2006-08-18 / Sports

Jets Machine Doesn't Take Suggs As Trade Fails To Land RB

By Brian Bohl

HEMPSTEAD, NY- Don't sell that Derrick Strait jersey just yet.

One day after acquiring Lee Suggs from Cleveland to bolster depth at the running back position, the Jets saw the trade become void last Tuesday after the veteran rusher failed his physical. Strait- the cornerback traded in a straight up deal for Suggs- will remain property of the Jets, who are still looking for outside help as Curtis Martin continues to sit out practice with a bone-on-bone condition in his right knee.

"In terms of trade, Lee Suggs failed his physical," said head coach Eric Mangini. "Derrick Strait will be coming back here today and Lee will return to the Browns. It's just one of those things that happens."

Turns out the only remnants of the Suggs era is the press release announcing the deal Monday. The former Virginia Tech star failed his physical on Tuesday morning, and the deal immediately was rescinded before he could even step on the practice field at Hofstra University.

Keeping with the aura of secrecy that has surrounded Mangini's first training camp, the rookie head coach refused to specify what part of the physical Suggs failed.

"We have a whole series of tests that we do, and we were very thorough with the process," Mangini said. "Each team has a criteria they set up that they believe is what's important and what's needed to be competitive. I'm very comfortable with the tests we have set up."

General manager Mike Tannenbaum did not comment on the failed deal, though he was optimistic that the Jets found a back who can compete with in-house options Cedric Houston and Derrick Blaylock. Neither distinguished themselves during last week's loss to Tampa in the pre-season opener.

Since Suggs will be returning to the Browns, Houston, Blaylock and rookie Leon Washington now have a reprieve to show the coaching staff they can replace Martin. The future Hall of Fame back is currently on the physically-unable-to-perform list.

All three healthy running backs will have a chance to improve their stock with strong performances at Washington on Saturday (8 p.m.) night.

Though he is only entering his second year, Houston knows every carry in a game situation is important. With that sentiment in mind, he said playing against the Redskins will be a good test to show the coaches he can be the feature back.

"It's definitely a good opportunity for myself, Derrick or Leon to get out there and do a good job, Houston said. "We have enough firepower. We just have to come out here and try to get better."

Blaylock, who had a career high 539 yards for the Chiefs in 2004, first learned about Suggs' physical when reporters mentioned it to him after practice Tuesday. Though he was surprised, the fifth-year pro shrugged off the recent development and said he supported whatever moves the front office decides to make.

"Whatever happens, if they bring in a guy that's best for the team, [then] I'm all for it," said Blaylock, who like all players has adhered to Mangini's all-for-one philosophy when speaking to the media.

Blaylock had a strong practice, taking a short screen pass and running by three defenders for a 40-yard gain down the right sideline. Despite rushing for only 12 yards on six carries against Tampa, the Atlanta, Texas native said performance in training camp is almost as valuable as statistics in exhibition games.

"Every opportunity is a golden opportunity," he said. "Every time you step out on this practice field is an opportunity. Every chance you get to step out here on this field is an opportunity to make things happen."

While B.J. Askew is listed as a fullback, Mangini and new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer might try to work him in as a change-of-pace running back. Standing on the sideline after the two and a half hour workout, the 6-3, 230-pound back said the Suggs saga will not be a distraction.

"No, it doesn't bother me," Askew said. "I'm always focused on practice and not trying to make the same mistakes every day."

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