HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Laveranues Coles finally put his finger on the biggest reason for the New York Jets' struggles this season.
``I might be the jinx,'' the wide receiver said with a chuckle. ``Last year, I wasn't the captain and we actually won some games. It might be something where I might have to step down and maybe it'll change things and get it turned around.''
It's going to take a lot more than that to rebound from a 1-5 start, but Coles is doing his best to keep things loose in the locker room. He regularly cracks jokes with his teammates, and drew some laughs Thursday as he wrestled with linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
There's also serious time, of course, and not only on the field. Along with the other five team captains - Vilma, Shaun Ellis, Chad Pennington, Brad Kassell and Mike Nugent - Coles meets with coach Eric Mangini after practice every Thursday to discuss issues affecting the team.
``The captains' meetings have been pretty consistent and those are important, too,'' Mangini said. ``Sometimes guys may not want to say what they think and what they feel and they'll go to the captains and express it. That's important to be able to openly talk about what's happening and have the give-and-take.''
Some aspects of the sessions have been particularly eye-opening for Coles, a captain for the first time in his career.
``I was surprised we got food,'' he said, laughing. ``Anytime you go somewhere and get a free meal from outside the building I'm thankful.''
The players like to rotate the menu for the meetings, which take place in an office at Jets headquarters.
``But Vilma likes Hooters all the time, so that's kind of been the main thing,'' Coles said. ``He likes shrimp and crab legs, so it's been what we've been eating every Thursday.''
Not so, said Vilma.
``I like the crabs and he likes the shrimp,'' he said. ``He sometimes tries to bring pizza along.''
Coles then saw Vilma looking over at him from across the locker room.
``Why you looking over here?'' the wide receiver playfully yelled. ``You're going to get whooped!''
So, is that how the meetings usually go?
``No, not at all,'' Vilma said, smiling and shaking his head.
The objective of the meetings isn't to point fingers or air grievances, but rather to try to improve the team.
``No point in arguing or having a tense atmosphere or anything like that,'' Vilma said. ``Everyone's trying to find a way to get it right.''
That's been a particularly tough task this season. After a promising 10-6 season that included a trip to the playoffs, good things were again expected for the Jets. The losses are starting to pile up, and they know they need to turn things around quickly to have any postseason aspirations.
``We go in there thinking that it's tough to look at our season and then look at our work ethic,'' Nugent said. ``Usually, you can look at a season and say, 'OK, we're just not working hard enough.' The thing is, we're putting in the work, putting in the time, putting in the studying.''
As captains, the players are responsible for being conduits between the team and the coaching staff. If a teammate has a suggestion for changing a certain aspect of the game planning or practice techniques, he can go to one of the captains to relay that to Mangini.
``About every other week, someone might come up to me and suggest something and I'll say, 'OK, I'll bring it up and see if we can do it,''' Vilma said.
Mangini, who has an open-door policy for his players, finds the exchange of ideas a valuable tool.
``There's been multiple players really week in and week out that I'll spend time with, talk to,'' Mangini said. ``Some of those meetings are a function of getting together in the office, could be a function of talking to them on the field, talking to them in the locker room, in the weight room - wherever you happen to see them. So, it's not like in college with the professor with office hours. It's more like, whenever.''
Coles and the other team captains had another chance Thursday to break bread with Mangini and talk about things ahead of their game at Cincinnati on Sunday.
``It's just one of those things where he's thinking about the way things are going and he's basically trying to let us know his point of view and how he's trying to get things changed,'' Coles said. ``That's pretty much it. He just wants us to get the message across to the team as to how he's thinking and the way he's thinking about getting the team going in the right direction.''
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