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Jets wrap up first training camp under Ryan, but work remains

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Rex Ryan had a little more fun with his team before breaking the good news.

After some silly rookie skits and a vote for the ugliest person on the team Thursday night, the New York Jets' coach told his players they were heading home.

So long, Cortland. Ryan's first training camp was in the books.

"I think camp was great here," Ryan said between his final practices. "We talked about it. It exceeded our expectations as far as the people here in this community. They've been tremendous to us."

After originally scheduling a practice for Friday morning, Ryan canceled it. The work isn't over, though. The Jets will resume their preseason practices Saturday at their training facility in Florham Park, N.J.

"I hate these guys," a smiling center Nick Mangold said. "I never want to see them again, I never want to be around them."

Oh, and for those keeping score, safety James Ihedigbo won the King Ugly award.

"Thank you. Thank you," Ihedigbo wrote on his Twitter page. "I am King Ugly. Ah."

Ryan apparently was satisfied with what he saw from his team on the field since arriving in Cortland on July 30. The quaint town located about 30 miles south of Syracuse tried to make the Jets feel at home by hanging banners along the streets and signs in store and restaurant windows.

"They welcomed us, and all around town, when we had meetings off, we'd go out at night and go to the local hangout spot," rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "They've been awesome. Jets signs everywhere, 'Welcome Jets fans and families,' so that's been so fun for us to be a part of."

Sanchez also was involved in the top storyline of camp, locked in a close competition with Kellen Clemens for the starting quarterback job. The Jets left Cortland without a decision, although Sanchez could take a step closer to winning the spot with a solid performance Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens, Ryan's former team.

"I'm just preparing for the game," Sanchez said. "It's going to be a great atmosphere. I'm just thrilled to be a part of it and get the start. It's going to be great."

Meanwhile, Clemens is hoping to make a statement after a solid but unspectacular camp.

"I came in with the expectation and the goal of getting just a little bit better with each practice and to continue to improve myself and the offense," Clemens said. "I think we've done that. It's been a good camp."

Ryan was criticized, especially by New Jersey-based fans, for opting to hold training camp at SUNY Cortland after the Jets moved into a $75 million facility last year. But Ryan wanted to bring his first team as a head coach to a remote location, with the focus on bonding far from the distractions of home.

"You look around, you see mountains and trees, but team bonding is definitely what has been accomplished here," left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said. "Training camp is always hard, but I think when you're put in a different atmosphere that you're not normally used to, you focus and rely on each other even that much more."

  -- LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson 

Although no decision has been made for next summer, Ryan indicated he'd like to return to Cortland.

"I have a tough time believing that wherever we go is going to be much better than Cortland," Ryan said. "Our time has been outstanding here. I know sometimes with the particulars, whether it's the financials or whatever, there's a lot more that goes into it than my opinion, but my opinion is certainly that we accomplished everything we wanted to here and we had the facilities to do it."

A number of the Jets' starting players -- such as Mangold, cornerback Darrelle Revis, nose tackle Kris Jenkins, right tackle Damien Woody and left guard Alan Faneca -- have missed time because of injuries. But Ryan is optimistic they all will be ready for the Sept. 13 season opener on the road against the Houston Texans.

There also have been a few encouraging signs, with Chansi Stuckey and David Clowney having solid camps and possibly giving whoever wins the quarterback job two speedy and reliable targets to complement No. 1 receiver Jerricho Cotchery.

"We're coming along and we've made good strides on the things we wanted to work on," Mangold said. "I think moving forward, we have a good base under us."

Other standouts included rookie running back Shonn Greene, safety Jim Leonhard and linebackers Jamaal Westerman, Bart Scott and Calvin Pace.

"The communication has been good, the bonding," Ryan said. "That's one of the reasons we came here. ... I just like the overall attitude of our team."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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