The Jets’ 53-man roster includes two undrafted rookie wide receivers who overcame the odds to join a talented group that includes Garret Wilson, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Mecole Hardman.
On the fifth and final episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” on Tuesday night viewers were given a glimpse into the harsh business side of the league, and were able to watch Xavier Gipson and Jason Brownlee survive to make the Jets’ roster although they went undrafted in April.
“Look man, coming out of Southern Miss, being an undrafted free agent, it can be a tough thing to make a team, make an NFL squad,” general manager Joe Douglas was seen telling Brownlee, in a meeting along with head coach Robert Saleh.
“The odds were stacked against you from the beginning but you came in, from the very first day, did everything the right way. You worked your ass off. Did a lot of positive things.
“We just wanted to bring you in and tell ya, you’re a New York Jet.”
Brownlee burst into a smile upon being told he had made the roster and agreed with Saleh that it’s “just the beginning.”
Gipson, who came out of Stephen F. Austin, received similar good news.
The receiver admitted he had been scared to hear his fate, but was immediately embraced by both Douglas and Saleh.
“You’re going to do a lot of good things for us this year,” Saleh said. “You got something to you, but don’t stop. The way you approach the game with your intent, your mindset, and all of that stuff, there is no doubt in our minds that you’re going to maximize who you are. You’re definitely one of us.”
Gipson and Brownlee met in the hallway afterwards, excitingly embracing one another and performing a handshake.
“I’m really proud of both of those guys,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Those are the guys you pull for.”
The celebrations were short as the focus has shifted to the regular season, starting with the Jets’ opener against the Bills on Sept. 11.
Saleh and his coaches are rallying the team as the regular season inches closer, explaining to the players that they shouldn’t just want teams to think the Jets play hard.
Rather, he said, they should want other teams to hate them.
“That’s the mindset,” Saleh said. “That’s exactly what you f–king want.”
The head coach compared the Jets’ 2023 path to climbing Mount Everest. It takes two months to reach the summit from the base camp, and the climb even begins 45 miles away from that camp and includes myriad hazards along the way.
“Obviously, we’re on a similar journey. OTAs, training camp, all the good stuff that’s been happening to us in the last six or seven months, guys. We just got to base camp, man, That’s all we’ve done. We just got to base camp,” Saleh said. “This journey, this climb is about to get hard as f–k. It is and that’s the reality of it. There’s going to be a ton of adversity along the way. … They’re all talking about how we have to go through this team, and this division, and this conference, and that quarterback. Well, f–k, they have to deal with us too.”
The Jets’ players have taken team chemistry into their own hands outside of practice as well, venturing into midtown Manhattan to attend a performance of “MJ: The Musical” on Broadway after much talk about musicals throughout the series.
Solomon Thomas admitted to his teammates that it would be his fourth time seeing the show.
Those who attended, singing and dancing along with the show, included Rodgers, Cobb, Zach Wilson, Tazil Smart, Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah, John Franklin-Myers, and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, among others.
At the end of the episode, the Jets revealed a wall in their training camp center that aligns with the NFL calendar — with one panel for each game, starting in preseason and running through Super Bowl LVIII.
The Jets plan to document each game they play by pasting photos on the wall, and they plan to stick around until the very end in February.
“Finishing the wall, the idea is to always be mindful that when we’re in this building, when we’re in season, you’re writing a story,” Saleh said.
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