- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Jace Amaro is hearing a lot of voices these days.
After dropping a pass Wednesday, the New York Jets' rookie tight end was razzed by a defensive player, who barked, "Can't catch a cold!" A couple of plays later, Amaro ran the wrong route and got an earful from offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who chided him for not studying his playbook. Even mild-mannered quarterback Geno Smith seemed frustrated with the second-round pick.
When practice was over, Amaro and general manager John Idzik had a long talk. Actually, Idzik did the talking, Amaro did the listening. It was a pep talk, not a scolding.
Consider it a day in the life of an overwhelmed NFL rookie.
"A lot of people have high expectations for me," Amaro said. "Right now, I'm trying to figure it all out."
Amaro missed a day of practice, dealing with knee tendinitis, so maybe he was a little behind in terms of picking up the offense. But this was more than a one-day thing. The former Texas Tech star, a record-breaking pass-catcher in college, has been on the training-camp rollercoaster. He admitted he was "confused" by a couple of route concepts in Wednesday's practice, adding, "I got some plays wrong."
The Jets expect big things out of Amaro, whom they envision as a Rob Gronkowski-type tight end some day. But he has a long way to go. To his credit, he knows it.
"I have high expectations for myself, I know what I can do," said Amaro, who caught 106 passes last season in the Texas Tech's up-tempo, spread offense. "I'm making a lot of things a lot more difficult than they should be, just because I'm not completely comfortable with the entire organization yet, from the playbook to not knowing how the coaches coach, little things like that."
Most of Amaro's growing pains are rooted in the X's and O's. At Texas Tech, he played in a relatively basic passing attack that used a numbering system, deployed almost exclusively as a flexed-out tight end. With the Jets, it's a sophisticated offense in which he's often required to be an in-line tight end. The systems, he said, are as different as Chinese and English.
"We know he's got the physical skills to do it," coach Rex Ryan said. "He's got to focus, and sometimes if your head is in other places and you're thinking (too much), it's hard to be at your best."
Amaro, who boldly predicted in minicamp that his goal is to be a 100-catch tight end, said he expects to have the same trajectory he did in college, noting, "I wasn't an all-American my freshman year." But his 2013 season was one for the history books. He believes he can get to that level even sooner in the NFL.
"Eventually, it's going to start clicking," he said. "When it does, I'll really be able to showcase what I can do."