The New York Jets continued what has been a season-long arrangement between the team and a group of former military special forces operators to help with the goal of defining leadership and building unity amongst a locker room that had been divided by turmoil.
On Wednesday, 19 veteran players went through eight hours of "training" covering themes covering everything from building camaraderie to "never leave a man behind."
That last military credo is now printed on signs which hang inside the Jets practice facility.
"Our goal is to help them win a championship," said Jason Van Camp, a former Green Beret who founded the "Mission Essential" two years ago. " Coach [Rex] Ryan said at the end of last year, 'I lost the pulse of the team. I need to get a better handle on the chemistry issues.' That's why he hired us. To help him do that."
Van Camp — a West point Graduate with 12 years in the Army and a Bronze star to prove it — was secretive about the training procedure but explained that the program simulated real-life situations and experiences that soldiers encounter.
Ryan first contacted Van Camp in February — fresh from a football season that collapsed in disarray — to help evaluate and add cohesiveness to squad.
The Jets head coach doesn't confuse the sort of war that his Gang Green faces with the life-and-death battles the military members know all too well. He knows the program only simulates the real-life combat situations the military members experienced.
"We're not in those situations, thank goodness," said Ryan about the "Jets basic training." "But (football) is still about teamwork, still about trying to accomplish certain missions we were set on, and relying on each other. Those are some strong messages they delivered to us."
After meeting the combat-wounded veterans — including a double amputee on Wednesday — cornerback Darrelle Revis said the program helped players "be ready to handle" specific situations that come up during a season.
Last night, the Jets finally ended their preseason touchdown drought but lost, 28-10, to the Philadelphia Eagles without either Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow.
Ryan told Van Camp he would like to put every Jets player and coach through the boot camp as long as he runs the team. The training continues Monday with a two-hour seminar as part of an NFL life skills event.
"It's very innovative, and risky, but it's going to pay off for him," said Van Camp. "You have U.S. special-forces soldiers working their [butts] off to make this happen for him and for the New York Jets."