HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Laveranues Coles' teammates were waiting for him when he arrived at the New York Jets' practice facility Monday as a newly elected team captain.
``Oh, man,'' Coles said with a laugh. ``I didn't even get a chance to change into my clothes this morning and they were already putting in requests.''
The veteran wide receiver will be an even more popular guy in the locker room this season after being selected by the players Sunday as one of the team captains. Coles will join quarterback Chad Pennington on offense, Jonathan Vilma and Shaun Ellis on defense, and Mike Nugent and Brad Kassell on special teams as pipelines between the players and coach Eric Mangini.
n honor.''
While it's true that Coles has never been one of the loudest players in the locker room, he has always been one to say what's on his mind when asked. That candid approach would appear to be the opposite of the reticent Mangini's idea of his ideal player.
Not so, said Mangini.
``He says what he feels,'' Mangini said. ``I like that. I like the way that he's giving me feedback. That stuff is important.''
Coles was the first player to openly criticize Mangini's tough training camp last summer, and did the same this year, saying he was just happy to survive. He also expressed his frustration a few times last season about his role and the way the offense was struggling. Coles is also credited with nicknaming Mangini ``The Penguin'' last season for the coach's shape and the way he walks.
``It's good to have him in the locker room, because when things get tough and guys are tired of working, he comes in and loosens us up a little bit with a joke here and a joke there,'' running back Leon Washington said. ``He keeps the fun in the locker room.''
To Coles' credit, he's been able to get away with all of that - and gain a fan in Mangini in the process.
``The one thing that I respect so much about him is the caring that he has for his teammates,'' Mangini said. ``He's a very selfless guy. He's one of those guys where if you're stuck at the airport and nobody is picking up the phone at home, you could call him and he'd come get you.''
Coles has gone from being perceived as a malcontent, especially during his first tenure with the Jets from 2000-02, to being a favorite among reporters, teammates and his coach.
``You have some guys that are quiet and you have some guys that are very outgoing, and they tend to attract each other,'' wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. ``I'm a quiet guy, but I love Laveranues Coles. I love hearing him talk and I love just conversing with him. I can listen to him all day and I think that is the type of relationship that they have.''
It doesn't hurt that Coles is also one of the Jets' main weapons on offense, combining with Cotchery last season to become the most prolific receiving duo in team history. Coles had a career-high 91 catches for 1,098 yards and six touchdowns while also playing injured throughout the season.
``You know Laveranues is always going to be Laveranues,'' Washington said. ``The main thing I like about him is that on Sundays, your captain is going to go out there and give it all on that field and he's going to lay it on the line.''
Coles has built his reputation on being tough on the field, brushing off injuries routinely. He's the only wide receiver to start every game since 2001.
``He downplays everything - injuries and everything,'' Cotchery said. ``He's that type of guy.''
Coles now will also have the concerns of his teammates on his daily agenda, along with more frequent meetings with Mangini.
``Guys have been talking about trying to rework the schedule so that they're not around the building as long as they are,'' Coles said. ``I don't know how I'm going to get that done, but it's one of those things where I'm going to shoot for the stars and hopefully coach will work with us and make me look good at least my first time out.''
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