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Thursday, January 8, 2009

NY Jets By the Numbers - #29 (Part 1)

It's back to the numbers. The comfortable, reliable numbers. A football team may go 8-3 and then lose four of its last five of the season, but numbers can't mislead you. Numbers can't be wrong.

In an effort to pin down the career of #29 Jets' cornerback Donnie Abraham as a man in full, I encountered a pretty consistent message in a number of different places. This man retired before his time because he was ready to. Donnie Abraham had business dealings and a new set of enterprises on the horizen that were more appealing than another lousy two months of preseason training camp and another season of getting his brains beaten in. So valuable and liked was Abraham that Herman Edwards, having coached him at Tampa Bay, let him sit out the Jets' training camp in 2002 in order to make the decision about whether or not to retire. Abraham stayed the summer with his family and then decided to stay with them permanently. How much money did he need to make? How often did he need to wear a football uniform? Did he really need to remain in light for as long as Junior Seau and Ty Law have just to increase the chances of being inducted into Canton? Donnie Abraham did not think so. He will not go to the Hall of Fame, and he is OK with that.

Anthony "A.B." Brown is just another reason why the post-college life seems so dubious in the pros. He played for the nearly great 1988 West Virginia squad that lost to Notre Dame in the National Championship. By Wikipedia at least he is considered a Mountaineer runner of sufficient fame, a state of being enjoyed also by another Jet in another installment for #29 to come later. I've noticed that Wikipedia has an odd thing that they do in listing athletes at certain positions. They mention by whom a player was preceded at a certain position and by whom a person was ultimately replaced. Given the regular turnover in NCAA football, this makes sense. For WVU in 1987, A.B. Brown is listed as being preceded at running back by Undra Johnson and then succeeded by himself. In 1988 he was preceded by himself and sharing the role with Undra Johnson. I don't think I fully understand that any better than I comprehend the name "Undra." But the final note here has to go to Brown's total yardage gains over his four seasons for the New York Jets, the only team for which he played pro ball: 117 yards. It took four seasons to cover the equivalent of a football field plus a touchback. He netted one touchdown, in 1991. Finally, Brown either lost or recovered two fumbles in that same year. For a player with limited time on the field whichever one it actually was - recovered or lost - means the difference between a successful or unsuccessful career.

There wasn't enough time or content to be found in Carl Capria's career with the Jets or with with Detroit who drafted him in 1975. He played 12 games for the Lions, gaining 12 yards on one punt return. He then played one single game for the Jets in 1976 with absolutely no statistical material whatsoever attached. He therefore wore #29 for the Jets in a game in which I might actually have seen him play, or not play as the case may be. However, we cannot leave Carl Capria before noting that without really looking for it, I found his name on this t-shirt mysteriously advertised on the web. Unfortunately, this item is no longer available. Sorry, Carl. To love another person is the highest of human achievements, but as a man wiser than myself once said, everybody loves somebody sometime.

I was willing to say all kinds of nice things about Johnny Lynn who wore #29 for the Jets from 1979 to 1986. I have a great memory of Johnny Lynn recovering a fumble in the Miami end zone to start their 1979 matchup at Shea. His name conjures an instant memory of that touchdown, and of my leaping and yelling at the top of my lungs in a house where my family was temporarily living in Millwood, NY. It was built in the style of a 1970's A-frame, with a high vaulted ceiling in the den where I was watching the game, so the sound of my pounding feet and my screaming must have been magnified throughout. Maybe it sounded like the very same noise I made this afternoon when Shaun Ellis scored on his recovery of a J.P. Losman fumble; it's not unlike the sound of a person screaming for his life. When Johnny Lynn recovered the fumble for the first score in a 33-27 Jets win over Miami, my mother came running in to see if I were being torn apart by a wild animal.

Yes, Johnny Lynn is attached to that memory. But then Johnny Lynn was the secondary coach for the Niners in the Jets' loss at Candelstick this year, so screw it.

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