By the time Will Campbell had gotten off the phone with his parents, the offensive meeting between Geno Smith and his linemen was over. But Smith made sure Campbell – his hotel roommate – would be up to speed on Day 1 of rookie minicamp.
“As soon as he got in the room, he told me: ‘Oh, you weren’t in the meeting, come on. We’re about to do this and do that,’ and he got right in his playbook,” said Campbell, who went over play-count cadences with his new quarterback for “a good 15-20 minutes.”
Hours after arriving in New Jersey Thursday afternoon and undergoing their physicals, Smith and his linemen agreed to meet up to go over the playbook in preparation for Day 1. And for Campbell – a former defensive tackle at Michigan – the brief study session was vital.
“As a D-lineman, you want to jump the snap,” said the Jets’ sixth-round pick. “Today, I was just anticipating so I could get the jump on them. So I felt really good about it. I’m glad we went over it last night.”
“We all thought that’s what we should do to get things moving,” said guard Brian Winters, the Jets’ third-round pick. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re really tough out there. If we don’t know what we’re doing, we’re obviously going to pay for it. So we wanted to be ahead of the game, ahead of time and do what we could to make it easier.”
Smith’s passes didn’t always hit their mark during Friday’s practice, but Rex Ryan quickly took note of the rookie’s presence and how he commanded the huddle. “I think that’s great,” the Jets coach said, when asked about Smith holding a meeting with the offensive line Thursday night. “It’s unusual the way he did command the huddle. That’s sharp.”
Despite the reports of Smith being an immature prima donna, the former West Virginia quarterback is already impressing his teammates with his dogged pursuit of perfection.
“He’s a great guy. A great, wholesome, humble guy,” said Campbell, who quickly got a sense of Smith’s work ethic in a short amount of time on Thursday. “I met him for a few hours last night before we went to bed. He’s a great guy. As soon as he walked in, he ordered something to eat and, man, he got in his playbook. So as a leader and as my quarterback, I love to see something like that.”
“Right when he walked in the door, he was bright and happy," said the guard, whose hotel room is right next door to Smith and Campbell's. "You definitely feel like he has those leadership skills that we definitely need as a rookie class. We’ve got some good offensive linemen coming in and we want to do everything we can to help him succeed and just work as a group and working together.”
Despite rave character reviews from his teammates, Smith was highly critical of his Day 1 performance on the practice field. He repeatedly called the adjustment to Marty Mornhingweg’s West Coast Offense “a transition,” admitting that he probably spent more time under center Friday than he had in college.
“It felt like a natural transition,” he said. “Obviously there are some things I need to clean up and I’m going to work on it with coach (David) Lee and coach Mornhinweg. But it didn’t feel too odd to me. I think I did a pretty good job with it.”
But overall, Smith gave himself a failing grade.
“I'm going to be tough on myself,” said the QB, who selected No. 7 because his college number – 12 – is retired. “I'll let the coaches do the grading. But if I say it, it's an F because I want to be an A-plus. Hey man, that's just the way I do things.”
Currently there are three sets of installs – one for each day of rookie minicamp. “I got install 1 down – and I don’t even know if I’ve got that down 100 percent yet,” Smith said with a smile. “So I’ve got to continue to just study it.”
A noted “film junkie,” Smith said he’s already begun studying film of NFL QBs who played in similar systems – guys like Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb and Brett Favre. “As we all know, the West Coast system is one of the toughest ones to learn, but I don’t think it was too foreign to me,” Smith said. “First of all, I studied my butt off, just to be prepared for today. And there’s more work that goes into being ready for tomorrow.”
When asked if his goal is to be the starting QB in Week 1, Smith replied: “That’s so far ahead for me right now. I’m working on what I have here right now. And my goal is to prove myself to my teammates and my coaches here, to get in that playbook – learn it, in and out – and be able to spit it back out on the field and execute.”
But behind the scenes, he’s preparing like someone who expects to have the ball in his hand every down. Starting with his Thursday night meeting with his offensive linemen.