HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Six weeks before he opens his second training camp with the New York Jets, Eric Mangini was joking about his 4-second cameo on ``The Sopranos'' and his stint on ``Sesame Street'' with his son, Jake.
``What's the quote? `They're like children; they're both special in their own way,''' Mangini said Thursday of appearing on the two shows. ``Sesame Street was a show I grew up with, and I've probably watched it more as an adult than I did as a child because Jake loves `Elmo's World.'''
Next, he joked about offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson's lack of golf prowess: ``Trying to get first downs every 10 yards.''
And then, like a proud surrogate father, he boasted about linebacker Jonathan Vilma's trip (an excused absence) from the team's offseason workouts Thursday to watch his sister graduate from Harvard Business Schools.
A new, relaxed Mangini?
``Maybe he's more amiable during interviews,'' quarterback Chad Pennington said with a laugh. ``Not with us. If anything, he has his foot more firmly on the gas.''
``Are you kidding?'' asked wide receiver Laveranues Coles, who also liked the automobile analogy. ``It's like he's got this Porsche and he's gone out and added a lot more horsepower than you're allowed, then stomped on the accelerator.''
OK, Mangini is still an NFL coach, by definition, a taskmaster. And it isn't training camp yet when Mangini is still likely to do what he did on one day last July when the temperature approached 100 degrees: extend practice by an hour because he doesn't like the way his players are performing.
But a year after he took over a team few people thought could win more than five games and guided them to a 10-6 record and into the playoffs, he does seem more secure after earning the nickname ``Mangenius'' from some tabloid headline writers.
He is, after all, a year older - an ancient 36 - and he's no longer the youngest coach in the NFL; 34-year-old Mike Tomlin, who took over the Pittsburgh Steelers when Bill Cowher stepped down, now holds that honor.
Yes, he's still serious.
He noted, for example, that the team's workouts Monday were more beneficial than most because they were conducted in the rain. ``You can't simulate those conditions,'' he said. ``We're going to play in some bad weather and it's good to get a chance to work out in them.''
Maybe that's what his players mean when they say his focus and intensity haven't changed - the team's first meaningful game is more than three months off. Even if it's raining on that day, Sept. 9, when the Jets play host to New England in a game that may be important than most, it's unlikely that the players will think back to a workout without pads on June 4 and say to themselves - ``I'm glad we got wet that day.''
Still, while the players grouse about workouts during these workouts - Organized Team Activities, or OTAs in official NFL jargon - they realize that there are some things that are different.
``I think he has a little better feel now for what he has to do,'' Coles said. ``When he walked through the door last year, he had to figure out which players he wanted to keep and who he wanted to let go. He knows that pretty well now.
``Maybe it just gives him more time to work us longer.''

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