|ESPN.com: ESPNNewYork||[Print without images]|
On their final night in Cortland, N.Y., the New York Jets kicked back to enjoy a time-honored, training-camp tradition -- the annual rookie show. To expand the entertainment, they also hired a professional magician, who apparently was a huge hit.
Asked if the magician was able to make the Vince Lombardi Trophy appear out of thin air, one player laughed Friday and said, "Or better yet, make [Darrelle] Revis appear."
Not even David Blaine could pull that off -- unless he had $40 million in fully guaranteed money up his sleeve.
Revis' absence was a dark cloud over the three-week camp, which broke Friday morning, but it didn't detract from the No. 1 objective, according to the Jets. And that objective was to build team harmony.
|Any problems getting Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson to share carries? Apparently not.|
Remember all the chemistry questions from the offseason, when the Jets replaced strong locker-room guys such as Thomas Jones and Alan Faneca with the likes of Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes?
Too many character concerns, people said. Too many "me" players. The team will implode, naysayers predicted.
Rex Ryan, the Jets' resident chemistry professor, responded to the criticism by pointing to training camp, saying it would be a critical time in the team's development.
Well, sleep-away camp is over, and what can we say about the Jets? Aside from Revis' holdout, which is an off-the-field issue, there doesn't appear to be any trouble in the locker room. The Jets might be the subject of a prime-time reality show, but they're not a soap opera.
Holmes and Braylon Edwards aren't complaining about playing time. LaDainian Tomlinson isn't whining about the touchy "C" word (complementary back). No one is giving the cold shoulder to Jason Taylor, the former Miami Dolphin.
It's early, and perhaps the Jets are on their best behavior because Big Brother -- the "Hard Knocks" camera -- is watching at all times. But so far, so smooth.
"We've grown up as a team and come closer together," said quarterback Mark Sanchez, who has grown as a leader in his second year. "Our chemistry is there, now it's time to go."
One of the hallmarks of last season's team, which reached the AFC Championship Game, was its ability to cope with adversity. The Jets became the first team in history to make the playoffs despite two three-game losing streaks. If they can maintain that mental toughness, it will serve them well during the inevitable rough patches.
"I think that speaks about the type of players we have, the kind of locker room we have, and how the guys feel about each other," Ryan said. "This is a new year, but I feel this is a close football team."
To build harmony, and break up the monotony of camp, the team took a night off to go to the movies. On an off day, several players and their families visited a nearby water park. On Thursday night, after the rookie show, the players were allowed to do anything they wanted -- read the Bible, visit a local watering hole, you name it -- as long as they did it with at least one teammate.
Whether he did it purposely or not, Ryan managed to deflect the chemistry issue by stealing the spotlight. He did that by predicting a Super Bowl, cursing on TV, taking on Tony Dungy and taking on Revis' agents. That allowed his players to bond in relative peace, albeit in the presence of unprecedented media coverage.
"I think a lot of people can see, especially with 'Hard Knocks' going on, how close our team is, how much fun we have and how serious we are when it's time to get to work," Sanchez said. "Off the field, I felt we've grown as friends, as teammates, as a family, [and] that transcends football."
If it's all just an act, a Brady Bunch routine for the cameras, it will become apparent in the chill of autumn and winter. The long, brutal nature of an NFL season will expose the liars and the frauds.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.
More from ESPNNewYork.com »