Gang Green is back again. The SUNY Cortland campus will play host to the New York Jets starting on July 25, with open practices beginning on July 26.
The camp has been a boon for local area businesses and hotels in previous years, according to Machell Phelps, director of the Cortland Regional Sports Council. Businesses have said they’ve seen visible increase in the two and half weeks that the Jets are in town, but that’s not the only benefit for the area.
“Aside from the financial aspect, part of what it brings to the community is that it pulls visitors and the community together as they have a fun experience,” said Phelps. “That’s just as important as the financial aspect.”
The Jets will arrive on Thursday, July 25, but no practices are scheduled for that day. Members of the team, including head coach Rex Ryan and many of the team’s rookies will meet on Main Street in the Jets Touchdown event from 3 p.m. to about 4:30 p.m., according to Phelps. Ryan and the players that attend will great all the players invited to camp will settle in to the SUNY Cortland dorm rooms they will call home for the rest of camp.
Camp will kickoff on Friday, July 26, with open practices every day for the next week, except Tuesday, July 30. Practice starts at 10 a.m. with the Jets Shop and Jets Fest opening at 9 a.m.
Saturday, August 3 is the annual Green and White Scrimmage, where the Jets play against each other in a simulated game. That game starts at 6 p.m. but seating and standing room evaporates fast. The Jets Shop, which is also the only entrance to the camp, opens at 4 p.m. to get there early to find a seat or a good spot along the sidelines for autographs after the game.
From there the Jets have three more practices, Monday through Wednesday, before they kick off their pre-season schedule with a game at the Detroit Lions on Friday, August 9.
The Jets return to camp on Sunday, August 11 for their final four Cortland practices. The Jets practice Sunday through Wednesday of that week, before heading to Met-Life Stadium to host the Jacksonville Jaguars. There is one more practice open to the public on Wednesday, August 21 at 11:45 a.m., however, it will be held at the Jets’ Atlantic Health Training Center in Florham Park, NJ.
From there the Jets have two more games at Met-Life Stadium before the season starts, one against the “home” team New York Giants on Saturday, August 24 and the other on Thursday, August 29 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
What to do at camp
Because of a change in the NFL’s labor agreement last year, practices are only held once a day, but nearly all of the practices are now open to the public. When open to the public, practices start at 10 a.m..
Parking is available on the SUNY Cortland campus for a small price ($5) and tickets to practice are free. However, they must be printed from the Jets’ website prior to attending.
The Jets have taken to using the open fields near the SUNY Cortland stadium for practices and workouts, setting up to football fields side to side. Seating is available at both ends of the field and both have great views of the action. Photography is permitted from the stands or from standing room on the sidelines. Players will be a variety of drills over the course of the practice, which usually lasts several hours. Offensive players and defensive players will swap fields during the day, so no matter what side you sit on, you’ll eventually see your favorite defensive player or offensive standout.
If you happen to have VIP access, on field tours are available during practices and some preferred seating is also available. The VIP area also gets some exclusive player interactions, such as autograph signings.
But the VIP tent isn’t the only way to get an autograph from you favorite players. Kids who have signed up for the Generation Jets Kids Club get a specific, kids only area for autographs. Otherwise fans can line up around the edges of the field and wait for their favorite player to stop by. After every practice some Jets players will head out to great the fans and sign items from their side of the fence. Not every Jet stayed after every practice, so you might need to come a few days to get a specific name, but you can be sure to get up close to some Jets players and get their signatures any day you stop by.
Watching the players work isn’t the only thing fans can do at the game. An extensive team shop is set up every year at the entrance to the field. Jets Fest, featuring games and skill tests, is set up outside for children and family to enjoy, including as bounce castles, football passing accuracy targets and information on Jets related businesses. Food can be brought in or is available for purchase at the stadium.
The Jets come into camp with many questions after a disappointing 6-10 2012-13 campaign. While a quarterback controversy remains this year, one half of last years drama, Tim Tebow is long gone. Tebow, now with New England, was underutilized as a Jet and was released in the offseason after the Jets picked up a pair of quarterbacks. One of those quarterbacks, former Jacksonville starter David Garrard, was forced to retire due to injury early this offseason. The big challenge to incumbent Mark Sanchez will likely be rookie second round draft pick Gino Smith. The Jets traded up in the 2009 draft to obtain Sanchez and thought he would be a franchise player. It looked like they were right after he led the team to two straight AFC title games in his first two seasons. However, in the past two seasons his turnovers have greatly increased, and even though he was signed to a large contract prior to last year, if he doesn’t show improvement his days as the Jets starting quarterback may be numbered.
Smith was a prolific passer at West Virginia University and has some mobility, something that may help with a Jets offensive line that still isn’t completely patched up. Smith was still learning in the mini-camps this year, and whether or not he gets a chance to start depends on how much he can learn over the course of training camp.
Greg McElroy is tabbed as the third string quarterback, but did start a game instead of the struggling Sanchez last season. Matt Simms, son of former quarterback Phil Simms, is also on the roster and was a member of the practice squad last season.
There are two other positions to note for the Jets both of which could help improve an anemic Jets offense from last year. At running back the team added Chris Ivory, who despite a history of injuries over his short career, has shown the ability to be a featured back in the NFL That will leave incumbents Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight scrambling for the remaining touches. McKnight is the speedier, elusive back and Powell is the more straight forward runner.
The Jets let tight end Dustin Keller, one of Sanchez’s favorite targets over past four years, sign with the Miami Dolphins in the offseason. That leaves incumbent Jeff Cumberland, who played well while Keller was injured last season, and newly signed veteran Kellen Winslow, who is returning from injury.
There are also holes to be filled in the defensive secondary. The Jets traded arguably their best player, cornerback Darrelle Revis, before the draft this year, but filled that spot with first-round draft pick Dee Milliner, who experts say could be as good as the All-Pro Revis. Another All-Pro cornerback, Antonio Cromartie returns this season to lead the defense. Free Safety is also a potential question with two second year players the only clear cut answers for the open position. Athletic cornerback Kyle Wilson could also see some time at different defensive positions.
Other players to watch are Quinton Coples, a 2012 first round draft choice who will be transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker, as well as wide receiver Santonio Holmes, whose injuries last season kept the former Super Bowl MVP from helping the Jets offense.
What to do in Cortland
SUNY Cortland’s campus is almost smack in the middle of Cortland’s points of interest. On one side is Cortlandville, with shopping and some fast food and other restaurants, while on the other side of campus is the downtown Cortland area, with restaurants, bars and pubs and specialty shops. If you’d like to grab Jets gear before you head into camp, there are a few opportunities at the big box stores in Cortlandville as well as one specialty sports store. The famous Doug’s Fish Fry is also on that side of campus and Jets players have been known to stop in for some fish. You’re just as likely to run into Jets players in downtown Cortland, where bars like Hairy Tony’s Pub and other host off-the-clock football players. Hairy Tony’s was featured as a favorite stop for Jets players a few years ago when HBO ran a television series on the Jets.
If you’re looking for something to balance out the football, there’s always the Cortland Repertory Theatre, who will have two shows running during training camp, and the Cortland music scene is also pretty diverse and accessible.