CORTLAND -- Jets players took turns explaining why they thought this season would be better than last.
They offered words like “focus” and “commitment,” highlighting the passion and excitement that exists here in Cortland now that the 2012 training camp is upon us.
“I think we’re just excited for practice (Friday),” said quarterback Mark Sanchez. “We can’t wait. It’s long overdue. I think everybody was starting to get bored. It’s time for football.”
“There’s just been a good vibe about the building and everybody’s really in attack mode. It’s hard to kind of put your finger on it, but everybody’s just got a look in their eye, like: ‘We’re ready.’”
Later, D’Brickashaw Ferguson matter-of-factly explained that if the Jets put in the time, if they put in the work, the success will come. At the conclusion of his interview session with reporters, I couldn’t help but pull him aside to ask one final question.
“So, are you saying there was a lack of focus last season?”
Of course not, I knew. But I was searching for an explanation for why these players believe this season will be so different than 2010.
“I think our circumstances (last year) was a little different,” Ferguson said. “We didn’t have an offseason and because of the result of last year, it caused us to say, ‘Hey, we really need to take advantage of what’s now.’ The past offseason (workouts) that we just completed, I think guys are excited about it and, really, the opportunity we have in front of us.
"And so, as we enter this camp, I think a lot of guys are really focused, like, ‘Hey, we don’t want to have last year happen again. I’m not interested in going back there. So let’s do everything in our power to ensure some type of success.”
The first step toward a successful season is returning to Cortland, their training camp site in 2009 and 2010 when they reached the AFC title championship game. But more than the air and atmosphere of Central New York, is the sobering reality of how far the Jets had fallen since then.
“Because you understand success, because you understand failure, now you have a better appreciation of what could happen,” said Ferguson. “You kind of appreciate things more when you lose them. Two times in a row, AFC championships – that was a great thing for us. Whatever happened, we didn’t have that success last year, so we’re going to go after this and grind. Not to say that we haven’t grinded every year, but obviously we have to grind some more, or seal the areas that were wrong and make tweaks.
"And we’ve done that: we’ve brought in players, we’ve brought in coaches, different philosophies. So we’ve made an attempt at changing and rectifying some of the things that may have been problematic.”
The Jets offensive line – a unit once praised for its continuity and consistency – didn’t live up to expectations last year. But although right tackle Wayne Hunter took the brunt (and deservedly so) for the line’s porous protection, Ferguson admitted his game slipped a bit too.
“We all take part in the failures and successes,” he said. “I don’t think I had an exemplary performance last year, but I know I did try my best.”
So how does a three-time Pro Bowl left tackle set goals for himself?
“Luckily, there’s a ton of tape,” he said with a smile. “I don’t want to tell on myself, but what I will say is, when you watch tape you have the luxury of talking to coaches after the fact. And it helps.”