2007-09-07 / Sports

Once Sour, Jets'Coles,Mangini Forms Productive Partnership

By Brian Bohl

HEMPSTEAD, NY- Laveranues Coles wasn't about to install a suggestion box to the wall of his locker. No helpline would be necessary to phone in questions or comments. Instead, his teammates simply went up to the Jets' leading receiver and made requests directly.

Before Coles was even announced as an offensive co-captain Monday, the wide-out said he was inundated with queries and pleas from his contemporaries who voted him to be one of their representatives to the coaching staff. Quarterback Chad Pennington was the other selection for the offense.

"I guess my duties have already begun because guys have already put in requests for different changes," said a laughing Coles when asked about his new role inside Weeb Ewbank Hall. "They didn't elect me as a token. They want me to do some work.

"It's a great honor to be selected by your teammates as one of their leaders.

I'm not a very vocal person. I've always been kind of the jokester. I'm not a very vocal person, but for the guys to pick me and allow me to be the voice of the team, go up there and talk to coach and express what they feel and what they want to get done this season, is an honor."

Coles and head coach Eric Mangini disagree about different off-field training measures.

Mangini favors tough practices that emphasize discipline and repetition, while Coles has gone on record saying the second-year coach's training camps caused him to think about retiring in the next few seasons.

But after making 96 consecutive starts in his career, Mangini said he respects the 29-year-old receiver who dubbed his coach "the penguin" last season- a nickname that stuck.

Coles was picked by his teammates for another award this winter when he captured the team MVP award.

Coles set a new career high with 91 receptions last season, recording six touchdown catches and 1,098 yards in re-establishing a rapport with Pennington. Mangini joked at first about how it would be great to spend even more time with the first player who became the first Jet to question his grueling practice schedule. Then Mangini turned serious, touting his pupil's tenacity to play through pain and injuries.

"I've learned to appreciate how much he does and just how important it is to him, not just his performance, but the group's performance," Mangini said.

"The one thing that I respect so much about him is the caring that he has for his teammates.

He's a very selfless guy.

He's one of those guys that if you're stuck at the airport (and) nobody is picking up the phone at home, you could call him; he'd come and get you."

Mangini might be able to find someone to move a dresser, but the budding friendship could take an early hit since Coles said he will petition for the coaches to cut back the hours the players are required to stay after practice.

"The guys have already said something about trying to work on the schedule," Coles said. "I'm trying to rework it so they're not around the building as long."

Two of the longest-tenured Jets- Jonathan Vilma and Shuan Ellis, were tapped as the defensive captains. Despite coming off his worst statistical season, Vilma's improvement in the 3- 4 defense could determine if the Jets want to contend in the AFC East. The linebacker struggled in the new alignment last season, though he said his captaincy shows his teammates' faith in his ability.

"It is flattering like last year," Vilma said. "The players voted me in, so that says a lot about what the players think about me, so I appreciate that. I just want to do what I did last year and try and get us back to the playoffs."

Mike Nugent was voted a special teams' captain, joining Brad Kassell as the unit's representative. Nugent's entering just his third year as the team's kicker. He served as co-captain while at Ohio State and will now be entrusted with providing leadership at the professional level.

"We did the same thing in college, it was voted on," Nugent said. "When I first found out that this was the way coach Mangini did captains, I thought it was good because it's everyone around you voting. It is everyone's opinion and not just a couple of people's opinions."

Earning the captaincy entails more than just receiving a prestigious title on the website biography. Those six individuals are the conduit from the team to the administration. As the Jets prepare for the season-opening contest against New England, effective leaders could help minimize distractions and maintain focus on defeating a Super Bowl contender.

"Your teammates can come to you and say, 'some guys have been talking about this, maybe we can do this a different way,' because the coaches are great about making sure we get everything done efficiently," Nugent said. "If we can keep doing that, I think that is really a good thing for everybody."

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