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Fans, players praise screens, seating at New Meadowlands stadium

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When New York Jets coach Rex Ryan took the field Wednesday for the team's first practice at the New Meadowlands Stadium, the usually talkative coach was at a loss for words.

"The stadium, I mean, that's ... wow," he said.

Ryan wasn't the only one who was impressed with the new space. Both fans and players complimented the four scoreboards, expanded seating and closed-in atmosphere of the new $1.6 million facility.

A favorite feature was the scoreboards, positioned at each corner. That means that anyone, no matter if it's Ryan on the sideline or a fan in the upper deck, can see the score.

Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said the entire team will be able to watch the game.

"Last year, you had to tell guys to move, if you were trying to watch the game," he said.

While the stadium was on display for everyone to see and judge, so were the players.

The day didn't end in a win or loss, but the 12,000 fans who showed up to get a glimpse of the new facility and see the Jets practice acted as if they were attending a regular-season game.

They groaned as receivers dropped passes and cheered for touchdowns. They clapped, took photos and stood up in their seats. Little kids asked for player autographs while older fans shouted "Flight Crew!" at the Jets cheerleaders.

Most were dressed in Jets jerseys or forest green shirts. Their jerseys ranged from old school Joe Namath to second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Brian Hoffman of Long Island sat in both upper and lower decks. He said he had the same view no matter where he was seated.

"There isn't a bad seat in the house," he said.

Hoffman's friend Theo Karalis also said the new space doesn't have a bad seat, unlike some of the newer New York stadiums.

"If you go to Citi Field or Yankee Stadium, you constantly have an obstructed view," Karalis said. "There are no obstructions here except the guy in front of you."

Even though fans only half-filled the lower decks, Cotchery said he couldn't tell that there were so many empty seats.

"I thought the stadium was packed with how loud it was," he said.

Defensive end Shaun Ellis said he hopes the stadium's set-up will give them an edge against their rivals.

"Coming in as an opposing team I think you'll feel kind of smothered," Ellis said.

None of the Jets seemed to have an issue with the playing surface. A day earlier, the stadium's co-inhabitants, the Giants, practiced on the field for the first time and lost wide receiver and punt returner Domenik Hixon for the season after he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament when he caught his foot in the new FieldTurf surface.

"The turf is great," Sanchez said. "I didn't have any slippage. (Antonio) Cromartie did, but he's so athletic that he's like when a dog falls, they get up so quick, you almost don't see it."

Ryan said the stadium could be the turning point for his team during the fourth quarter of a close game.

"For anybody that says there's no such thing as home-field advantage, that's ridiculous," he said. "This is going to be an amazing stadium for us."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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