New York Jets news, commentary and insider info from beat writer Kimberley A. Martin.
Jets buying into Sparano & Tebow
John Conner’s face lit up when the topic of conversation turned to the Jets re-commitment to the running game.
To the Jets fullback, the addition of new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano signals an opportunity to reclaim their gritty identity and, as he put it, “get back to our swag.”
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Conner said at the inaugural Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) Girls Varsity Flag Football Tournament in Brooklyn Saturday afternoon. “I think we’re a team that’s built for that.”
Before taking photos with more than 20 football teams from New York City high schools, Conner and teammate Patrick Turner stopped to chat with a few reporters about the upcoming season -- and in particular, Sparano and new backup quarterback Tim Tebow.
“Tony’s a no-nonsense kind of guy, straightforward which is great,” said Conner. “I think he’s going to be great for the team and great for the offense. Guys seems to be responding to him really well.”
Turner, who was drafted by Miami in 2009, said his one season playing under Sparano will help as the Jets -- and namely quarterback Mark Sanchez -- get acclimated to their new offensive coordinator.
Conner and Turner also are buying into the acquisition Tim Tebow.
The Jets reportedly plan to use the former Denver QB in the Wildcat, as well as at running back, fullback and H-back. That could potentially affect the production of Conner, a Rex Ryan favorite because of his bruising blocking skills. But the fullback said he’s fully supportive of Tebowmania.
“Anything to help the team,” said Conner. “I’m here to help the team. I’m sure he’s here to help the team. ...That’ll just cause (more) trouble for the opposing defense to have to deal with. ...I think it’s a great decision to have him on the team.”
Neither player seemed to think Tebow's presence will affect Sanchez negatively.
"Coach Sparano did a great job of running the Wildcat offense in Miami and having a player like Tim Tebow -- he’s a dual threat on the ground as well as throwing the ball," said Turner. "It fits his scheme and that package perfectly and to have that wrinkle each week is an added advantage for us. And that’s why the decision was made. We feel like he’s a really good football player and we want guys who are football players on our team.”
Only time will tell if Sparano plans to use the Wildcat similiarly with the Jets.
“With different guys, you have to use them different,” Turner said. “But I’m sure he’ll use them whichever way it works. He’s a good coach and that’s why we have him. He’s fitting the pieces of the puzzle together and we’re going to be a physical team and we’re going to also utilize what we have.”
Turner -- who played with Sanchez at USC and spent a week in Orlando with his quarterback and fellow wide receiver Santonio Holmes before team workouts began -- didn’t think Tebow’s presence would affect Sanchez’s production this season.
“There’s always quarterbacks in the room," he said. "And Tebow, he has a lot of attention that he’s gained due to his play. He’s been successful, done a good job. (But) I really don’t think it’s a huge factor in the psyche. He’s an additional teammate.”
Asked how Sanchez has handled this past offseason, Turner said the quarterback has worked his butt off. “He’s been praised, he’s been criticized but this offseason he’s really worked hard to try to achieve the goal he’s set for himself,” the wide receiver said. “I feel like it’ll pay off.”
The Jets teamed with the New York City Department of Education and Indianapolis-based USA Football to form the inaugural PSAL event -- which featured more than 20 schools representing all five boroughs. It marked the first time girls flag football has been made a PSAL varsity sport.
The Jets have donated $50,000 to the PSAL for the 29-team league, which began play this spring.
“We wanted to be a part of it and just show our support,” said Conner. “It’s great to keep kids active and get girls involved in sports as well.”