For Jets’ Kendall, Door at Camp May Lead to Exit
By DAMON HACK
Published: July 28, 2007
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., July 27 — When Pete Kendall arrived at the Hofstra University dormitories Thursday, he immediately recognized that something was different from last year. His room key and the Jets’ room log had him living with the rookies and other young players trying to make the team. Kendall is about to begin his 12th year in the league.
If not for the sometimes-ugly contract impasse between Kendall and the Jets, the mistake might have been viewed as a practical joke common in training camp. Kendall, last season’s starting left guard, took it as anything but.
“I made mention to the head coach and the general manager, and they got it changed,” Kendall said Friday as the Jets opened camp with two practices. “To me, it speaks volumes about what the atmosphere must be like if someone in the organization must have thought it would put them in good graces with the head coach and G.M. to turn the screw just a little bit.”
On a day when Chad Pennington tossed passes, Jonathan Vilma chased running backs and the Jets’ first-round pick, Darrelle Revis, played hooky, the off-season soap opera between Kendall and the team spilled into the first day of camp.
For a team coming off a playoff appearance last season and searching for more in the American Football Conference, part of Coach Eric Mangini’s opening news conference was spent talking about Kendall’s room assignment.
“I heard about the rookie dorm,” Mangini said. “There is no conspiracy theory, no grassy knoll, no secret agents. It was a mix-up, it has been changed. There are guys in all different dorms. They’re 100 feet apart.”
Kendall, who will turn 34 in September, waited until nearly the last minute before deciding to drive down from his off-season home in Weymouth, Mass., to report to camp Thursday. He is seeking to have the four-year deal he signed last season restructured so he will be paid $2.7 million this season. (He is now due to make $1.7 million.)
Kendall, who started 15 games last season, including the playoffs, said he told both Mangini and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum on Thursday that he would like to be traded or released if the contract was not redone. He said Friday that the only reason he reported to camp was to avoid a team fine of $14,000 a day.
In addition to the room mix-up, Kendall spent part of the first practice taking snaps with the second unit.
“I don’t understand why I’m still here,” he said. “I’ve clearly expressed that I don’t want to be here. I’m running with the second team. It’s seemingly evolved into something personal.”
He later added: “Even the general manager acknowledges that my request is reasonable. So when the general manager says it’s not unreasonable, does there have to be an Exhibit B? I don’t have any hope of it being salvaged at this point. I just think that I’m not going to give money back at this point, so I’m here.”
Mangini said Kendall is one of several players alternating between the first and second teams. “That happens at training camp at all positions,” he said. “Mike and I are responsible in doing what is in the best interests of the New York Jets. That’s what we’re committed to doing, and that’s what we’re doing.”
D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who started alongside Kendall last season, said Kendall’s unhappiness did not affect the team’s first day of practices.
“Pete is here and we’re working as a team and that situation is going to play out the way it is,” Ferguson said.
One player who was not at camp or the rookie dorm was Revis, a defensive back and the 14th pick over all in April’s draft. Revis had 129 tackles and 8 interceptions in three seasons at the University of Pittsburgh, but, as Mangini said, he was skipping important repetitions.
“Anybody that’s not here is missing opportunities to get better and compete for what they all want, which is playing time,” Mangini said. “We are going to focus on the guys who are here and get them better and collectively get better.”
Kendall was on the field in body, if not in spirit, sweating through practice. He had his room among the Jets veterans, but it was unclear how long he would be there or how many more misunderstandings he would take.
“Whoever it was in the building must have been thinking they were pleasing Eric and Mike to stick me in the rookie dorm,” Kendall said. “Little things like that. I mean, come on. It’s comical to the point of absurd at this point.”
This post has been edited by S-Dubb: 29 July 2007 - 08:13 PM