CORTLAND, N.Y. — The bus carrying Rex Ryan and many of his New York Jets players rolled into downtown Cortland, and was greeted by a few hundred fans decked out in green and white.
The festive parade was a welcome sight for Ryan, who received a key to the city and would like nothing more than to celebrate with an even bigger gathering in New York sometime in February. But the normally brash coach isn’t guaranteeing a Super Bowl this time around, insisting only that he and his team fully realize the task at hand.
“My job is to in 45 days build a football team that is in a certain image, and plays like Jets,” Ryan said. “And that’s what we plan on doing.”
He knows the pressure’s on him and his team to prove that last year’s disappointing season was merely a bump in the road. After finishing 8-8 and out of the playoffs, many of the players believe being back at training camp in Cortland is a perfect start.
After all, following their two previous summers in central New York, the Jets went to the AFC title game.
“We’re back to where, I think, there’s a little magic in this place,” quarterback Mark Sanchez said.
Sanchez was one of the first players to check in to the dorm at SUNY Cortland, with Tim Tebow showing up not long after him. Darrelle Revis showed up, too, after it was uncertain all offseason if he would.
It was a good first day for a team that was derailed by internal fighting and inconsistency last season — following a summer in which the Jets chose to stay at their training facility in Florham Park, N.J., after the NFL lockout was lifted in late-July.
“It’s great for us to be able to get away and focus solely on football,” center Nick Mangold said. “I think guys are excited about what we can accomplish up here leading into the season.”
Left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson recently said in a radio interview that he thinks there’s “greatness” in this team, something his teammates didn’t disagree with.
“Is it your goal? Yeah, it is,” defensive tackle Sione Pouha said. “That’s our goal: to make it to February. That’s what we shoot for. I mean, we’re not going to sit here and wish upon a star. That’s why we’re here in camp and why we work so hard.”
It should be an interesting summer, to say the least, with all eyes — from reporters to fans — fixed on both Sanchez and Tebow. Most of the intrigue revolves around whether the two will be able to co-exist, particularly given the popularity of Tebow beyond the football field. Many fans and media have been speculating for months about when Tebow will eventually overtake Sanchez for the starting job.
As far as Ryan’s concerned, that’s not even up for debate.
“We clearly have a starting quarterback,” Ryan said, “and that’s Mark.”
That’s something he and the rest of the Jets’ coaches and front office have been saying since acquiring Tebow from Denver in March. Sanchez believes new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano will know exactly how to make it all work.
“As far as how Tim is integrated, I’ve got to defer to Coach Sparano, but I’m also confident in his feel for handling two different systems, for handling my rhythm as a quarterback,” Sanchez said. “He knows how important that is.”
For now, the Jets envision Tebow as the guy who runs the wildcat-style offense and serves as the punt protector on special teams. But that role will become more defined as Sparano fully installs his system.
And that’s just fine by Tebow.
“I don’t have any preconceived notions of anything,” Tebow said. “Whatever I get, I want to earn in camp and try to get better every single day.”
Revis reported for camp, as expected, after saying last month during minicamp that he was unsure if he would. He was hoping the Jets would rework the $46 million, four-year deal he signed in 2010, but decided after speaking with his agents to join his teammates.
“I want to be around the team and just play ball,” he said. “I think that’s my focal point, just come in here and get prepared for the season.”
Ryan and the rest of the Jets were certainly happy to see the star cornerback show up on time, unlike two years ago when he missed training camp completely.
“Yeah, I’m always glad to see Revis,” Pouha said. “There’s always a business side of it, and whatever he had to take care of, but to see Revis in there is great.”
Safety LaRon Landry was activated from the physically unable to perform list after passing his physical earlier in the day, meaning he has been cleared to practice Friday. Landry, signed as a free agent in March, had been rehabbing an Achilles/heel injury that cut short his season last year with the Washington Redskins.
Ryan said Landry looked great in his conditioning run, adding that he thought the former Pro Bowl safety “sent a message that, I’m LaRon Landry.” The coach also said Landry would be on “a pitch count” at least to start so he doesn’t overdo things.
Defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis was also at camp after serving 23 days in a Virginia prison for assault and battery stemming from a 2010 fight while attending Hampton University.
“Mentally was the tough part,” he said. “I just read a couple of books, keep your mind out of the situation and just look forward to getting back out there.”
Ellis said Ryan, owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum each visited him separately in prison to show their support for the second-year player. Ellis served about half the sentence, meaning he’ll finish the rest after the season.
“First half is behind me, second half is ahead,” he said, “but for now I’m just trying to focus on football.”
NOTES: Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff was back, just a few months removed from having surgery on his left leg. Westhoff, a bone cancer survivor, was in Indianapolis in May visiting his son when he heard a sound in his leg — the same one in which a titanium prosthesis was inserted in February 2008. A piece of the contraption broke while he was in the hospital to have it checked out. … In addition to using Tebow as the punt protector, Westhoff said he might also be used on kickoffs when it appears opponents might squib or pop kicks. “But that’s only three or four times a year.” … Ryan said LG Matt Slauson and LB Bryan Thomas, both limited by shoulder surgery in the offseason, are “full go.” … Sanchez is rooming with third-string QB Greg McElroy, while Tebow is with WR Chaz Schilens. … Ryan declined comment on recently acquired tackle Jeff Otah, who failed his physical — putting the trade with Carolina on hold. The Jets are hoping Otah, who is in Cortland, can pass the physical within a week or the deal is off. … Rookie linebacker Demario Davis tweaked a hamstring earlier in the week and didn’t pass his physical, but Ryan hopes he returns soon.