Jets' Bowles unflappable despite tough summer in first camp
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Todd Bowles never wavered during his first training camp as an NFL head coach.
Calm. Composed. Even-keeled.
An impressive feat, considering it was a summer marked by controversy and adversity for the New York Jets.
''I know what I signed up for,'' Bowles said. ''This is the NFL. We're not in needling class or anything like that. There are going to be things that come up every day that you have to deal with.''
Such as Pro Bowl defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson being suspended four games by the league in July for violating its substance abuse policy - and then being charged for resisting arrest 12 days later after driving his car at speeds as high as 143 mph.
Or the day in early August that Bowles made the stunning announcement that quarterback Geno Smith would be sidelined for six to 10 weeks with a broken jaw when a teammate slugged him in the locker room. Bowles and the Jets set the tone, and sent a message, for the franchise by cutting linebacker Ikemefuna Enemkpali immediately after the incident.
There have been key injuries, too, including rookie wide receiver Devin Smith breaking his ribs during practice, tight end Jace Amaro being lost for the season with a shoulder injury, cornerback Dee Milliner sidelined several weeks after wrist surgery and backup safety Antonio Allen going down with a torn Achilles.
Through it all, Bowles has maintained his cool, defying the notion from outside the organization that it's all just the ''Same Old Jets.'' He has preached accountability to his players, making them do sprints for fighting or committing too many penalties.
''It's been a tough camp,'' right guard Willie Colon said, ''and been a camp that a lot of people had to get out of their shells and grow up a little bit.''
Here are some things to know as the Jets prepare for their regular-season opener against Cleveland:
FITZ FITTING IN: One of new GM Mike Maccagnan's most important moves might have been his trade for Ryan Fitzpatrick, which was initially a bit overshadowed by other acquisitions. The veteran quarterback is set to open the season for the Jets with Smith out at least a few weeks, and has gradually established chemistry with the offensive starters such as receiver Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker after a slow start. His familiarity with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's system was the Jets' primary attraction to Fitzpatrick, and it helped make for a much smoother transition than it could've been after Smith was injured.
SMITH'S STATUS: Gailey was encouraged by Smith's progress from the start of camp and there was hope within the franchise that this could be the season that the 2013 second-round draft pick would establish himself as a QB to build around. Those plans are now on hold - and possibly for good. Bowles has made it clear that Smith won't automatically regain his starting job whenever he comes back.
MARSHALL PLAN: Yes, Marshall had a down year last season while dealing with injuries. And, yes, he's got a reputation for being somewhat of a malcontent. But he showed throughout the summer that he's healthy and motivated, giving the Jets a big receiver - he's 6-foot-4, 230 pounds - who could prove to be a dangerous red-zone threat while creating even more opportunities for Decker. He fights for balls, and that's a plus for quarterbacks, whomever the Jets have under center.
''I feel like I'm breaking through my potential,'' Marshall said. ''It's weird because I'm 31 years old and it's year 10, but I honestly feel great.''
GET READY, ROOK! With Richardson out for the first four games and possibly more - he could face additional discipline for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy - Leonard Williams will get a chance to make an immediate impact. The No. 6 overall draft pick fell to the Jets, who already had one of the league's top defensive lines. He had a solid camp but didn't play a lot in the preseason after bruising a muscle behind his knee in the third game. Williams should be fine for the opener, and will be counted on to be a disruptive force.
REVIS ISLAND RETURNS: After two seasons away, Darrelle Revis is back in the Jets' secondary and looked to be every bit the shutdown-type cornerback fans watched lock down receivers for years. This was an area that plagued the Jets all last season as then-coach Rex Ryan was forced to mix and match players with little success. Revis instantly upgraded the secondary, and the additions of Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine and Marcus Gilchrist will allow Bowles to be creative in his schemes.
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