Wilkerson, Jets D-linemen meet for short workout

Sione Pouha was getting ready to work out with his New York Jets
defensive linemates and realized he still needed an NFL regulation
football.

He looked around his house and found one – in his trophy
case.

”I figured it had some more meaningful uses than it being on
display,” said a laughing Pouha, who had the ball as a memento of
his two fumble recoveries against Baltimore last season. ”Maybe
next time we’ll use a Nerf ball.”

Hey, whatever works. That’s what life’s like these days for NFL
players as the lockout drags on.

”This lockout has really given me an appreciation for the
equipment that we have because you’re trying to replicate that,”
defensive end Mike DeVito said, ”and this is the closest we can
get.”

Pouha gathered a handful of his linemates, including DeVito and
first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson, at a high school field in New
Jersey on Thursday to go through position drills. Because of the
lockout, players have been on their own – no contact with coaches,
no workouts at team facilities – to try to stay in football
shape.

”It was nice to get out here, do some drills and go through
some of the techniques,” said Wilkerson, the 30th overall pick out
of Temple who met his teammates for the first time. ”It’s kind of
a difficult situation. Pouha got in touch with me and some of the
other D-linemen and it’s cool for them to take the time out and
show me some things.”

Pouha, Wilkerson, DeVito, Jamaal Westerman and Ropati Pitoitua
hit blocking sleds and went through other drills for about an hour,
adding the physical element they’ve been missing while working out
individually.

”It was good just getting our feet back under us,” DeVito
said. ”All the lifting and running is great, but for it to
translate to football, it takes some time, so to do the bags and
hit the bags and sleds, and get the feet moving, I think it really
helps mentally with your timing and everything. It was good to just
get back in the groove and to build from that now.”

Pouha, who received permission from the school’s football coach
to use the field and equipment, says the group plans to meet
frequently while the lockout continues.

”Mark Sanchez has ‘Jets West,”’ Pouha said, referring to the
Jets quarterback’s camp for offensive teammates in Southern
California. ”Well, we have ‘Florham Park Jets City Club League,’
or something like that.”

While Sanchez had flashy T-shirts made up for his camp, the five
defensive linemen were in normal workout shorts and T-shirts – with
Wilkerson wearing a green Jets shirt – while practicing on a patch
of grass down the left-field line of the school’s baseball
field.

”Maybe we’ll make up our own socks or something for our camp,”
Pouha said, laughing.

Sanchez has said the entire team plans to meet up for a group
practice sometime this month, but no concrete plans have been
made.

”If Mark makes the call,” Pouha said, ”we’re there.”

For Wilkerson, this was an important meeting since he has been
in limbo as far as trying to learn Rex Ryan’s defense. He received
a playbook the day after he was drafted – the lockout had been
lifted briefly at that time – but is hoping to pick his teammates’
brains to try to learn it.

”I’ll bring that tomorrow and the guys will help me out with
that, too,” he said. ”I’m just looking forward to what we started
today.”

Wilkerson has been working out on his own at his old high school
in Linden, N.J., so this get-together was a welcome change. He also
impressed his new teammates.

”I’ll tell you what, he’s a natural athlete,” DeVito said.
”We’d tell him something one time and he’s already got it. Just
from this little bit today, you can tell he’s going to be good.
That’s a great sign.”

Pitoitua, a guy who has impressed the Jets’ coaching staff,
appeared to be on the road to being a big contributor last season
before tearing his Achilles’ tendon in training camp.

”Right now, I would say I’m about 75 percent,” said Pitoitua,
who added that doctors told him his recovery would take about 18
months. ”I need to try to get the strength back. Right now, the
strength is still a little weak, so I’m doing exercises and I have
a routine.”

Pouha thinks the attendance will increase during the next few
weeks as more teammates get word of the workouts and make room in
their schedules. Meanwhile, the players will just try to keep
preparing for a football season.

”My wrists are still getting used to the jolting,” Pouha said,
shaking his hands, ”and my reads are barely coming out of
hibernation, I guess you could say, but it was good to be out
here.”