Training days: Both fans and players adjusting to life with Favre

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- The sun's rays were wicked, the weekend practice callous. Near the end of the two-hour session, the Jets were tired, hungry and restless. They sprawled on the grass near each other. Excitement had turned into boredom. Was it over yet?

These were the Junior Pee-Wee League Jets of Edison, N.J., 24 of them, ages 9 through 11, watching the big-boy Jets practice. Their coach, Ricky Rudd, knew for two months that his team, through USA Football, had gained a rare chance to visit Jets practice on this date. He did not inform his team until three days prior. And the visit just happened to coincide with Brett Favre's arrival via a trade that rattled all of sports.

The team's big-play running back, Sciare Johnson, 11, had something on his mind.

"I'm a little disappointed because I wanted Brett Favre to remain with the Packers," Johnson said. "I think the Packers already had better blockers and better wide receivers for him. He looks a little off target right now. But I know it's early for them. I guess you'd have to say that Brett gives the Jets a better shot."

Out of the mouths of babes.

Even an 11-year old realizes that Favre was torn leaving the Packers, that he is currently finding his way with the Jets and that the Jets are learning daily more about who he is and what he brings. Simultaneously, they are licking wounds caused by the sudden axing of Chad Pennington.

Embracing the new while remembering fondly the old has some Jets in a funky state of mind. Young and old.

"You don't have too many job changes like the way it went with Chad," said Jets offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. "Chad was popular and trusted. You think of the Jets, you think of Chad. He had become synonymous with the Jets just as much as someone like Curtis Martin."

Safety Kerry Rhodes said: "We have brought in here a Hall of Fame player. He's in our locker room. I walked by his locker the other day and looked twice. Is that really Brett Favre over there? It was."

Out on the practice field, it was even more apparent.

On one of his Sunday morning practice throws, Favre threw a 20-yard out pass that very few quarterbacks can deliver. Later, he pump-faked and then drilled a 50-plus-yard pass down the sideline to receiver Jerricho Cotchery that made the more than 4,000 Jets fans in attendance swoon. (This was Favre's second day of practice with the Jets; there were more than 10,000 fans in attendance the day before.)

The more this union has time to settle, the more comfortable it should become for all of the Jets. Favre will do everything he can on and off the field to see to it, including running penalty laps for fumbling an exchange, as he did on Sunday. Favre knows how to become one of the "guys."

During the process, the players' mixed emotions are necessary and normal, said Jets linebacker Matt Chatham, who won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots.

"I have seen things like this happen with Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady, with Kurt Warner when I was rookie drafted by the Rams," Chatham said. "With the Patriots, we had Lawyer Milloy released right before our opening game. You can have a guy. Boom! He's gone. I think we've got a nice little grace period here before the real games kick off. We've got time for everything to settle. I know this is my 10th NFL training camp and I have to find my own quiet, nice place to go and air out my head and mind sometimes. So, I can imagine for Brett and some of the other guys that finding that comfort level is a real process.

"Brett is giving us some juice and some excitement. This is the time in camp where weariness and things being a little tedious kick in. Brett is helping all of us deal with that by giving the whole atmosphere a jolt of excitement. I think the more we are around him, we are going to find a consummate professional. Someone who handles his business. Someone who will make sure we understand we are all in this together. I expect that."

The Jets can also expect to see their entire offense become much more open, more diverse and more threatening over all portions of the field.

Favre brings that with his experience and with his rifle arm.

Since Favre can make any throw with heat from any part of the field, defenses now have to defend the whole field against the Jets. Cornerbacks have to back up. Safeties have to back up.

"You find in practice against him that you don't have much of a window to make mistakes," Rhodes said. ``If you've got a quarterback with an arm like that who is decisive, one step off on the defense and the receiver is running past you and the ball is coming quick, so fast that you can't make up for the mistake. That's what having a big-time arm in the NFL does for you."

If defenders are backing off, the underneath routes for tight ends should be more open.


Preseason games:
Aug. 7: Jets 24, Browns 20
Aug. 16: Washington, 7 p.m. ET

Aug. 23: N.Y. Giants, 7 p.m. ET

Aug. 28: at Philadelphia, 6:30 p.m. ET

The running game should be more accessible. This is one reason why Jets running back Thomas Jones should have a wildly productive season.

Favre can do as much for the Jets run game as he will for the passing game.

Jones was asked if he expects to carry the ball more or less now that Favre is aboard?

"The offense is adjusting, so, I don't know," Jones said. "All of my career, I have executed the play that was called. I will keep doing that. The whole situation is new and we're playing with a great quarterback. We'll see how it goes."

Rhodes remembers that his three seasons with the Jets have produced 4-12, 10-6 and 4-12 records.

"It's been up and down a lot and now we're looking to keep it up there," Rhodes said. "I think we'll have to do that as a team."

The sooner, the better.

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