HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Sione Pouha gave a quizzical look and then proudly pointed to his slimmer upper body after he was asked if he lost body fat in the offseason.
``Can't you guys tell?'' the New York Jets defensive tackle said Monday with a big laugh.
Everyone sure can. Pouha is noticeably thinner this summer after shedding 25 pounds from his 325-pound frame.
``Some of the fans came up with old media guides and stuff and I kind of saw the gut I had as a rookie,'' he said.
Pouha is reshaped and refocused - and ready to make a big impact on the Jets' defensive line.
``You want big bodies to play in there, and he's a stout guy, but there's different ranges of how big a body you want in there,'' Jets coach Eric Mangini said. ``I think that at this weight, he still has the same sort of power and strength, but his wind is better, his conditioning's better and I think his first-step quickness is better. In talking to him as he went through the process, he feels comfortable at this weight.''
While nose tackles in 3-4 defenses are traditionally wide-bodied run stoppers, Mangini thinks Pouha will be capable of getting the job done.
``It's not one of those things where we shrink him down so much that he'll be on the runway, but he still is effective,'' Mangini said.
Until last Friday's preseason game against Atlanta, it had been a while since anyone saw Pouha play. Coming off a quiet rookie year in 2005, Pouha injured his right knee early in training camp and was placed on injured reserve - ending his season before it started.
``It was tough,'' Pouha said. ``You wanted to be out there, but you knew you had another mission, and that was to take care of your injury, so I just took care of that and basically just cheered them on.''
And, he made certain his coaches and teammates wouldn't forget him.
``I made a choice to go to every single meeting that I would be involved in if I was not injured,'' Pouha said. ``So I went to all the game plan meetings and Coach even asked me questions about situations that might happen, just to ensure that I was taking the mental reps that I needed to take.''
Pouha also maintained his diet from when he was rehabilitating, and the results are clear. Mangini has praised Pouha for how he's looked - physically and on the field - during training camp.
``They just want me to be in great shape, be available, and be on the field,'' Pouha said. ``Last year, I wasn't on the field and I wasn't available.''
The time away also gave Pouha a more intense appreciation for the game.
``Football's always been a love, always been a passion, so I wouldn't say it struck a new chord with me because it's always been with me,'' he said. ``Let's just say it went from AM/FM to XM Radio.''
The Jets have a surplus of defensive linemen, especially at the nose tackle spot. Dewayne Robertson will be the starter, but his backups will come from a group that includes Pouha, Kimo von Oelhoffen, C.J. Mosley and Zarnell Fitch.
``You just have to concentrate on what you have to do yourself,'' Pouha said. ``You can't control anybody else. You control what you do.''
At 28, Pouha has just 14 NFL games under his belt, but that might work in his favor because he doesn't have the wear and tear other nose tackles his age might.
Pouha signed a letter of intent with Utah in 1997 and then went on a three-year Mormon mission to Pittsburgh. After fulfilling his obligation, he got back to football, became a force on the Utes' defensive line and helped lead Utah to the Fiesta Bowl in 2005.
The Jets selected Pouha in the third round of the draft that year, and was considered a project. Two years later, New York is ready to see Pouha finally take the next step in his development.
``I'm feeling good, man. I'm feeling great,'' he said. ``I'm making sure that I put myself in the right situation where the coaches can use me in whatever system they might have. I've just got to make sure that I'm prepared for wherever they want me to be.''

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