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.

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