New York Jets: Curtis Martin

A Hall of Famer's opinion on Jets' QBs

June, 23, 2014
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There has been a lot of talk about the New York Jets' quarterback competition and whether it's open or closed -- or semi-open and semi-closed. If Curtis Martin were in charge, he'd make it an open competition, with Geno Smith and Michael Vick splitting everything down the middle, may the best man win.

"I've always been a fan of open competition. I think it's healthy for a team," the Hall of Fame running back said Monday at the Big Daddy Celebrity Golf Classic at the Oheka Castle in Huntington, N.Y. "Quarterback is a very important position on the field. One thing that doesn't go over well with the entire team is, if there's one person that deserves it more than another and it's because of favoritism (that) someone (else) gets the position, that doesn't go over well."

Smith
Martin described a scenario that could occur with the Jets. Clearly, Smith is the favorite, but what if he's outplayed by Vick in the preseason and still gets the job? Martin, for one, believes Vick would win the job on a level playing field. But that will be difficult with Smith slated to receive most of the first-team reps in training camp.

The former Jets great wasn't suggesting the team has created a potentially toxic situation. He actually thinks it can work if both quarterbacks buy in.

"The good thing about the dynamic between Vick and Geno is that you have a younger guy and an older guy with a lot of experience," Martin said. "I think Vick was one of the pioneers of that style of quarterback, along with Randall Cunningham and guys like that. I think Vick has a lot of knowledge and wisdom he can pass on to Geno.

"I think Geno has a world of talent, but at quarterback it's really hard to make all that talent come together and express itself properly out on the field. It's about leadership. The quarterback has to be that guy."

Martin was one of many celebrities at the golf tournament, which raised money for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Health & Humanitarian Aid Foundation.

Martin: Pats may benefit from Jets playbook

June, 23, 2014
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Hall of Famer Curtis Martin, one of the central figures in the New York Jets-New England Patriots rivalry over the past 20 years, said Monday it would be a significant advantage for the Patriots if they have a copy of Rex Ryan's playbook.

Since PlaybookGate erupted last Thursday, most experts have downplayed the potential impact of having an opponent's playbook. Not Martin, who responded this way when asked if it could help coach Bill Belichick:

"Oh, tremendously, to be honest with you," Martin told ESPN.com at the Big Daddy Celebrity Golf Classic at Oheka Castle in Huntington, New York. "What most people don't understand is that football is a science. There are little signals and little movements from one person that can give an indication on where the entire play is going. I think it can have a tremendous effect on a game. If we're playing chess and I understand all of your moves before you make them, my probability of winning is pretty high."

Martin said he wasn't taken aback by Ryan's decision to give a playbook to Alabama coach Nick Saban, whom former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine suspects may have passed it along to Belichick. Martin figures that sort of stuff goes on between coaches. Belichick, he said, doesn't need any help.

"Belichick is one of those football savants," he said. "He (understands) the game, especially from a defensive perspective, at a different level. Does he need it? No. Does he have it? I don't know. I don't think so. Who knows? I don't like to talk on things that are assumptions. If they come out and say Belichick has the book, I'd say, yeah, it makes a big difference."

Patriots safety Devin McCourty said he laughed when he first heard the story.

"I have no idea about any of that," said McCourty, who also attended the charity golf outing. "I feel like to comment on it keeps the nonsense going."

Another person with knowledge of the Jets-Patriots rivalry, Eric Mangini, said the benefit of having an opponent's playbook would be minimal.

"There may be some value from an off-season perspective, but you still have to get through the terminology and you have to get through the adjustments," said the former Jets coach and ex-Patriots assistant. "Ideally, you have someone in the system that can take you through it. From a weekly perspective, it would be hard to get much (useful information) because you can't be sure that what's in there is what you're going to see."

Mangini is the broken branch on Belichick's coaching tree. He was cut off when he reported Belichick's illegal spying tactics to the league, resulting in SpyGate. So, yes, he can relate to the Pettine-Ryan situation. He's not sure why Pettine revealed such information, but Mangini believes it has been blown out of proportion by the media. Asked if he's ever given a playbook to a friend or colleague outside his organization, he paused for a moment.

"Typically, I haven't done that," he said, "but I don't think it's so far out of the range of what happens."
Four more days until the New York Jets are on the clock ...

1. The target list: It's impossible to predict the Jets' pick at No. 18 because so many things could happen in front of them, but I'm going to narrow the options and rank them based on interviews with scouts and talent evaluators. This is my ranking based on what I think the Jets should do, weighing their needs and the best players likely to be available:

a. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: Coach Rex Ryan needs a man-to-man corner, and he's the best in the draft.

b. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: A football player. Not the flashiest, but he can play Ryan's scheme.

c. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: Picture a young Antonio Cromartie -- tremendous talent, but he's a finesse player.

d. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU: A fast, all-around receiver with return ability. Strong character.

e. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: Speed is the offseason theme on offense, and Cooks is a blur.

f. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: Has a high ceiling, but he doesn't block and there are questions about his attitude.

g. Marqise Lee, WR, USC: Coming off a mediocre year and lacks that extra gear.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDespite a shaky rookie year, the Jets have been quick to praise QB Geno Smith this offseason.
2. Double talk: The Jets are engaging in a ridiculous game of semantics with regard to the quarterback position. They refuse to say Geno Smith is the starter, but they talk about him as if he's the starter. They say Michael Vick is here to "push" Smith, adding they don't want to do anything to impede his progress. Sure sounds like a starter to me, except they're afraid to use the "S" word because it's not allowed in Idzik World. Ironically, the only person who uses it is Vick, who reiterated Saturday in an interview with NJ.com what he said on the day he signed in March: Smith is the starter. This may sound like a small thing, but it sends a mixed message, blurring the lines in a quarterback competition (are we allowed to call it that?) that could turn into a controversy.

3. Ulterior motives: The Jets have hosted at least three quarterbacks on pre-draft visits -- Jimmy Garoppolo, Tom Savage and Logan Thomas -- fueling speculation they could be in the market. Yes, they could be, but there's another reason for the interest: Gathering information for future use. Like every team, the Jets keep a dossier on each prospect. Some day, they may have to face Garappolo in a game, at which time they can refer to their notes on him. The New England Patriots are known for this practice.

"All those reports and the work that's done going into the draft, we look at that as the start of his library, and you will definitely tap into that as he progresses through his pro career," GM John Idzik said.

4. The Dirty Dozen: If the Jets wind up picking 12 players, it'll be their largest draft class since 1998 -- another 12-pick year. Quantity doesn't always ensure quality, as that '98 draft proved. Only one of the 12 players ended up starting in the NFL -- OT Jason Fabini (fourth round). The Jets were hurt by not having a first-round pick (sent to the Patriots as part of the Bill Parcells compensation package), but it still ranks as one of the worst drafts in team history. And there were a lot of smart people in the draft room -- Parcells, personnel director Dick Haley and three future GMs, Mike Tannenbaum, Scott Pioli and Trent Baalke. Like people always say, the draft is a crapshoot. The Jets still reached the AFC Championship Game, in large part, because they assembled one of the best free-agent classes in history -- Curtis Martin, Vinny Testaverde, Kevin Mawae and Bryan Cox.

5. Gang of New Yorkers: New York isn't known as a football hotbed, but there are four intriguing defensive-line prospects from the area. The top guy is Staten Island's Dominique Easley (Florida), a first-round talent coming off his second ACL surgery. He held a late pro day and impressed scouts to the point where he could sneak into the second or third round. Other locals are Flushing's Jay Bromley (Syracuse), the Bronx's Caraun Reid (Princeton) and Nyack's Terrence Fede (Marist).

6. The truth hurts: Former Jets great Joe Klecko was on the money with his assessment of OLB Quinton Coples, whom he said "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane." Coples has tested the patience of the coaches from the day he arrived, giving inconsistent effort. The talent is obvious, which explains the frustration level in the organization. He finished last season on an upswing (3.5 sacks in the last five games), so maybe he turned a corner. As for Klecko's comments about Muhammad Wilkerson, suggesting he doesn't give maximum effort on every play, I haven't heard anyone around the team question his motor.

7. Goodson soap opera: Coming off an ACL injury, and facing charges for gun possession, Mike Goodson's future with the team is murky. Remember, he still faces the possibility of another suspension; this time it would be for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. Idzik said they've approached this offseason with the idea that Goodson will be on the team. "We assume that Mike is a Jet," Idzik said. "We've always made that assumption." He has another court date, May 19. If they draft a running back, it could be curtains for Goodson.

8. Scouting shake-up: Last year's draft was widely considered a success, yet some of the unsung people who contributed -- a handful of area scouts -- were replaced. This will be Idzik's first draft with his scouting staff in place. For the record, the new scouts: Chris Prescott (Virginia to Louisiana), David Hinson (Midwest), Dave Boller (West) and Rick Courtright (national combine scout). Former player Aaron Glenn, who worked in pro personnel in 2012, became an area scout for the first time, working Texas to North Dakota.

9. Numbers game: Vick should be changing his number again in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

10. Richard the Reclusive: The last time an Alabama quarterback was drafted in the first round was ... you have to go back, back, back to Richard Todd in 1976 -- sixth overall by the Jets. The 38-year drought is "kind of sad," according to Todd, who is hoping AJ McCarron will end the slump (he won't). Todd doesn't do many interviews, so it was interesting to read his comments last week on his initial experience with the Jets.

"I was kind of thrown to the wolves when I was drafted," Todd told Alabama.com. "I thought I'd back up Joe (Namath) for two or three years and it took about two or three games, and I was kind of thrown into it. We threw the ball about six times a game my senior year (in the wishbone), so it was totally different.''

Two words, Richard: A.J. Duhe.

Sunday notes: Jets' endless star search

April, 27, 2014
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Checking up on the New York Jets:

1. Woe-ffense: For too long, the Jets have been playing offense with hand-me-downs from other teams -- free-agent pick ups, trade acquisitions and an assortment of castoffs. The list is long: Brett Favre, Thomas Jones, LaDainian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, etc. The Jets' best offensive player of this generation, Curtis Martin, came from the New England Patriots. Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and Michael Vick are the latest to join the recycled crowd, although Decker was a premium free agent. There's no law that says you can't build this way, but the lack of homegrown talent is both alarming an mind-boggling.

[+] EnlargeEric Ebron, Antonio Crawford
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsCould North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron be the homegrown skill player the Jets desperately need?
Try to wrap your brain around this: The last-drafted skill-position player to make the Pro Bowl on offense was wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, the first overall pick in 1996. As Keyshawn himself would say, "Come on, man!" They've drafted some "almosts" over the years, players such as Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene and Dustin Keller, but they never hit it big for various reasons. Santana Moss and Laveranues Coles made the Pro Bowl, but they did it with the Washington Redskins. The point is, the Jets never will escape also-ran status until they draft and develop their own stars. They should keep that in mind when they start drafting in 11 days.

2. Dreaming of a tight end: The Jets really like North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron. They see him as a wide receiver/tight end hybrid that would be a matchup nightmare in a flexed position. Problem is, it's hard to imagine him falling to 18th. The Buffalo Bills (ninth) and New York Giants (12th) need a tight end and could take Ebron. If he gets past the Bills, what would it take to get ahead of the Giants? According to the draft value chart, the Jets would have to trade their third rounder and their two non-compensatory fourth-round picks to move up to the 11th spot, currently held by the Tennessee Titans. That's a lot to give up for a tight end.

2.a. Scouting term of the week: In a conference call with the NFL Nation reporters, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay used the term "buffet blocker." What is a buffet blocker? "He kind of picks and chooses when he wants to get interested," McShay said. In case you're wondering, he was referring to Ebron.

3. The Fab Four: If I had to select the four most likely picks for the Jets at 18, I'd say: wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Odell Beckham Jr., and cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert. That could change by draft day, of course, but that's what I'm hearing right now.

4. Don't forget the D: For those who believe the Jets absolutely must go heavy on offense in this draft, consider this: The Jets recorded sacks on only 4.6 percent of third-down dropbacks, the only team in the league under 6.5 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Information. You know what that tells me? The "Sons of Anarchy" could use some help.

5. Q's time is now: The Jets made the no-brainer decision by exercising the fifth-year option for Muhammad Wilkerson ($6.97 million). Next year, the decision might not be so cut-and-dried with 2012 first-rounder Quinton Coples, who has yet to approach his potential. The fixed salary won't be set for another year, but they're looking at about $7 million for Coples. They're expecting big things this year from Coples, whose development was impeded last season with the switch to rush linebacker.

6. Double rejection: Rex Ryan is popular coach, evidenced by his fourth-place finish in a 2013 ESPN.com survey that asked players across the league to name the coach they'd most like to play for. But the notion all players are dying to play for Ryan and the Jets is a bit ridiculous. For instance: They were spurned by two free agents that took less money to play for other teams. Wide receiver Sidney Rice, who recently visited with the Jets, said he decided to return to the Seattle Seahawks (one year, $1.4 million) even though the Jets offered him more. Safety Kurt Coleman, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings (one year, $900,000) after visiting the Jets, said the Jets offered some guaranteed money. The Vikings didn't, but he opted for them anyway. Apparently, some players can resist Ryan's charm and the Jets' money.

7. Cornering the market: If the Jets don't pick a cornerback in the first round, I wouldn't be surprised if they explore the possibility of acquiring a veteran, perhaps in a trade. There has been speculation about the Dallas Cowboys trying to deal the disappointing Morris Claiborne, the sixth overall pick in 2012, but they'd take a major cap hit. Right now, his cap charge is $4.4 million, but it would explode to $9.6 million if they trade him, counting the bonus acceleration. The Cowboys would have to receive an offer they can't refuse to absorb that kind of hit.

8. From the what-if dept.: This never became public, but the Jets showed interest in wide receiver Julian Edelman during free agency. Ryan, in particular, was intrigued by the idea of stealing a weapon from the rival Patriots. Edelman ended up re-signing with the Patriots for $17 million over four years. Landing Edelman would've been quite a coup.

9. Sign of the times: In 2014, the Jets will pay kicker Nick Folk ($3.6 million) almost as much as running back Chris Johnson ($4 million), once regarded as one of the elite players in the league. It's a tale of two markets: Kicker salaries are increasing, running-back prices are plummeting.

10. Not what you think: I've heard coaches over the years say they prefer to face teams with new head coaches early in the season, figuring they still will be getting acclimated to new schemes. This may surprise you, but there's no evidence to suggest those particular teams are more vulnerable early in the season than late. Since 2000, new head coaches have a .453 winning percentage in the first month, followed by .427 in October, .455 in November and .451 in the final month, per ESPN Stats & Information. The Jets play three teams with new coaches, only one of which comes early -- the Detroit Lions (Sept. 28). They also have the Minnesota Vikings (Dec. 7) and Tennessee Titans (Dec. 14).

C-Mart questions Sanchez; trade rumors fly

April, 12, 2013
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A little over a year ago, Mark Sanchez received a lucrative contract extension. Now he's the subject of trade rumors. His name has been mentioned in the Darrelle Revis talks with the Bucs, ProFootballTalk reported Friday.

Earlier Friday, one of the most respected voices in Jets history -- Curtis Martin -- questioned whether Sanchez can lead the Jets back to the playoffs. Tough day for Sanchez.

"I'm just going to be frank: Mark has to play better," Martin told ESPNNewYork.com after taping a "CenterStage" interview in Manhattan for the YES Network. "If he doesn't play better, I think it will be very, very difficult for them to have a good year."

The Hall-of-Fame running back never speaks ill of his former team, but he was noticeably lukewarm when asked about Sanchez, who struggled last season. Martin actually said he wanted to see Tim Tebow get more playing time last season. Asked if Sanchez can play better, Martin paused a moment.

"To be honest with you, I don't know," he said. "I mean, it's been three or four years and it hasn't happened yet. He did well his first two years; they went to the AFC Championship Game. He did what was necessary, but I think it's a different team and a different time, so I think his level of play has to go to another level.

"Do I think he has the God-given ability? Yes. I think putting it together and taking it to the field, that's what is necessary right now."

The Jets, too, have serious questions about Sanchez, and they'd probably jump at the opportunity to trade his $8.25 million guaranteed salary to another team. But a trade is unlikely to happen.

The Bucs have concerns about their own starter, Josh Freeman, and they've stated publicly their desire to add competition, but it's hard to imagine them taking on Sanchez's $8.25 million. Are they that desperate to acquire Revis? Of course, the Bucs could try to renegotiate Sanchez's contract as a precursor to a trade, but there apparently haven't been any talks of that nature.

If the Jets were to trade Sanchez, they'd probably pick a quarterback in the first or second round of the draft. They came away impressed with West Virginia's Geno Smith after his recent pro day, and they also like Syracuse's Ryan Nassib. Whether the Jets are convinced Smith and/or Nassib is good enough to be the new "franchise" quarterback is unknown.

Interesting back story to Sanchez and Freeman, both of whom were first-round picks in 2009: The Jets' scouts graded Freeman higher than Sanchez, but the organization changed its mind after a private workout with Sanchez. The Jets traded up and picked Sanchez fifth overall. The Bucs preferred Sanchez over Freeman, according to a source, but ended up taking Freemen 17th overall.

By the way, the Martin "CenterStage" interview will premiere in June. It'll be a good watch.

Testaverde knows about phantom TDs

September, 25, 2012
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Vinny Testaverde knows all about bad calls in games involving the Seahawks, and he believes the Monday night debacle was worse than the blunder he benefitted from in 1998.

"A lot of people think the play back in '98 was responsible for bringing in instant replay," the former Jets QB told ESPNNewYork.com Tuesday night. "Well, even with instant replay, these guys got it wrong (Monday night). It's pretty bad when you can't get it right with instant replay."

Testaverde scored on what is remembered as The Phantom Touchdown, a 5-yard sneak in the final minute that lifted the Jets to a 32-31 win over the Seahawks. The ball never crossed the goal line. The officials blew it, thinking Testaverde's helmet was the football. If there had been instant replay, he would've been ruled down at the 1.

It was costly for the Seahawks, who finished 8-8, barely missed the playoffs and fired coach Dennis Erickson.

Testaverde said he bumped into Erickson recently at the Hall of Fame ceremony in Canton. Testaverde, who was there to support former teammate Curtis Martin, said the infamous play came up in conversation.

"He's still bitter about it, to say the least," Testaverde said. "He laughed about it a little, but not as hard as I was laughing."

Testaverde said "the players who lost Monday night" -- the Packers -- "aren't laughing at all. This is their livelihood. Careers are at stake and guys get fired. That's the shame of it." He agreed with the rest of America, claiming the officials blew it. He blamed the league and the owners.

"The NFL should be at their best at all times and, clearly, these aren't the best (officials)," he said. "I don't blame the replacements, I blame the league for putting them out there. Roger Goodell is taking his orders from the owners, so I blame them, too. We need people to step up and get on the owners. The only way to get their attention is to not go to the games. That'll get them to listen -- empty seats."

Jets honor Martin for Hall of Fame induction

September, 9, 2012
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Curtis Martin’s Hall of Fame speech touched people both young and old.

“Oh my gosh, one of the most telling things for me was being at an autograph signing the next day, and there was a little eight-year-old boy who tried to express to me in his little eight-year-old words how much my speech touched him, and literally a few people down the line was a guy who was at least 90 years old in a wheelchair, trying to express the same things the eight-year-old was trying to express, so it made me feel good,” said Martin, who will be honored by the Jets on Sunday for his Aug. 4 enshrinement in Canton.

As part of “Curtis Martin Day,” the team will retire his No. 28 jersey during a ceremony at halftime.

“It’s been incredible. My family and my friends always joke with me because I’m not a very excitable person. I get excited right in the moment, so leading up to things, I’m usually just the same old Curtis, but I think they’ve all been able to see a little difference in me leading up to this moment, even more so than the Hall of Fame,” Martin said.

“These are some of the highest honors I could receive as a football player. I never thought I could come close to any of this. I don’t think that it’s fully set in yet, but I’m enjoying the process of it setting in. I can’t remember feeling this excited in my life before.”

Martin played for the Jets from 1998 to 2005, racking up seven 1,000-yard seasons in the process.

“Every day I went out there on that field, I practiced the way I’d want to watch myself practice if I was the owner,” he said. “I did my best on and off the field to represent the New York Jets organization as well as all the fans that I held myself accountable to, and even to the media.”

Three things we learned on Day 19

August, 13, 2012
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Observations from Monday at training camp:

1. If the Jets run a Wildcat play and no one is there to see it, it still makes "SportsCenter." Hey, this was big news even though the Jets, operating within the league rules, placed restrictions on what we could report with regard to the Wildcat. I'd love to provide the juicy details, but it will have to remain top-secret since it was closed to the public. All I can tell you is this: Rex Ryan is dead serious about this whole Wildcat thing. To him, it's not a gimmick; it will be a key part of their offense and he's confident it will work. I'm skeptical. It might catch teams by surprise early in the year, but I don't think it can carry them an entire season.

2. The Wildcat provided a jolt to the offense. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but the offense's most efficient 7-on-7 drill of camp occurred after a Wildcat period. Coincidence? Maybe not. The offense got off to a shaky start in practice, but it came to life, perhaps energized by the novelty of the Wildcat. You should've seen Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow: They completed 14 straight at one point. Interesting.

3. It really bugs Ryan that media types questioned the Quinton Coples pick. For the second straight day, the coach referred to the "bust" predictions that surfaced when the Jets used their No. 1 pick on the defensive end. This is a good time for Ryan to gloat because Coples played a terrific game in the preseason opener, but let's not put him next to Curtis Martin in the Hall of Fame just yet. From all indications, Coples isn't a good practice player. Ryan did him no favors by likening him to Jason Pierre-Paul. Mind you, Ryan didn't say Coples is as good as JPP -- he said "hopefully" -- but that's not how it will play in the media.

Slow start for Ground & Pound

August, 4, 2012
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- So much for Ground & Pound.

The Jets' top three running backs combined for only 23 yards on 11 carries in Saturday night's intrasquad scrimmage, hardly a grand debut for Tony Sparano's run-oriented attack.

Shonn Greene (six carries for 5 yards) and Bilal Powell (three for 7) were held in check. Joe McKnight (two for 11) broke a 15-yard run, but he fumbled on the play. McKnight has had fumbling issues in the past, and he can't afford mistakes because he's battling Powell for the No. 2 job and the third-down position.

Powell helped his cause on a third-down play, hauling in an 8-yard pass from Mark Sanchez for a touchdown.

The running game, no doubt, was hurt by the absence of three starting linemen -- RG Brandon Moore (in Canton for Curtis Martin's Hall-of-Fame induction), C Nick Mangold (at the Olympics to see his sister compete) and RT Wayne Hunter (back). They were replaced by Vladimir Ducasse (false-start penalty), Caleb Schlauderaff and Austin Howard, respectively. The first-team line allowed three sacks, but had great pass protection on the TD pass.

Schlauderaff, a natural guard, had a rough night at center -- two fumbled snaps and a high shotgun snap. The Jets need to find a true center to back up Mangold.

DEFENDING TIM: Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine made a sly strategic move. With Tim Tebow at quarterback, the defense played a two-deep safety look, with man coverage underneath. The Jets almost never show that look in a game, especially not with a running quarterback like Tebow, but Pettine knew he wouldn't get burned because the quarterbacks weren't "live" ballcarriers in the scrimmage. On one play, he actually used NT Marcus Dixon as a "spy."

"I gave him a hard time at halftime," Tebow said. "We were laughing about it, but you know it would be fun to see (in a regular-season game)."

LONDON CALLING: Rex Ryan said he's glad Mangold finally decided to make the trip to London to watch his sister, Holley, compete Sunday in weightlifting.

"The fact his sister is in the Olympics, competing in the Olympics, is an amazing thing," Ryan said. "So, yeah, I’m happy that he’s going, no question."

KICKING COMPETITION: Incumbent Nick Folk gained a slight edge in the competition. He was 3-for-3 in FG attempts, while Josh Brown was 3-for-4, missing from 40 yards.

SIMMS TRACKER: Rex Ryan opened his postgame news conference by mentioning the "quarterback controversy." Let's explain.

"Obviously, (there's) this quarterback controversy with Matt Simms," Ryan said, unsolicited. "Was it Matt Simms or Phil Simms? I don’t know, but he looked pretty darn impressive."

Phil's kid, the fourth-stringer, completed both passes, including a 31-yard TD strike to WR Raymond Webber. Wonder if Greg McElroy is concerned?

BRINGING HEAT: Against the first- and second-team offenses, the defenses recorded four sacks -- LB Calvin Pace, LB Demario Davis, LB Garrett McIntyre and DE Jay Richardson ... Rookie DE Quinton Coples disrupted a run on the very first play of the scrimmage, but disappeared after that ... Rookie WR Stephen Hill had no receptions ... Looking for a positive from the QBs? No turnovers ... Former Jets S Jim Leonhard signed with the Broncos.

Reflections on a Hall of Famer

August, 4, 2012
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Around 10 p.m. Saturday, Curtis Martin will deliver his Hall of Fame acceptance speech. I have no idea what he will say, but I know it will be heartfelt and poignant, and I bet it won't be one of those "me, me, me" speeches you hear so often at the Hall.

I covered Martin from the day he became a Jet (March 1998) to the moment he retired (July 2007), chronicling every single game. I have a ton of memories, but my favorite occurred off the field. It didn't include Curtis, but it said everything about him.

Martin
Martin
In 2004, I went to his hometown, Pittsburgh, to write a feature about him. I was interviewing his mother, Rochella, in the clothing boutique she owned in one of the city's grittiest neighborhoods. The interview was interrupted a couple of times because two men came into the store, approached Rochella at the front desk and spoke quietly to her. They weren't looking to buy clothes, that's for sure.

She listened for a couple of minutes, nodded and scribbled on a pad. After the second guy left, I asked her about it. She said it happens all the time, strangers coming off the street, sharing their tales of woe and asking Curtis for money to pay bills, etc. She'd give the list to Curtis to review, and he'd pick out the neediest people and send donations. One time, she said, Curtis paid for a stranger's funeral, a young girl he read about in the paper whose family couldn't afford one.

You can talk about the yards and the touchdowns. This is how I remember him. The league could use a few Curtis Martins right about now.

Here are a few thoughts from Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and agent Eugene Parker, all of whom are quoted in a story about Martin's landmark jump from the Patriots to Jets:

Tannenbaum on the first time he met Martin: "I really didn't know him. I never met him before, but it took only about 30 seconds to realize this guy is special. ... It was easy to criticize the move because, on paper, it made no sense -- the $36 million and (the) two draft choices going to New England. But it was worth it. That lesson still resonates with me. When you're building a team, it's the ultimate people business. When opportunities to get special people come along, those are things you have to take a hard look at."

Kraft on Martin's early days in New England: "It didn't take long to see he'd be a special player. He started his first game. I know (Bill) Parcells didn't like putting too many rookies in the first game. We opened against the Browns and I think he scored the winning touchdown. We knew right away we had someone special. ... He was our kind of guy in that he was never boastful or self-promoting. He was just kind of a quiet, unassuming guy that executed and produced."

Parker: "Curtis was a good football player, but he was a greater person. He was one of those guys where you (think), 'This guy is going to win.' No matter what, you knew he was going to win. He's a great guy and it almost overshadows how good a player he was."

Brandon going to Canton to see Curtis

August, 2, 2012
8/02/12
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Veteran RG Brandon Moore will skip Saturday night's intrasquad scrimmage to attend Curtis Martin's Hall-of-Fame induction in Canton.

Moore was a first-year starter in 2004, the year Martin won the NFL rushing title at the age of 31 -- the oldest player to accomplish that milestone.

"That was a big year for him and I was part of a good offensive line that helped him get that rushing title at a time when people were claiming he was old and lost a step," Moore said Thursday. "I look back on that team with fond memories. When somebody asks you to come to the Hall of Fame, I think you go."

Several members of the organization will be in Canton, including owner Woody Johnson, GM Mike Tannenbaum and senior personnel executive Terry Bradway. Many former Martin teammates from the Jets and Patriots also are expected to be there.

In case you're wondering, here is the 2004 starting lineup on offense:

QB -- Chad Pennington
RB -- Martin, Gerald Sowell
WR -- Santana Moss, Justin McCareins
TE -- Anthony Becht
OL -- Jason Fabini, Pete Kendall, Kevin Mawae, Moore, Kareem McKenzie

Lunch with Curtis Martin, Hall of Famer

July, 23, 2012
7/23/12
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In advance of his Aug. 4 induction to the Hall of Fame, Curtis Martin met a group of New York writers Monday over lunch at a midtown restaurant. Some leftovers from that wide-ranging interview:

• Martin, who retired after sitting out the 2006 season with a severe knee injury, is a successful businessman. He’s also interested in investing in a professional soccer team, either in the MLS or the English Premier League. He said he twice came close to buying into an NFL franchise.

• For someone who absorbed countless hits during his career, Martin, 39, considers himself lucky to be in relatively good physical shape. He suspects he will eventually need surgery on both knees and both shoulders, but he wasn’t complaining.

Martin said he’s not overly concerned about his long-term health, but he admitted he suffered “a lot” of concussions during his career. He recalled being knocked out a few times, once after a blow to the head by Denver Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski in the 1998 AFC Championship Game, but he usually went back to the huddle.

“I became an expert at covering it up,” he said, noting that his teammates knew to help him up if he didn’t immediately bounce to his feet after a tackle.

• Martin recognizes the severity of the concussion issue in the NFL. He said it’s a “legitimate worry” for the long-term future of the NFL, but he’s confident that management and the players will do the right thing.

“I do think there’s reason to be concerned about it, but the game has been around for 80-something years and they’ve always found a way to deal with these situations,” he said. “When they wore leather helmets, they found a way to make the game better and safer.”

• Martin, the father of an infant daughter, said if he had a son, he might not let him play football.

“It’s a hard way to make a living,” said the former running back who never imagined himself as a football player.

• He said he expects about 250 friends and family members to be in Canton for his induction. Former coaches Bill Parcells, Al Groh, Eric Mangini and perhaps Herm Edwards will be in attendance, along with several former Jets and Patriots teammates. Martin said he's still fine-tuning his speech. He said there are a couple of parts where he thinks he might get emotional.

Notes: Tebow will do 'whatever it takes'

May, 26, 2012
5/26/12
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Sunday notes and observations on the Jets and the NFL:

1. TEBOW TIME: From the moment he arrived, Tim Tebow has been on his best PC behavior, avoiding direct answers to questions from headline-seeking media types (myself included) about wanting/competing for Mark Sanchez's job. But, on Thursday, he let down his guard. It came in response to an innocent question (by me) about how he competes at everything, even wind sprints in practice. (This is what teammates have said about him.) "I don't like losing," Tebow said. "Pretty much, every time I'm competing, I'll pretty much do whatever it takes to win. I'm pretty competitive." Remember that next time he sidesteps a query about coveting Sanchez's job.

2. PROTECT THE PROTECTOR: The Jets were awfully eager Thursday to share with the world their plans to use Tebow as the personal protector on the punt team -- a classic case of over-selling to give opponents something to think about. I wouldn't be surprised if he makes only an occasional appearance in that role. What's the point? Yeah, he provides the threat of a trick play, but does that wrinkle outweigh the risk of injury? No. Rex Ryan compared Tebow to Brad Smith in that role, but here's the difference: Smith wasn't a QB, Tebow is the No. 2 QB. Tebow already will be exposed to injury as a Wildcat QB; it doesn't make sense to increase his exposure on special teams.

3. SHOW HIM THE MONEY: No news to report on the Dustin Keller contract front, according to a league source. If the Jets want to lock up their talented tight end for the long term, they have a funny way of showing it -- silence. Can you hear the crickets? Keller is due to make $3 million in the final year of his rookie contract. It's possible they will let him play out the deal and slap him with the franchise tag if they can't reach an agreement before he hits the market. The franchise tender for tight ends has dropped in recent years; it was a reasonable $5.446 million in 2012. That could explain the Jets' glacial approach.

4. ELLIS UPDATE: Kenrick Ellis' attorney told The Daily Press of Hampton, Va., he will ask the judge to split the nose tackle's jail sentence, which would allow him to be in Cortland, N.Y., for the start of training camp. Ellis is due to report to jail on June 15, the day after the mandatory minicamp wraps up. With good behavior, he'll be out in 45 days, but that would cost him the first four days of training camp. The attorney said he'd like to postpone some time until after the season. Another take on Ellis: His legal situation has overshadowed his slow start on the field. The Jets rated him as the 36th-best player in the 2011 draft, eventually picking him in the third round, but he hasn't come close to validating that rating.

5. JUST BLITZ, BABY: When the phrase "lost our identity" is mentioned, it usually refers to the 2011 offense and how it strayed from its Ground & Pound mentality. But it also applies to the defense, which became more conservative last season under DC Mike Pettine. In 2009 and 2010, with Ryan calling the plays, they were one of the most prolific blitzing teams in the league. In 2012, they dropped to the middle of the pack, statistically. Ryan said last week, "Blitzing on defense. That's who we are." And maybe it's part of the reason why Ryan has made an emphasis to get more involved in the defense.

6. BO'S PLACE: Kudos to NT Sione Pouha, who donated $50,000 to his alma mater, Utah, as part of the football program's "Invest in Excellent" campaign. Their new locker room, scheduled to open in 2013, will bear Pouha's name.

7. A PAD, PAD, PAD, PAD WORLD: The league's decision to make knee and thigh pads mandatory in 2013 smacks of a PR move, a way of showing the players they're really concerned with safety issues. No one is suggesting they aren't, but well-protected thighs aren't going to solve the real problem -- the concussion/brain-trauma scourge. While we're on the subject, former Jets coach/ESPN analyst Herm Edwards said the only player he coached that always wore every type of padding available to players was RB Curtis Martin, a Hall of Famer.

8. PLAX RETURN? With Hakeen Nicks (broken foot) down, the Giants need a veteran wide receiver. Plaxico Burress needs a job. What about a Giants-Burress reunion? Sorry, can't see that happening unless Eli Manning lobbies for it -- and there's a better chance of spotting Tebow in SCORES than Manning stepping up for Plax.

9. JUST SAY 'YES': Will somebody please say "yes" to HBO's "Hard Knocks"? It would be a shame if the reality show can't find a team for this summer. It's a terrific, behind-the-scenes look at training camp, but the show is getting rejected more than the class nerd at a high-school dance. The Seahawks were the latest to take a pass. At least six others have spurned the show.

10. JUST SAYING: Advice to the Saints: Pay Drew Brees. You're nothing without him.

Jets could be choked by future salary caps

April, 1, 2012
4/01/12
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Notes, thoughts and observations on the Jets and the NFL:

1. Money sleeps. Potentially alarming news for the Jets: The management council informed teams last week at the league meetings that the salary cap probably will remain relatively flat over the next three years, according to ESPN's John Clayton. The current cap is $120.6 million and, despite soaring revenues, the projected increase is only $1 million by 2015. The Jets already have several huge contracts on their cap and the biggest one of them all is looming in 2013 -- CB Darrelle Revis, who has two years left on his deal. Revis is in line for the biggest contract in history for a defensive player. Prediction: Headaches, lots of headaches. This is why the Jets need to score big in the draft; it's the most cost-efficient way to build a team.

2. Money matters. While on the subject of the cap, the Jets had $7.6 million in space as of Friday, according to ProFootballTalk.com. QB Tim Tebow is counting $2.572 million on the cap, rather hefty for a backup. Approximately $5 million will go to the draft picks, leaving them some money for free agents. The Jets' plan is to wait until after the draft to sign a veteran receiver, with Braylon Edwards on their radar.

3. Te for two. Tebow's running ability could change the way the Jets approach two-point conversions. He had two rushing two-point conversions last season, tying Danny Woodhead and Danny Ware for most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Tebow was the QB for four two-point conversion attempts, the only failure on a pass play. Two of three successes came on option plays (Tebow kept one, handed off another) and the other was on a QB draw.

4. Timsanity. Based on stats, you'd have to say that teams started to figure out how to stop Tebow's running by the end of last season. In his first six starts, he averaged 5.9 yards per carry. In his last five starts, it dropped to 4.7.

5. Living on the edge. You may not agree with all of Mike Tannenbaum's personnel moves, but you have to admit, the man is a fearless GM. Think of all the bold moves he's made -- Brett Favre, Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Edwards and, of course, Tebow. Tannenbaum's managerial style contradicts his conservative persona.

6. If at first ... It's mind-boggling to think how many draft picks the Jets have used in recent years on quarterbacks. 2006: Drafted Kellen Clemens in the second round; 2008: Traded a third-round pick for Favre; 2009: Traded first- and second-round picks to move up for Mark Sanchez; 2011: Drafted Greg McElroy in the seventh round; 2012: Traded a fourth-round pick for Tebow. To recap, that's a 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7 -- basically, the guts of an entire draft.

7. Heavy hitters. Rex Ryan believes recently-signed S LaRon Landry will make a major impact. "Wait until you see this dude on the field," he said. "As impressive as he looks, put the tape on and see if he’s not knocking the tar out of people. I mean, you put this guy between Bart (Scott) and David Harris … oh, I can’t wait to see these dudes on the field. There’s gonna be some collisions out there."

8. Cajun Tuna? Sorry, but the idea of Bill Parcells coaching the Saints just has a bad feel. He's a brilliant coach, but the situation would have a substitute-teacher feel to it. I asked former Jets great Curtis Martin about a possible return by his mentor, and he said, "Whatever makes him happy; he's earned it. I really don't have an opinion one way or the other ... Unlike me, football has been the majority of Bill's life. He has a different connection to it than I do." If Parcells returns, he'd have to wait another five years to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. By the way, Parcells already has accepted Martin's invitation to present him at the Hall-of-Fame induction ceremony in August.

9. Poker face. Colts owner Jim Irsay said they haven't decided whether it will be Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III with the first pick in the draft. He said it's "up in the air." Don't believe him; it's Luck all the way. He's been fascinated by Luck for more than a year, before he ever thought he'd have a chance to pick him.

10. QB III. Don't be surprised if the first three picks are quarterbacks -- Luck, RG3 and Ryan Tannehill. The Vikings won't take him with the third pick, but some desperate team (the Dolphins come to mind) will give up the store to move up ahead of the Browns (fourth), who also could be in the QB market. It's amazing how teams will reach for a quarterback.

C-Mart: Tebow good for Sanchez

March, 31, 2012
3/31/12
8:30
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Hall-of-Fame inductee Curtis Martin was in a grocery store near his Long Island home about a week ago when a fellow shopper approached and asked, “What do you think of Tim Tebow?”

For the record, Martin likes the trade and, unlike outspoken Hall of Famer Joe Namath, this former Jets great believes it will have a positive impact on incumbent quarterback Mark Sanchez.

“Tebow will be good for Mark; he’ll bring the best out of him,” Martin told ESPNNewYork.com Saturday, adding that he has been stopped by many Jets fans wanting to know his take on the trade that has everyone buzzing. “Competition is a good thing. No matter who you are, you need competition.”

The Jets have emphasized that it’s not a quarterback competition, that Tebow is the backup, but he will see playing time in a wildcat package – and that has fueled talk of a quarterback controversy.

Martin agreed, saying “it’s hard not to have a controversy with two high-profile guys like Sanchez and Tim Tebow.” But he expressed confidence the team and the two players will manage the distractions.

“I like Tebow,” Martin said. “Certain players have the ability to get things done, and he’s definitely one of those guys. I don’t know how he gets it done, but he finds a way. There’s a mystique about Tim Tebow. Somehow, he gets it done.”

The Jets have been battered with criticism for making the deal. The day after the trade, Namath ripped his former team, calling it a “publicity stunt” and predicting it will undermine Sanchez.

Martin went the other way, saying Sanchez will benefit. He personalized it, recalling his reaction when the Jets used a second-round pick in 2001 to select his heir apparent, LaMont Jordan.

Even though he had six 1,000-yard seasons, Martin, 28 at the time, sensed an immediate competition.

“I thought he probably should’ve had my position because he had more ability,” Martin said. “I told LaMont, ‘You’re bigger, stronger and faster than me, but you’re going to have to work to take my position.’

“I looked at LaMont Jordan as a daily reminder that your time in this game is short lived. He pushed me to become the best I could possibly be. If he was better than me, fine, I would’ve gone someplace else. But he made me a better player and the Jets a better team.”

Martin proceeded to crank out another four 1,000-yard seasons, including the NFL rushing title in 2004. Jordan remained Martin’s understudy until 2005, when he signed with the Oakland Raiders. He never came close to living up to expectations.

Martin said he expects Sanchez to respond favorably to Tebow’s presence, saying, “If you’re a true competitor, there’s only one way to respond.”

In January, Martin said he’d be in favor of the Jets pursuing Peyton Manning. The team expressed cursory interest and wound up signing Sanchez to a contract extension on the same day they were snubbed by Manning.

Like Tebow, Martin is deeply religious.

“I’m a spiritual guy and I always appreciate guys like that,” he said. “He’s a young guy, he stays humble and he’s not afraid to pray. Some guys are known for touchdown dances; Tebow is known for praying on one knee. He has a prayer named after him. To me, that’s a good thing.”

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