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Jets hoping well-traveled Baker makes more trips into the end zone

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Chris Baker has his own travel Web site and can tell vacationers all about the best places to see and stay in Rome, Costa Rica, Cancun and the Dominican Republic.

The New York Jets' tight end wouldn't mind taking a few more trips into the end zone this season.

"Hopefully so," Baker said. "Since I've been here, we've always had a good rushing attack and with Thomas Jones being here now, I think he'll get us back to that because last year we struggled a little bit with the run. He'll just help everybody on offense, including me."

Baker set career highs with 31 catches for 300 yards and four touchdowns last season, and the Jets are excited about the potential for more playmaking opportunities.

"Any time we can get him the football, we're definitely going to try to do it," quarterback Chad Pennington said. "I've seen improvements in Chris since he was a rookie. Every year, he's gotten better. He came in as a strong run blocker. We knew he had good hands, but he's been able to hone those skills, really concentrate on details and try to put all those things together."

Baker was drafted in the third round out of Michigan State in 2002 after setting the school record for tight ends with 133 catches for 1,705 yards and 13 touchdowns.

But Baker couldn't catch a break in his first few NFL seasons. He sat behind starter Anthony Becht for three years, and finally got a chance in 2005 but broke his leg in Week 9.

A free agent after that year, Baker decided to re-sign with the Jets and responded with his best season.

"He took advantage of the opportunities that he had," coach Eric Mangini said. "He's done a nice job in the running game. Sometimes that's not as out in the open as receptions in terms of statistics. It can get lost, but I think he's done a real good job there and he keeps progressing."

Baker has looked good early in training camp, and was even rewarded with a day off Wednesday because of a solid performance during the offseason program.

"He's going to be on the field a lot and we're excited to have him out there," Pennington said. "He's a very versatile, smart football player."

And he knows his way around - the world.

"I traveled a little bit when I was younger, but not a lot," Baker said. "With the time off that we have and the money that we make now, instead of sitting around in my house here in New York, I just started getting out and going to different places and enjoyed it."

Baker started his own travel site last November - - after his aunt, Patricia Henry, encouraged him to put his experiences to use.

"That's an industry that's wide open," Baker said. "I thought it was a good idea to get involved with."

Baker, who grew up in St. Albans, N.Y., about 8 miles from the Jets' practice facility, ranks Cancun as his top vacation spot.

"People always ask me, 'Hey, what about this place?' or 'What about that place?' Now I can tell them, 'Hey, this place is good, so check it out on my site,"' Baker said. "That's part of the business, too, me going there and traveling to those places and saying, 'You may want to look at this place,' or 'Don't stay here.' That makes it fun because it's something I like to do anyway."

Baker, who has made "a little bit of money on it," doesn't have any actual employees, but pays a company a monthly fee to maintain the site.

"That company goes and buys packages from the resorts and cruises and buys flight tickets way in advance and then they can offer them," Baker said. "It's the same thing as Expedia or Travelocity."

A few of his teammates have asked him about the site, but he wouldn't exactly call them customers yet.

"It's like pulling teeth with these guys because they're so used to doing things one way," Baker said with a grin. "But I'm pretty sure once the guys start to see the deals on there, they'll be saying, 'Oh, I better go try that out."'

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