There's a small silver lining that accompanies the saga revolving around Leon Washington and Thomas Jones, the Jets' two running backs who are skipping the voluntary off-season training program activities because of their unhappiness with their respective contracts.
It's giving the Jets the opportunity to get a good close look at Danny Woodhead, the guy who spent most of the time lined up in the backfield at running back during the Jets' OTA practice out at the Hangar yesterday.
"Anytime you can get that experience, it's vital to you," said Woodhead, who's battled back from a serious left knee injury suffered during training camp last season. "Right now, I'm just trying to go with what I've got and you just work as hard as possible to get the system down to where I can just play fast all the time."
But with the expected return of Washington and Thomas sometime in the coming weeks, and once third-round pick Shonn Greene is signed and in camp, Woodhead will most likely be on the outside looking in. That's where a veteran like fullback Tony Richardson comes into the picture.
He's been in Woodhead's ear, telling him not to worry about the obvious numbers game.
"That's the biggest advice I gave him," Richardson told me. "Sometimes young guys get caught up in, 'You've got Thomas Jones, you've got Leon Washington, you just drafted Shonn Greene.' You have no control over that. What you have control over is the opportunities you have in the reps that you get. And I said this is a blessing in disguise because you never know how things work out. So if you continue to keep busting your butt and making plays like he's been doing, just let the chips fall where they may."
And if they don't fall with the Jets, then it's sort of an open audition for Woodhead. Play well and someone will find a spot for him somewhere.
"One thing about this business, you've got be realistic that you aren't interviewing for one team, you are interviewing for 32 teams," Richardson said. "So when you look at that mindset, it really helps him a lot."
Initially signed by the Jets as a free agent last May, Woodhead was a beast at Division II Chadron State and won two straight Harlon Hill Trophies, which honors the best player in D-II. He ran for an NCAA-best 7,962 yards and is second all-time in all-purpose yards with 9,749.
He also rushed for 2,756 yards during the 2006 campaign, which is an NCAA record. Not bad for someone who's generously-listed at 5-foot-9, 200 pounds.
"No. 1, he is tough," coach Rex Ryan said. "They bounce him around and he pops right back up. He gives as well as he takes. The other thing I noticed is he can really catch the football."
"The other day out here at practice," Ryan added, "he actually beat Calvin (Pace) to the boundary and turned it up on him. ‘I was like wow. I never thought I would see that.’ The young man has some ability."
He's getting to showcase it now and he's looking to make the most of his chance to shine.
"This is what everyone wants," Woodhead said. "They want to get as many reps as possible and I'm cherishing this."
Now, onto a few quick things I wanted to leave you guys with.
■ One thing I forgot to mention in yesterday's OTA report was the status of the recently re-signed TE Bubba Franks. He didn't practice because of a knee injury, although Ryan wasn't too worried.
"We don't think it's serious," Ryan said. "Obviously, we wouldn't have signed him if that was the case. But we think Bubba will be fine when we go to training camp."
■ Hutch has the particulars from Alvin Keels' chat on Sirius last night. Keels, who's Leon Washington's agent, basically is saying the current Collective Bargaining Agreement is partially to blame for his client's situation.
■ Bob Glauber has a nugget on Brian Baldinger's take on the Jets' new coach. Everyone seems to love the guy and it's easy to see why.
■ My man E-Bo is making his debut as our Yankees' beat writer today and even threw up his first post. Actually, I'm a little jealous. See how easy his last name fits with just about anything catchy? E-Boland and the Bombers. Perfect. Guess ours isn't too bad, either. Even the Daily News' Rich Cimini likes it. (Thanks Rich!). Anyway, go ahead and profess your affection to E-Bo over there even if you aren't a Yankees fan.
■ With that, time for the next installment of the Rex Ryan Comedy Hour:
Ryan was asked yesterday why is DE Marques Douglas so productive.
"I always say, 'Don't judge him by his appearance. He is not a real good looking kid.'"
So Rex, do you think Douglas is frustrated by flying under the radar?
"I'm sure it is frustrating for him. It has been good for me, but it has been frustrating for him. I am kind of glad he looks like he looks."