A conversation with Markus Paul

New Jets strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul on Monday welcomed the Jets players to the opening of this year's off-season conditioning program.<p>

Paul spoke with Randy Lange of The Record and Jets Confidential about his first assignment as the head of an NFL team's strength department.

Q)How does it feel to be running the show with the Jets?

Paul: This is a great opportunity for me. One thing I'm going to benefit most from is being able to focus strictly on strength and conditioning. In New England, I had double duty. I was the assistant strength coach [under Mike Woicik] as well as the director of player programs. All the extra time I had away from being a strength coach was directed toward guys going back to school, setting up internships, as opposed to me growing as a strength coach.

Q)Whom do you already know on the Jets' roster?

Paul: I know [wide receiver] Chas Gessner well. The Patriots signed him as a free agent two years ago. He ended up on injured reserve his rookie year, and during practices we rehabbed the injured players. Chas and I got a chance to spend a lot of time together.

Q)Any other Jets connections?

Paul: On the coaching staff, [offensive line coach] Doug Marrone and I played together at Syracuse University. [Pro scout] JoJo Wooden was a freshman when I was a senior there. There were a couple of great athletes from this [Hempstead, N.Y.] area who went there, Don McPherson and Rob Moore.

Q)Talk about what the Jets are in for now that they've started their off-season program.

Paul: It'll be a change for them. We'll be doing some things they haven't done before. Everybody's kind of leery of change. The players won't know what to expect, and there'll be some excitement about that. The things I want to do, I don't know how they're going to be received, but they will help the players. I'm going to do everything in my power to get them better in their strength, agility, quickness and explosion.

Q)What areas will you specifically stress this off-season?

Paul: Mike Woicik, a guy I worked with for seven years, has six Super Bowl rings. I've just been tapping into his well of experience and knowledge and it's helped me tremendously. One thing I've learned working with Mike is about training these guys as football players. There will be a lot of position-specific work that we're going to be doing strength-wise as well as speed-wise. It takes strength, power -- which a lot of people call explosion -- speed, agility, quickness, talent, flexibility and conditioning.

Q)What kind of tools will you employ to improve the Jets in those areas?

Paul: We implement tubing, bungee cords in our training, so that'll be different. I think [former strength coach] John Lott used them here but probably not in the same way I'm going to use them.

Q)How about new equipment in the weight room?

Paul: We did make some changes in the weight room, which are going to give the guys different options when it comes to doing some exercises. When guys get injuries, it's hard for them to do certain lifts. We have some new machines in here to allow them to work parts of their bodies even though another part of their body is injured. I think the players are going to be pleased.

Q)You're unusual in the sense that you're an NFL strength coach who actually played the game. You were a safety for the Bears from 1989 to 1993. What were some of the highlights of your career?

Paul: There was nothing really spectacular. The only highlight I had came in 1991, when I had an opportunity with the Bears to start the first half of that season. I was doing well -- I was actually leading the team in interceptions and tackles, and that was a team that had Mike Singletary starring at inside linebacker and Richard Dent at defensive end. Then I ended up getting hurt in a Thursday night game up in Green Bay and that kind of ended it. I was a blue-collar worker who played some nickelback and all the special teams, and when the opportunity came for me to step in and start, I took advantage of it.

Q)In 1991 the Bears and Jets played in a memorable Monday night game in which a late Blair Thomas fumble helped turn a Jets win in regulation into a Bears win in overtime. What do you remember about that game?

Paul: The thing that sticks out to me was that Rob Moore and I were playing against each other. I spent two years at Syracuse with this guy. It tells you how the game of football is that we were out there in pregame talking, shaking hands, hugging each other. But when the whistle blew, we were going after each other. I can remember Rob chop-blocking me, and I shoved him in the face trying to get the ball. Then after the game we said goodbye with a hug and wished each other the best of luck for the rest of the season. We're always going to be brothers, but between the lines you try to play the game hard.

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