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New York Jets news, commentary and insider info from beat writer Kimberley A. Martin.

Rookie mini-camp begins

Jets head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator

Jets head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine talk at practice in Florham Park, N.J. (Jan. 21, 2011) (Credit: Joe Epstein)

Jets rookie mini-camp opened today in Florham Park, where recent draft signees and professional hopefuls look to stake their claim to an NFL dream.

Due to the new collective bargaining agreement, the players had just a morning session, which wrapped up at 1 p.m.

It was the first time second-round pick Stephen Hill got to showcase his athleticism and 6-4 frame for the media -- and boy did his impress. Long and lean, the former Georgia Tech wideout had little trouble snatching the ball from the air.

On one play, a pass from Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne to Hill was tipped in the air by a defensive back, then ricocheted off the hands of another defender -- but the acrobatic Hill dove for it just before it hit the ground.

Hill’s height makes him an easy target downfield, especially in the red zone. At one point Albany quarterback Dan LiLella tried to force a pass to Hill down the right sideline, but the wide receiver, who was covered on all sides, couldn’t come up with it.

***
First-rounder Quinton Coples got work at both left and right end and at tackle during practice. The UNC product said he was given 10 DVDs of last season’s defensive front by the coaching staff -- which he watched in five days.

He also said he’s grasped a “majority” of the playbook.

***

Friday was a day of firsts for Hayden Smith, the rugby player whose dream it is to make it in the NFL.

He donned a helmet for the first time today and a few hours later was reminded of an important rule in football: No roughing the kicker.

During a special teams drill led by coordinator Mike Westhoff, Smith came flying through and nailed punter Travis Baltz.

Everything’s cool though. Smith said he went over and apologized to Baltz and explained he’s new to this whole football thing.

Aside from remembering those types of specific rules, Smith said the pace of the game will be the most challenging thing for him. 

***
New offensive coordinator Tony Sparano made his presence felt on the field, snapping his fingers and barking out orders at players (the funniest of which, was: “Can’t take 10 steps to get 12 (yards) -- I can do that!”)

***
Tensions flared between center Kris O’Dowd and D-lineman Damon Harrison towards the end of practice. The two appeared to be going hard on a play and O’Dowd’s helmet was (inadvertently?) ripped off. They exchanged some choice words, but no punches were thrown.

***
WR Scotty McKnight, who still is recovering from ACL surgery, did some light jogging on the field as well.

LB Bryan Thomas was later spotted in the locker room. He’s steadily making progress from Achilles surgery last year

Tags: jets , quinton coples , stephen hill , hayden smith

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