Florham Park, N.J.– A normal day of covering the Jets consists of a fun loving, entertaining and upbeat mood all around. However, today was not a normal day by any stretch of the imagination.
The NFL can be a cold blooded and downright mean business and that will never be more apparent than it was today. Nothing is official as of now, the Jets are still waiting to give WR Derrick Mason a physical, but if Mason passes then Jerricho Cotchery’s days as a member of the Jets are numbered and he knows it.
Cotchery defines the term ‘class act,’ and is as professional as they come and the way he handled himself today was exactly what one would expect from such a stand-up individual.
The front office had already informed Cotchery that he will be released if Mason passes the physical, but that didn’t stop Cotchery from addressing the media, in as cordial a manner as humanly possible, one last time before he is no longer a member of the team Gang Green.
The fact is Cotchery knew this was coming, but that didn’t stop him from trying to help teach the younger WRs as much as he could while he was still here. That’s just the type of person he is, but he knows this is a business and he said there was a specific moment in the past he can use as an example of how something like this could happen and how to handle himself if it did happen.
As Cotchery addressed the media he relayed a story about Chad Pennington and the end of his time as a Jet. You probably remember the Jets heading into the off-season a few years back expecting Pennington to be the starting quarterback as he tried to rebound from another devastating injury, but then all of a sudden in came Brett Favre and just like that out went Pennington.
“I remember being in the hotel that night (before Jets traded for Favre), getting ready to play Cleveland. I felt like Chad had had the best offseason since I had been here. He had a strong offseason and was having a strong camp.” Cotchery said, “I felt like the team was ready to make the next step and to see him, you know, knowing what was going on and knowing what was about to happen stand up in front of the offense in the meeting room and give a speech about what this game is about, you know it was tough. It was a tough deal for a lot of people. He was a great leader for this team right before he got released.”
It’s safe to say someone will be retelling this story one day, using Cotchery’s name in place of Peenington’s as a great leader of the Jets.
There’s a lot of confusion about why exactly this move is being made. Supposedly the Jets training staff doesn’t think he is healthy. They weren’t able to check him out until the lockout was lifted and they might not have liked what they saw (the concern is apparently about a herniated disc in his back, but there is plenty of skepticism within the media), but Cotchery insists he is in fact healthy.
When asked why he thought this was happening now Cotchery said, “Not sure, I’m not sure. I love being a Jet, so my main thing right now is just focusing on moving forward and for me I’m healthy and I’m ready to play football. You know, sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to work out. At the end of the day, I’ve seen it time after time since I’ve been here and you look around the league and you see the same thing.
“Everyone wants that dream scenario where you play your whole career with that one team, but it doesn’t happen that often.”
Cotchery put on a brave face, but it was clear he was hurt. What was also clear were that his teammates and the reporters that cover him for a living were also upset that his time here appears to be over.
“For me when you’ve been in a place for so long, this is all you know. You know coming in as a rookie you don’t know anything (there was a), big group of rookies coming in my rookie year and the only people that called us in was Chad Pennington and Curtis Martin, speaking to all the rookies.” Cotchery said, “So I always envisioned myself doing that and it looks like that’s not going to happen. Its tough when you’ve been with one team for such a long time and you have to move on, but just like you have to make that move for a job change, it’s a big decision but hey I’m ready for it. Like I said, my faith is in the Lord and I trust him, I trust that I’m going to be okay.
“I’m close to a lot of guys on this team, I’ve seen a lot of guys come in as rookies, guys come in as free agents right away we became tight. As a group I haven’t spoken to a lot of guys, but individually I have, just talking to guys on the side. They’re going to be alright, just like myself.”
Of course Cotchery would make sure to mention that his teammates will be alright without him and not try and make his exit about him, that’s just how he operates. Jets fans will always love and remember what Cotchery meant to this team, but if they were to choose one specific moment this would have to be it.
Tied at 20-20 in overtime in Cleveland last year, Cotchery ran a route and pulled up limping after tearing his groin, but when Sanchez threw him the ball anyway he used every last ounce of effort he had to lay himself out horizontally in the air and make a huge diving catch to extend the drive to help the Jets go on to win the game. After the game was over Rex Ryan constantly used that specific play as the defining example of what it means to ‘play like a Jet.’
If that’s the lasting memory that he leaves Jets fans with, its one hell of a way to go out and a tribute he is very much deserving of. To the members of the media however, that play will not be our lasting impression. Nope our lasting impression will be the way he stood up and faced the crowd today, all while knowing the end was nigh.
Then after the group interview was over he didn’t run back inside, no he stuck around talking to different reporters individually. As reporters said their goodbyes and wished him luck, he made sure to go out of his way to wish the same for all of them as well.
And that’s how Cotchery deserves to remembered. A great player and an even better person. He may no longer play for the Jets, but inside of Jet nation he will always be a Jet and what a great Jet he was.
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