There may be questions about rookie quarterback Christian Hackenberg’s ability to handle NFL defenses. But in his introductory press conference with the New York Jets Friday, the former Penn State passer and second-round Draft pick proved he could deal with the infamously tough Big Apple media.
Midway through the session at the Jets’ practice facility in Florham Park, N.J., Hackenberg was asked if the team’s offense suits him.
“Yeah, I mean it has to,” he said, drawing laughter from reporters in the room.
It was a pretty savvy response, given Hackenberg’s career with the Nittany Lions. He starred as a true freshman in 2013 while playing in Bill O’Brien’s pro style offense. But when James Franklin arrived in 2014 and installed more of a spread attack, Hackenberg’s production and efficiency dipped in ’14 and ’15.
Once considered a possible No. 1 overall Draft pick, he slipped to the Jets with the 20th pick of the second round.
Friday, he presented a silver lining to the ups and downs of his college career.
“I think you’re defined by how you react to adversity and how you’re able to get back up,” Hackenberg said. “So I think ultimately having to go through that at a young age and doing it through college is only going to help me in the long run.”
“I think you’re defined by how you react to adversity and how you’re able to get back up. So I think ultimately having to go through that at a young age and doing it through college is only going to help me in the long run.”
Friday marked the start of the Jets' rookie minicamp. Though Hackenberg is the primary QB in the building now, that will change when full team workouts begin. Fourth-year pro Geno Smith and second-year pro Bryce Petty are under contract. The Jets reportedly are also trying to work out a deal with 2015 starter and current free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Hackenberg said he is “excited to be able to get in the (QB) room” and that he hopes to be able to learn from the veteran Fitzpatrick, who previously played under O’Brien in Houston.
“(I’m) excited if everything works out there to be able to pick his brain a little bit — I have a ton of respect for what he’s done in this league,” Hackenberg said. “I think he’s found a way to be able to win a lot of games and have a pretty successful career. I think that’s awesome, very admirable.”
Hackenberg sidestepped questions about him slipping in the Draft and criticism of his game leading into the Draft.
“I’m here right now and I think that’s really what I’m focused on,” he said. “I kind of buried that. Fresh start and really excited about moving forward and doing what I need to do here.”
That starts with the rookie minicamp, which Hackenberg intends to use as a crash course to learn the Jets' offense.
“You’re going to have to be able to adapt quickly and adjust,” he said. “Getting in the film room a little bit, get a playbook in our hands and start working, I think it’s great. It’s great for us young guys to actually be able to do that and get on the field and get some reps on it because we’re actually really behind the vets.”
As for the media, which included some outlets that blasted the Jets for taking Hackenberg when they did, the rookie QB said he’s ready for the scrutiny.
“It’s been good — just getting used to it,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll take my lumps here and there. But it’s been awesome.”
GOOD TURNOUT: About 25 media types turned out for the press conference.
HIGH FIVE: Hackenberg has been given No. 5 to wear with the Jets. The No. 14 he wore at Penn State is not technically assigned to anyone. But the fact that Fitzpatrick wore it last year could be an indication that the Jets intend to get a deal done.
Quotes from the Jets' facility provided by Kimberly Jones of The NFL Network.