- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 12, 2008

— Favre, Jets attempt to keep focus

HEMPSTEAD, NY - In the ongoing saga of The Summer of Favre, Monday’s practice at New York Jets training camp could almost have been deemed a return to business as usual.

The crowd on hand was large, but well short of the remarkable 10,500 who had showed up two days earlier to watch quarterback Brett Favre’s first practice with his new team. The media herd - more than 100 over the weekend - had thinned to a more manageable 20, mostly local, reporters.

And afterward, while the former Packers star signed autographs instead of answering another series of Broadway-Brett questions, his teammates talked about typical training camp fare - developing chemistry and playing their next preseason game, Saturday night at the Meadowlands against the Washington Redskins.

“It should be exciting,” said center Nick Mangold. “It’s always nice to be able to go out and hit somebody else other than your own team, and we’re looking forward to it.”

That it will be No. 4’s first start under center for a Jets team he will try to return to AFC contention after a 4-12 record last season clearly remained the theme of the day, but on Favre’s third day of workouts, talk was shifting from the future Hall of Famer merely being a Jet to becoming a part of the team.

“He’s one of the guys,” said running back Thomas Jones. “There’s 11 guys out there at one time trying to do their job to make it successful, and when he’s out there he’s just one of 11 guys - that’s the mentality he has and that’s why he’s been so successful.”

Come Saturday night, Jones added: “We look forward to going out there, number one, and getting another game in. And he’s a new player, so we want to get accustomed to playing with him too.”

On a steamy afternoon at Hofstra University, a crowd of some 4,000 fans peppered with green No. 4 jerseys - as many with yellow stripes on the sleeves as white - watched as the superstar quarterback in the red one hit several of the highs and lows that come with developing chemistry with teammates he still barely knows.

They cheered his first touchdown pass, a 10-yard strike to Brad Smith in a red zone drill - “That’s why you’re here, Brett!” yelled a raspy-voiced New Yorker from the bleachers - and also his next play, a swing pass to Leon Washington that went for an 8-yard score.

They also saw safety Kerry Rhodes jump an out pattern and intercept Favre on one play, and nearly grab another a few minutes later. Late in practice during a two-minute drill, they watched the quarterback with the gunslinger reputation throw an ill-advised pass off his back foot over the middle into double coverage, narrowly avoiding a turnover.

But on the same drive, the Jets faithful erupted for Favre’s highlight of the day when he dropped a fade-route, 30-yarder over the shoulder and into the hands of Laveranues Coles in the corner of the end zone.

In effect, they saw Vintage Favre.

“There’s no clearout routes,” receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. “Whatever route you have, you better run it hard because the ball could be coming. If you’re not looking, you may get hit in the head with it.

“We’re just trying to take advantage of this practice time that we have here in training camp, and gain a chemistry throughout our offense, so hopefully we can develop something special.”

But not everyone on the Jets has publicly expressed excitement over the quarterback change. Coles, who had a close relationship with former starter Chad Pennington, refused to speak to reporters for a third straight day on Monday (and Pennington, since released, already has signed with the Miami Dolphins). During practice, a fan in the stands loudly criticized Pennington’s arm strength by way of comparison after Favre narrowly overthrew Coles on a deep pass; Coles responded by yelling an expletive.

At a pre-practice press conference, Jets coach Eric Mangini had defended Coles, calling him “outstanding in every area.”

“Laveranues and Chad were good friends,” Mangini said. “Each situation takes different people different amounts of time to work through, but it’s not a function of any sort of feelings toward Brett whatsoever.”

Tight end Bubba Franks, who played with Favre in Green Bay for eight seasons before signing with the Jets in March, said Favre is winning over his teammates.

“Brett is finally understanding the offense,” said Franks. “He’s only been here three days and guys are starting to realize why he’s Brett Favre. … Not many people realize how quick his release is, and it’s starting to show - the guy can still play football.”

Franks expects the development to continue Saturday night against the Redskins.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I can’t wait to see him go back out there - it’s going to be a little different with him in a Jets uniform, but it’s still the same guy.”



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