Jets embrace Cortland as their happy place
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- One by one, the Jets arrived at SUNY Cortland carrying pillows, blankets or backpacks. The forlorn faces from January were long gone, replaced by sunny dispositions and fresh outlooks on the upcoming season.
Perhaps it's because the Jets know things likely can't get any worse than an 8-8 season marred by finger pointing, name calling and a squandered playoff opportunity.
Or maybe it's "magic."
Mark Sanchez believes something special exists within the confines of Cortland, something that can erase failures while fostering hope. And his coach agrees.
"We did miss it last year," Rex Ryan said, referring to the Jets' lockout-shortened training camp in Florham Park.
Initially, Sanchez wasn't sold on traveling 31/2 hours to share a college dorm room with a teammate. But after reaching the AFC title game in 2009 and 2010, the Jets' starting quarterback has become a believer. And he's determined to recapture that spark.
"I was really excited, driving through town," Sanchez said Thursday. "I think there's a little magic to this place. This is where we need to be. This is the best place for us to shut the doors, focus on us, focus on football and really start something special."
Team building can go only so far. The key to the Jets' success will rest on preparation and execution. But they're determined not to revisit the disappointment that followed them after their Week 17 loss to the Dolphins.
"I couldn't tell you what the feelings are from last year," nose tackle Sione Pouha said. "We put that so far behind us."
Far from the comforts of home and all distractions, the Jets are locked in and focused.
"Everybody's just got a look in their eye, like 'We're ready,' '' Sanchez said. "We expect nothing but the best from each other, we're going to hold each other accountable, act like professionals the entire season and play really well. That's the plan and we don't intend on deviating."
Ryan has abandoned his Super Bowl-predicting ways, but his players are expressing their belief in the system and each other.
"Our goal is to make it to February," Pouha said. "It's something we shoot for. We're not going to sit here and wish upon a star. That's why we're here in training camp, that's why we work so hard."
Earlier this week, tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said on an NFL.com podcast that the Jets have "greatness" in them. Thursday, his teammates echoed his assessment, highlighting the continuity among the veterans and the additions of key players and coaches.
"No question," Sanchez said in support of Ferguson's comments.
For Pouha, training camp is a "refinement" process. "You have to go through this melting period to kind of form who you are as a team," he said.
And there's no place this team would rather begin the building process than Cortland.
"I recognize everything. When I came in, I had this place memorized," tight end Dustin Keller said. "I'm not really superstitious, but what we got from those couple of years we were here, that was the biggest thing.
"It's all football here. That's the one thing you can focus on."