Monday, June 9, 2014
Jets enjoy time on pitch with Ronaldo & Co.
By Rich Cimini
The Portuguese World Cup team wrapped up five days of training Monday at the New York Jets' facility in Florham Park, N.J., performing before a small audience of American footballers -- Rex Ryan and about a dozen members of the Jets.
Nick Folk, Nick Bellore, David Nelson, Josh Bush, Leger Douzable, Breno Giacomini, Ryan Quigley and Antwan Barnes were among the players that watched Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates in their final training session in New Jersey. Folk, Bellore and Giacomini are avid soccer fans. Ryan was joined by assistants Marty Mornhinweg, Thomas McGaughey, Jeff Weeks and coaching intern Eric Smith. The Jets held an organized team activity practice earlier in the day.
The Jets placed a box of footballs on the field and, during an informal period, some of the Portuguese players -- including Ronaldo -- got a kick out of ... well, trying to kick the odd-shaped American footballs. Ronaldo actually tried a corner kick with a football, with Nelson holding. Nelson also showed some of the Portuguese players how to grip and throw a football.
"It was fantastic," Humberto Coelho, vice president of the Portuguese Football Federation, said in a brief phone interview Monday night. "We make some passes and some dribbles on the pitch."
Folk and Quigley, who make their living by booting a football, got a chance -- along with Bellore -- to kick around a soccer ball with some of the players. Folk, who received scholarship offers to play soccer in college, brought a pair a cleats and had them signed by members of the Portuguese team, including Ronaldo. So did Bellore, who tweeted a photo of Ronaldo demonstrating his vertical jump. No doubt, he'd impress at the scouting combine.
Ronaldo & Co. got a chance to experience the Jets' state-of-the-art complex, raving about the quality of the facilities. One of the grass fields was converted to a soccer pitch. Coelho said the field was "impeccable," adding that he hopes the fields in Brazil measure up to the Jets' field.
"That's the truth," he said, adding that the training sessions were a "very positive" experience for Portugal in its preparation for the World Cup. Before departing for Brazil, Portugal faces Ireland Tuesday night in a friendly at MetLife Stadium.
Portugal set up a makeshift trainers' room under a tent on the outdoor patio, where the players got taped before taking the field. The players didn't use the Jets' locker room -- they dressed at the hotel -- but they used the auditorium, where Ryan holds his team meetings.
Coach Paolo Bento held his news conferences in the auditorium, meeting with the media on three of the five days. Each day, one player was made available to the soccer media. Approximately 35 media members showed up each day, arriving from the hotel in their own bus. Kind of sounds like a Super Bowl. In Portgual, and in soccer-crazy countries across the globe, it's bigger than a Super Bowl.
On Sunday, the president of the Portuguese soccer federation presented Jets owner Woody Johnson with a Ronaldo-signed jersey. In return, Johnson gave the president an authentic Jets helmet autographed by him.