan!)

A separate honoree was Ray Rice formerly of New Rochelle High School and Rutgers and who of course now plays for the Ravens. He was honored with the Spirit Award for his work and gave a terrific speech, which he spoke without having written anything down. Very impressive.

I also met a few kids who play for New Rochelle High School, many of whom are going on to play in college, hoping to follow in Rice's footsteps. I listened as one of them, David Thomas, who plays running back, was given a a lot of great advice by none other than Joe Morris. How about that experience for a high school football player?

A live auction was held and one of those items was a pair of seats from Yankee Stadium. You can still buy a ton of these and other mementos by going to

Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting Ready for Rookie Mini-Camp

The Jets announced their list of undrafted free agents today. These players will join the 2010 Draft picks at this weekend's Rookie Mini Camp. In addition, another group of tryout players will also be on hand. Forgive the formatting, I'm having issues figuring out how to get it to work correctly.

Undrafted Free Agents:

Kevin Basped LB 6-4 254 Nevada Sacramento, CA

Keith Buckman OG 6-5 321 North Dakota State Belfield, ND

Jeff Cumberland TE 6-4 249 Illinois Columbus, OH

Brian Jackson CB 6-0 198 Oklahoma De Soto, TX

Jason Lamb DE 6-4 284 Baylor Richardson, TX

Broderick Stewart LB 6-4 232 Vanderbilt Newnan, GA

Matt Stommes OT 6-6 311 Minnesota Richmond, MN

Charlie Tanner OG 6-3 305 Texas Austin, TX

Don Warren S 5-11 195 Michigan Long Beach, CA

Ernest Williams DT 6-0 281 Pittsburgh Monessen, PA

Tryout Players:

Alex Brink QB 6-2 211 Washington State Eugene, OR

Marcus Burton LB 5-11 258 Colorado Channelview, TX

Mickey Dean RB 5-9 225 Arkansas-Pine Bluff Little Rock, AR

Marcus Ezeff S 5-11 196 California Santa Rosa, CA

Philip Kirkland WR 5-10 190 Bethune Cookman Quincy, FL

Marlon Lucky RB 5-11 216 Nebraska Dallas, TX

Wesley Lyons WR 6-8 233 West Virginia Pittsburgh, PA

Donye McCleskey S 5-11 209 Indiana State Dayton, OH

Damon McDaniel WR 5-10 201 Hampton Virginia Beach, VA

Michael Owen TE 6-2 249 Syracuse Riverhead, NY

Erik Pedersen LB 6-0 230 Portland State Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Mark Petro PK 5-9 180 Hillsdale Rocky River, OH

Jesse Rack TE 6-3 238 Buffalo Maspeth, NY

Cory Reamer LB 6-3 231 Alabama Hoover, AL

Brooks Rossman PK 6-1 175 Kansas State San Diego, CA

Brashton Satele LB 6-0 241 Hawaii Mililani, HI

Albert Toeaina OT 6-5 329 Tennessee San Francisco, CA

Simi Toeaina NT 6-2 307 Oregon San Francisco, CA

Eric Ward QB 6-1 215 Richmond Atlanta, GA

Anthony Wiseman CB 5-9 186 Maryland Silver Hill, MD

FYI - The Toeainas are cousins, not brothers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jets Draft Food Festival

I'm not sure if the Jets are trying to kill us or are just showing off, but our third meal of the day has just arrived. This one is a compilation of hot hors d'0euvres including three chicken wing selections (plain, Buffalo and BBQ), some dumplings and fried mushrooms. Those are accompanied by a fruit plate, brownies, chocolate chip cookies and chocolate-covered strawberries.

Lunch was a full hot dog bar with four or five topping choices. AND we had breakfast with several entree selections, bagels and pastries.

Last night we had mussels in marinara and home made pizza. Thursday night was some Italian entrees followed by mozzarella sticks, a cheese platter, fruit platter, vegetables and chocolate chip cookies. I am also fairly certain I am forgetting something significant.

GM Mike Tannenbaum joked on Thursday that it was a 2,000 calorie night. 2,000? I think that's probably the tip of the iceberg.

Lots of changes

I don't generally get a lot of satisfaction out of saying "I told you so," and even less so in this case. As one of my sources told me might happen over a month ago, the Jets have released Alan Faneca.

That in itself is interesting, but additionally, it says no one else in the league was willing to put up the money it would have cost to take over his contract, given his advancing age.

While Faneca has not been the player he was earlier in his career, he served as a strong component to the Jets offensive line and was a terrific resource for the younger linemen. He is enormously well-liked and respected by the locker room as a whole and his fellow linemen in particular.

To add insult to injury if you're a Jets fan, the team traded Leon Washington to the Seahawks for what amounts to a fifth-round pick, which they used to draft RB/FB John Conner from Kentucky.

Washington is a huge loss for the team. I guess they were too nervous about his recovery from his broken leg. However, I wouldn't bet against the guy.

On a lighter note - I texted one of the team's starters shortly after all of the above activity asking if he had time to talk. His response, "Am I still a Jet?"

Friday, April 23, 2010

Round two - Vladimir Ducasse

Day two is in the books. Have you heard that one enough yet? Quiet Draft so far for the Jets, and by quiet I mean GM Mike Tannenbaum has not made a trade. Must be losing his mind. He and VP of Scouting Joey Clinkscales were quite anxious to get out of tonight's presser quickly in order to run back up to the War Room in an attempt to make something happen - it didn't.

So, after grabbing CB Kyle Wilson last night, the team went back to offense, selecting lineman Vladimir Ducasse out of the University of Massachusetts. Ducasse is an interesting story. He's originally from Haiti, arrive in the United States as a sophomore in high school after his father sent he and his brother to stay with relatives in Connecticut.

Ducasse attended Stamford High School in Connecticut and although he knew absolutely nothing about football in Haiti (he played basketball there) he approached football coach Kevin Jones and said in broken English, "I want to play."

He slowly made a name for himself and was recruited by several colleges before settling on UMass. It was then in his junior year there that he started attracting interest from NFL scouts and realized a pro career might be in his future.

The most interesting part of this selection (and this truly qualifies as burying the lede) is Clinkscales said in tonight's press conference that Ducasse would be competing for "the" starting job with Rob Turner and Matt Slauson. Uh, what starting job would that be exactly? One has to think the handwriting is on the wall signaling Alan Faneca's departure.

See you tomorrow.

Some first round anecdotes

Due to pilot error last night (and we'll just leave it at that) I was unable to blog. I'm back now. So, three hours in, the Jets got their man. One can only imagine the scene in the War Room when it was confirmed that Rex Ryan would add yet another standout corner, Kyle Wilson from Boise State, to his roster.

Of course GM Mike Tannenbaum had to do his due diligence so as the clock ticked down during their allotted time, he still fielded a few calls from other teams. Tannenbaum described the scene. "Rex was breathing down my neck, 'would you just turn the card in already?' So we had a little drama there."

You can just picture it.

Both Tannenbaum and Ryan, along with VP of College Scouting Joey Clinkscales, had a spring in their step as they walked into the press room to address the assembled media. Although a slightly wild-eyed Tannenbaum looked around and said, "Does anyone know the last few picks?" Alas, since we had all scrambled to our computers after the Jets pick, no one was able to help him out.

For Wilson, this is coming home. The 22-year-old is from Piscataway, NJ, a 30-minute drive from the Jets facility in Florham Park. In fact, Wilson took the call from Rex Ryan sitting in his family's home in Piscataway.

Interestingly, shortly before the call from the Jets came in, Wilson was on the phone with the Vikings. "I don't know if they were trying to hold me on the line, but I got a call and then somehow the phone hung up. Then, I got another call and I ended up talking to Rex Ryan and it was a whirlwind at that point."

Now it's onto rounds two and three. With last night being a bit of a lightning round, we can only hope the same for tonight.

My hunch is the Jets still add another couple of defensive players - it would seem a pass rusher might be coming soon.

Completely unrelated - huge kudos on the food spread provided last night. The Jets truly outdid themselves. Am watching tonight's selection making its way in. Excellent.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Get your souvenirs...

As the dismantling of Giants Stadium continues, pieces are being divvied up that fans can purchase. So, if you want to hang on to something tangible, and refrained from carting out your seat after the final game, now you can bid on them at auction. Everything from seats to pieces of the turf are going to be offered - some of it signed by players who played there, Giants included. The Play Like A Jet sign, that was over the equipment room is just one example of a variety of other things you will find.

The auction is being run by Steiner Sports. Anyone who is interested can log on to, see all the items available and make a bid. The bidding will close on April 25th.

As Brandon Steiner says, "How cool is it to be able to sit in a seat from Giants Stadium in your office or home. To own those chairs or a piece of the turf or goal post, is special for every Jets and Giants fan."

From what I understand, Jimmy Hoffa's remains are not on the list.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hello Cortland - Hello Holmes

So, it's back to Cortland we go. We knew it was coming and today it was made official, the New York Jets are going back to SUNY Cortland for 2010 training camp. According to the story on the school and the town of Cortland in central New York will host the Jets for the next three years with the option to extend it to a total of five.

As they did last year, the team will also hold some training camp practices at their former home of Hofstra University on Long Island as well as in Florham Park, NJ the site of their current facility.

And since the Jets have become excellent multi-taskers, in addition to announcing training camp, for good measure, they signed a Super Bowl MVP. However, one with a less-than-shiny past.

Wide receiver Santonio Holmes is now a member of the Jets. The Jets acquired him from the Pittsburgh Steelers for the paltry sum of just a fifth round pick. Holmes has had his share of troubles off the field, which was the reason for the bargain basement pricing. Recently, he was accused of hitting a woman in the face with a glass at a bar. Those charges seem possibly not to be true. However, Holmes has been suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. In 2008 he was arrested for marijuana possession. In 2006 he was charged with domestic violence although the charges were later dismissed.

Said General Manager Mike Tannenbaum today, "We felt like the price was reasonable and the risk was reasonable. We're excited to have Santonio, we think he's dynamic playmaker."

As for Holmes, who said he was "very shocked" by the trade, he was polite and responsive to all questions during today's telephone press conference, repeating different versions of the phrase, "I'm accountable for my actions" several times.

A source familiar with Holmes and his circumstances told me today, "He's not a bad guy. His problems are self-made."

Holmes himself added, "I definitely want to come in and be one of the leaders on the field and off the field."

Time will tell.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Off-season doings and...the new stadium

Busy day today - started at 9:00am in the Jets locker room, which the team has opened to the media for a couple of hours once a week for the next couple of weeks prior to the official start of OTAs (Organized Team Activities).

Players are in for what are considered voluntary workouts and according to LaDainian Tomlinson, participation has been 100%.

Jason Taylor was in the building, possibly taking a physical. We did not see him...

The players floated in and out between workouts and a variety of meetings.

As a whole, everyone appeared refreshed from their off-time and various vacations. Damien Woody's wife may win the award for best spouse. He told me that as the AFC Championship game against the Colts was winding down and the outcome was becoming clear, she got on the phone with their travel agent and booked two tickets to Jamaica for the very next day so that her husband could get some much needed rest and relaxation. She even flew in her mother to take care of the Woody's six children.

And how is he now? "I feel re-energized," said Woody.

A couple of other guys had different vacations. James Ihedigbo, David Clowney, and Vernon Gholston went to Haiti on behalf of Ihedigbo's "Hope Africa" foundation (Ihedibgo's family is from Nigeria) to try to do their part in assisting the victims of the earthquake. They showed me some pictures, which were amazing.

For Ihedigbo, it was a humbling experience. "Wow, culture shock," he said. "You get so accustomed to things in the U.S. and what they showed on TV was just a small part. That didn't do it justice. There were whole communities living in camps."

Other guys talked to me about this being the first step toward the 2010 season. With the trade of Kerry Rhodes, Eric Smith will now compete with Ihedigbo and the newly-acquired Brodney Pool for the starting spot at safety. His focus right now is honing his communication skills - during games being able to translate what he has seen on film and alert his teammates, a key component to taking on that starting role.

Braylon Edwards is enjoying a drama-free off-season and still thrilled to be in a new place - literally and figuratively - in his career. "The biggest thing is being in an environment like this where I can just focus on football," he told me. "I can focus on learning the game and getting better. Every day you ask yourself, 'Did we work hard enough today to win the Super Bowl?'"

In unrelated news, Edwards has grown an extremely full beard.

Danny Woodhead, who has some strange beard growth happening, is just excited to not be rehabbing as he was last year following the knee injury that sidelined him for the entire 2008 season.

Once the open locker room period was over, it was a mad dash to the new Meadowlands Stadium for a tour. Those of you who can afford tickets will find it a noticeable upgrade to Giants Stadium.

All of the permanent features, seats, carpeting, etc. are in gray and brown tones. All of the club and suite seats - the actual stadium seats, not the seats inside - are padded similar to what you would find in a movie theater. Mark Lamping, the president and CEO of the New Meadowlands Stadium Company was our tour guide and gave us all the highlights.

There are about one-third more restrooms - close to 1300 total. Men's rooms still outnumber women's rooms but the differential is less than in the old stadium. Lamping seemed mildly amused and surprised that there was such thorough and detailed questioning on this topic.

All of the signage throughout the facility is electronic, which allows the background color to be changed dependent on whether it's a Jets event, Giants event or something else.

Flipping the stadium from one team to the other is now slightly more complicated, requiring a minimum of 12 hours. Both endzones as well as the center decal must be swapped out, along with all the other signage, including the concession stands.

What fans will see immediately upon entering are the four Jumbtrons positioned in each corner of the stadium, so that every seat in the place will have a full view of at least one.

And, if you can afford a ticket for The Commissioner's Club, all I can say is, wow.