FLORHAM PARK, N.J.— All the sounds, and most of the sights were the same as the Jets held their first official training camp practice.
The sun was shining on the grass fields outside the Atlantic Health Center on Friday. Adam Gase was in a black, long-sleeved shirt, running the offense. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and special teams coach Brant Boyer were their usually loud and colorful selves.
The biggest differences were there was some social distancing, no sharing of waters, and the coaches had to scream through their masks that they must wear. But for everyone involved, it was a big and important day, a return to normalcy somewhat after such an unprecedented offseason because of COVID-19.
“You’re wearing a mask, that’s the only thing that kind of reminds you, really,” Gase said on a Zoom call after practice. “You see everybody’s spread out. You can see the spacing around the field, how everybody was aware. I do think you get lost in the moment a little bit as far as it’s football. You see guys out there working extremely hard. You’re reminded you’re back to work. But at the same time, you’re not forgetting about the protocols that are put in place and you’re trying to do everything right.”
The players said things felt the same, though those on the sideline were wearing masks.
“The masks have become part of everyday life,” new center Connor McGovern said. “It’s something where I know I’m walking into a building, it’s almost natural to throw a mask on. I felt like I was at a camp practice. I don’t think that since the training staff was giving us our own water bottles instead of letting us share one that it felt any different. It felt like the first camp practice and it felt good."
The Jets' practice occurred one day after they were supposed to play their first preseason game. Because all of them were canceled, practice becomes even more important with the Jets’ Week 1 game in Buffalo a little more than four weeks away.
After an offseason filled with virtual meetings, the Jets were able to take the field as an offense or defense the previous two days. Friday was the first time that the team could practice together, and go against one another – without pads. That’s scheduled to begin on Monday.
This was the equivalent of a minicamp practice, where guys were together for the first time, and there was some expected rust during the team periods. A number of pre-snap penalties on both sides of the ball occurred, but they were cleaned up relatively quickly.
“That first team period everybody had a little false start issue getting used to cadence,” McGovern said. “What I thought was really good was that second team period there wasn’t a single one. It did feel like an early spring practice. But the nice thing is normally you’re having false start penalties, or whatever issue, it kind of goes that whole day. We were able to switch quick.
“Everyone realizes the urgency we’re under and the urgency we have to improve with and the pressure we’re under to fix that little stuff. Once the game starts it’s not a little thing anymore. I think we fixed it fast. I think it shows how ready we are to knock the rust off and get ready for a game.”
Gase didn’t sound overly concerned about some of the lack of discipline his team showed in its first practice since December.
“We got to make all our mistakes here in two days that we make all of May and then jump to training camp pretty much,” Gase said jokingly. “Every team is going through the same thing where we’re all on the field for the first time. We’re all going through the same process. Everybody’s got new guys at some place on their team. Everybody’s trying to find a way, how do we get better fast, get chemistry as quickly as possible., That’s what we have to try to do.
"We can’t panic just because we only have four weeks to get ready for the first game. We have to try to get better every day.”