The upcoming NFL season might be on shaky ground but you'd never know it watching some of the New York Jets top players train this week at football stadium.
Mark Sanchez, starting quarterback for the Jets and a former standout signalcaller for the Diablos, has invited a dozen or so past, present and future teammates to his old stomping grounds, hoping to build rhythm and camaraderie while the league-imposed lockout persists.
They plan to spend five days practicing at MVHS.
See the video interview of Mark Sanchez above.
Last summer, after his rookie season, Sanchez held his first Jets West camp at Mission Viejo, mainly as a way for the offensive skill players to maintain their timing in between mini camp and the start of preseason practices.
With players unable to access their coaches and facilities during the current lock out, Sanchez took matters into his own hands and not only organized the workouts, but also paid for the players’ travel, their housing at beach-front villas in South Orange County and off-the-field entertainment during the five-day camp.
Sanchez. his father Nick, and brothers Nick Jr. and Brandon have taken responsibility for nearly every aspect of the camp, from finding practice balls to building playbooks from scratch to providing food for lunch.
“If this helps us win one playoff game, one home game, than it paid off,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez and his teammates spend much of the day rehashing the same passing-game details they would in a regular mini-camp setting, such as protections, formations, shifts and motions. They diagram plays in the classroom and then set them in motion on the field.
Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson, who coached Sanchez in high school, is on hand to provide input, along with his sons and assistant coaches Bret and Rob.
“Basically, it’s a camp install, Days 1 through 5,” Sanchez said after Tuesday’s workout. “Yesterday was day one, today’s day two.”
But Sanchez is quick to add that building and maintaining togetherness is a big part of the experience.
“It’s all the off-the-field stuff,” he said. “Hanging at the beach, going to the pool, talking smack to each other in the film room… That’s what this is all about. It’s more than just the field stuff.”
Among those in attendance is future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who spent nine years with the San Diego Chargers before joining the Jets last season. Tomlinson said the camp demonstrates how Sanchez has established himself as a leader in only his second year since being drafted out of USC.
"This is what the leader of the team needs to do in situations like we're in right now," Tomlinson said. "Rally the troops, make sure we stay sharp, so when it's time to play football, we'll be ready to go."
Sanchez said having Tomlinson in attendance and watching the 2006 NFL most valuable player work hard is a major influence on the rest.
“He just commands respect,” Sanchez said.
And it looks as if Sanchez is following suit.