AFC East: J'Nathan Bullock
Perhaps I imbibed too much eggnog last week and was enraptured by all those Burl Ives tunes, but amid all my Christmas mirth I missed one of the greatest stories of the year.
What could go wrong?
Artest was a guest on "Pardon the Interruption" two days before Christmas. He has been making the media rounds for mental health awareness. Insert your own Jets joke here.
Maybe there's room in the organization for someone with scandal experience. Artest, a 6-foot-7 Los Angeles Lakers forward, has been involved in many wacky incidents over the years, most infamously the 2004 brawl with fans in Detroit. Artest is the subject of a Toronto art exhibit that focuses on his history of outlandish behavior.
"PTI" co-host Tony Kornheiser asked how serious Artest is about the NFL.
"It's definitely an ambition," Artest said. "I think you only live once if I'm not mistaken. I wish I lived twice. So any time I have a chance to take advantage ... still being athletic enough, when you think about my dreams as a kid -- boxing, playing football -- you think about certain things. You think 'If I had the opportunity to play, why not take advantage of it? Why let it sit on the table?
"If there's a possibility, and if I do get a chance, you won't see Ron Artest saying 'Nah, I'll pass.' You'll see Ron Artest saying 'I wan to see if I can do it.' "
Artest turned 31 in November and hails from Queens. He's a longtime Jets fan.
"If I did get the opportunity I would not have a preference for a team because I'm not good enough where I can say I want to play for a particular team," Artest said. "But in a perfect world it would be the Jets, tight end for the Jets."
Basketball players sometimes make great tight ends. San Diego Chargers star Antonio Gates played basketball -- and no football -- at Kent State. Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer with the Atlanta Falcons, played college hoops.
The Jets experimented with Cleveland State power forward J'Nathan Bullock last year, but he couldn't make the team.
Last year, I examined what kind of football player Lebron James would've been had he gone that route. James was an All-Ohio receiver as high school sophomore, and some NFL observers quoted in the story projected him as a star tight end.
Posted by ESPN.com staff
- The Bills are expecting the addition of Terrell Owens to boost their already-strong crowds for training camp, which is set to begin Saturday.
- Safety Donte Whitner and the Bills defense have been accused of underachieving the past few seasons, but they are determined to change that perception this season.
- Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle runs down the biggest questions facing the Bills' offense.
- Quarterback Trent Edwards has a fan in ESPN's Ron Jaworski. "I think he's going to be a tremendous NFL quarterback," Jaworski said of Edwards.
- The team signed rookie cornerback Sean Smith to a four-year, $3.1 million contract on Thursday.
- Coach Tony Sparano expects his veteran players to mentor players positioned under them.
- The team signed six draft picks on Thursday, including second-round pick Ron Brace.
- The Boston Globe's Mike Reiss examines the Pats' special teams.
- The Flint Journal has a profile of J'Nathan Bullock, an undrafted free agent who has earned a spot in Jets training camp.
For the first time in five years, J'Nathan Bullock pulled a helmet over his ears.
"It messed with all sorts of things," Bullock said Saturday by phone from the New York Jets facility in Florham Park, N.J.. "My neck, my vision, my timing, everything was off. I'm still getting used to it.
"Today, I woke up with a sore neck and my head was banging."
While most participants in this weekend's rookie camp can strap on their equipment as easily as most folks slip into a pair of loafers, Bullock is relearning even the simplest routines.
Bullock hasn't played football since high school. The Jets signed him as an undrafted rookie in hopes of turning him into a tight end.
Bullock was a 6-foot-5, 240-pound power forward at Cleveland State. He led the Vikings into the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament by averaging 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.
When he took off his football pads for the last time at Flint Northern High in Michigan, he figured it was forever.
"There weren't any thoughts about the NFL marinating," Bullock said.
Shortly after Cleveland State was eliminated from the tournament, he received queries from the Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears.
That got him wondering.
"It caused some deep thought," Bullock said. "The idea resonated in my mind when actual teams started talking to me.
"I had aspirations to play in the NBA, but I took a turn. That's life."
Because Cleveland State doesn't offer football -- pro-football-reference.com lists no alumni in its database -- Bullock staged a workout for NFL scouts on the campus soccer pitch.
With visions of discovering the next Antonio Gates, a Kent State hoopster who went on to star for the San Diego Chargers, over half the league was represented at Bullock's workout. But Bullock said only the Jets sent a position coach. That won him over.
Bullock's goal is to make the 53-man roster. The Jets need help at tight end. Their depth chart consists of Dustin Keller and James Dearth, a long snapper with three catches in nine NFL seasons. The Jets released Chris Baker and haven't re-signed Bubba Franks.
The Jets didn't draft any tight ends. They brought in only Bullock, Utah State's Rob Myers and Arkansas' Andrew Davie as rookie free agents. Davie also is a long snapper. He caught eight passes for 71 yards and three touchdowns last year.
It would be interesting to see if he would clear waivers if the Jets tried to place him on their practice squad.
He insisted he isn't flippant about football, that he's not treating it as some fling before returning to the hardwood.
"Once something's on my plate, I go at it wholeheartedly," Bullock said. "I'm giving it 110 percent. I'm not going to cheat the Jets."
But Bullock admitted he had a rough time in his first two practices.
"I would want to make a better first impression because my expectations are high, probably too high," Bullock said. "I was fighting it all day [Friday]. I'm trying to learn the system and plays. It's hard to play naturally through all the mental parts.
"I haven't played up to my ability, but this is a different environment and we're at the beginning of the process."
New York Jets
- New York Daily News reporter Rich Cimini writes the Broncos never returned the call from Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum regarding quarterback Jay Cutler.
- New York Times reporter Judy Battista writes the Bears paid "an enormous price" for Cutler.
- Daily News columnist Gary Myers thinks the Jets wouldn't have offered a similar package for Cutler.
- Newsday's Erik Boland takes a gander at the Jets' quarterback situation now that Cutler's out of the picture.
- Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Joe Maxse, who lives on the street I grew up on, writes the Bills are curious about Cleveland State basketball player J'Nathan Bullock.
- In a blog notebook, Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero reveals the Bills and Jets have shown interest in Jason Taylor.
- Miami Herald reporter Jeff Darlington catches up with quarterback Chad Pennington at an event for his 1st and 10 Foundation.
New England Patriots
- Boston Globe reporter Christopher L. Gasper checks in with guard Stephen Neal, one of six still around from all three Super Bowl titles.