1. The Other Guard. When the Jets released LG Alan Faneca, most of the attention focused on second-round pick Vlad Ducasse as his likely replacement. But there's another candidate for the job: Second-year G Matt Slauson, and he's quite a story himself.
On a team of glib personalities and noted trash talkers, perhaps the most inspirational speaker is Slauson. He has a stuttering problem, but it hasn't caused him to shy away from teammates or reporters. Just last week, he stood in the locker room, fielding questions from several reporters, not appearing the least bit self-concious. Good for him.
Slauson has dealt with the issue for as long as he can remember, and it caused it many, many difficult days as a kid, as he was teased by classmates. But he learned to deal with it and doesn't mind discussing it. It caused him to withdraw when he was younger, he said. Now? "I've come out of my shell," he said, adding, "As far as my speech goes, as long as it doesn't affect me in a game, I don't care."
A three-time All-Big 12 player at Nebraska, where he played for Jets OL coach Bill Callahan, Slauson has a legitimate chance to win the opening-day job.
2. A Real Sleeper. An unheralded player creating some buzz on defense is first-year DT Matt Kroul (6-3, 280), who spent last season on the practice squad. Coordinator Mike Pettine praised Kroul, all but handing him a roster spot. Said Pettine: "He's a viable part of what we're doing this year." Kroul will get a great opportunity in training camp because the coaches plan to limit Kris Jenkins' reps. Jenkins is coming off major knee surgery.
3. Fun and Games. Here's something you never would've seen in an Eric Mangini locker room: On Thursday, when the locker room was open to the media, several players were competing in a game of Corn Hole -- a bean-bag toss game. The scene looked and sounded like a picnic in a park or a tailgate at the stadium. Some might say the locker room is a place of business, but under Rex Ryan, just about anything goes. I have no problem with that in May. If it were the middle of the season, different story.
4. LT's Food Fix. LaDainian Tomlinson was talking about the differences between New Jersey/New York and his previous home, San Diego, when he was reminded that we have no In-N-Out Burger joints in these parts. for the uninitiated, In-N-Out is huge in the West, especially California. Mark Sanchez swears by them.
"No In-N-Out Burger," Tomlinson said, "but a lot of great pizza."
A quick learner, that Tomlinson.
5. Welcome to Revis Island. Except for a brief conversation about two weeks ago, CB Darrelle Revis really hasn't had a chance to get to know CB Kyle Wilson, the Jets' first-round pick. But he will. Said Revis: "I'm going to try to take him under my wing." In general, Revis, prodded by the coaches, is planning to take more of a leadership role than in the past. He isn't a loud, rah-rah guy, he has a Jeter-like presence and needs to exert himself in the locker room. (Easy, Yankee fans, I'm not saying Revis has reached Derek Jeter's stature. I'm merely saying he has an understated, yet influential presence around his teammates.)
6. Hit the Field. OTAs begin Monday for the Jets, who will take the field as a team for the first time since losing to the Colts in the AFC Championship Game. The Monday and Tuesday practices are closed to the media, but we'll be allowed to watch Thursday.
7. The Money Men. In case you're scoring at home, the following players have acknowledged they're looking for a contract extension: C Nick Mangold, Revis, LB David Harris and DE Shaun Ellis. Who's next, LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, perhaps? There's one thing they can't complain about: For a change, they can't accuse the front office of throwing around big money to "outside" players. CB Antonio Cromartie and WR Santonio Holmes are entering the final year of their rookie contracts, and Tomlinson and OLB Jason Taylor received relatively modest deals.
8. PSL Talk. Despite thousands of unsold PSLs in the new stadium, owner Woody Johnson promised there would be no local TV blackouts for the coming season. But he never actually explained how he planned to accomplish that if they fall short of a sellout. Something tells me you're going to he seeing (and hearing) of a lot Rex Ryan over the next few months. He's their best salesman.
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Slauson Provides Inspiration
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