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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There was Kris Jenkins smiling at the crowd, Nick Mangold getting encouragement as he signed autographs and even Jason Taylor getting a little love in a Jets uniform. The Jets held their first practice in the new Meadowlands stadium and they looked like they were home already.
The fans, who could register for free tickets online, started to file into the stadium at 10 a.m. Tamika Santiago of Clifton, N.J., brought her 10-year-old daughter, Brittney, who had a Jets decals on each cheek.
|Jets fans got a new Meadowlands stadium welcome at Wednesday's open practice.|
"It's very nice, but I wish they would have domed it," Tamika said of the stadium.
No need for a dome Wednesday. The skies threatened rain but it never came as the Jets held their last day of the mandatory minicamp in front of a crowd they estimated at 12,000. The crowd appeared to be a bit larger than the one on hand for the Giants on Tuesday, which was generously estimated at 10,000.
Tom Wallach, wearing a Kellen Clemens jersey, ate some morning nachos with his son Sam, 7, who clearly got the day off from school.
"I love it," Sam said. But the best part? "I love the nachos."
Through punting drills, sprints, 11-on-11s, one-handed catches and field goals, the Jets practiced in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Nobody went down with turf-related injuries, though players like Darrelle Revis were aware of the injury to Giants wide receiver Domenik Hixon. At the time he was asked, Revis didn't know that Hixon's injury was season-ending, but Revis was one of several Jets who said the turf was exceptionally soft.
"It's new ground for both teams," Revis said. "I felt OK with it, but it's still new and we still have to break it in some more."
Linebacker Bart Scott said breaking in a turf field is like getting to know a new car.
"It's new turf; it takes a while for this stuff to harden up and mat down," Scott said. "There's going to be loose rubber until you run over it a couple times, have some soccer games in here and some high school games to help mat this thing down. But you just have to make the adjustment. Early on you may have to go with shorter spikes and then as it hardens up you can go with longer spikes.
"But I think it's still top notch; it's soft, it's level, there's no divots, there's no seams -- you just have to break it in."
The new Meadowlands looks and feels like a new facility. The carpet in the locker room is green like velvet, and fans were able to enjoy a standing room section at field level on the visiting side. There, plenty jockeyed for position as the team signed autographs after the session concluded.
"It's beautiful, I'm excited," Scott said. "I'm happy I don't have to look at red seats anymore. I can feel like this one is my home as well ... This has to be one of the best facilities in the NFL."
Jane McManus is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow her on Twitter.
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