A conversation with Chris Baker

Chris Baker, after free agency has died down and before the draft has begun, is the Jets' starting tight end at the moment. Baker talked with Randy Lange of The Record and Jets Confidential during the opening week of the off-season conditioning program about how he sees his role in the offense developing this season.<p>

Q: The Jets went after a few veteran tight ends this off-season. They tried to sign Jeb Putzier to an offer sheet, invited Ken Dilger in for a visit and tried to re-sign Anthony Becht. Did you feel if any one of these guys signed, he would have been coming in to back you up?

Baker: I don't know if I got that feeling. I know when they went after Dilger I felt that way, that we were going to need another tight end. The other guy, Putzier, I don't think they were trying to get him to back me up, not with the offer sheet they gave him.

Q: Yet here we are in April and you're the starter. Can you hold onto the job?

Baker: That's the feeling I have right now. I basically have got to go out and prove to them that I'm worthy of being the starter. I'm pretty sure this season I'll be able to do that.

Q: The Jets announced you had re-signed with them, but actually you only signed your own restricted free agency offer sheet, right?

Baker: That's right. I want to be here, I want to sign a long-term deal, but they're not ready to do that right now. We'll wait and see. Hopefully I'll go out and have a real good year.

Q: Did you get any feelers from other teams that wanted to sign you as a restricted free agent?

Baker: A few teams showed interest. My agent [Cliff Brady] told me there was definitely interest. But what he said was most teams don't want to spend a third-round pick, especially after I had only 18 catches last year. Teams know I wasn't being used, things like that. But they want to see more. That's a pretty high-value pick and teams don't want to give that up.

Q: You have a new offensive coordinator, with Mike Heimerdinger replacing Paul Hackett. How does that change affect you?

Baker: What they've been saying about Coach Heimerdinger is that he uses everybody [in the passing game]. That's all I can ask for. All I want is a chance. I didn't get a chance my first three years here. As long as I get a chance, I'm pretty sure people will be happy to see what I can do. I know what I'm capable of.

Q: Some tight ends, such as Frank Wycheck and Erron Kinney, whom Heimerdinger got involved in the passing game at Tennessee, put up big numbers. Could you get 60, 70 catches in his system this season?

Baker: Absolutely. I was a receiving tight end coming out of Michigan State, but the Jets didn't use me that way. They used me to block. That's OK. But I haven't lost my hands or anything like that. We have real good skill position guys here with Justin McCareins, Laveranues Coles, Wayne Chrebet, then Curtis Martin and Jerald Sowell in the backfield. I want to be the other link that makes our offense click. I think that'll open things up for me. I know how I play, what I've been able to do in the past. I'm definitely looking forward to that.

Q: For Jets fans who are skeptical, tell them what they haven't seen from you in your three seasons with the team.

Baker: Stretching the field? I can do that, I did that in college. I averaged 14, almost 15 yards a catch in college, over 100 catches. I can do what they want me to do, basically. I'm not a guy who's going to break an 80-yard touchdown, that's not going to happen. But being consistent, making 15-, 20-yard catches over the middle, maybe breaking a 30-yarder, breaking tackles, I can do that. As for the blocking part of my game, ask anybody in the locker room, defensive linemen or running backs, and they'll tell you what kind of blocker I am.

Q: You said you might be adding some new destinations to your off-season itinerary besides the Dominican Republic. Have you gotten away to any other hot spots yet?

Baker: I made it to the Dominican Republic, and I also went to Brazil a couple of times. One time when I went to Rio De Janeiro, it was Carnaval. Yeah, it was nice, I can't complain. It was just a real festive atmosphere. Most of the island countries have a carnival of some kind, but Carnaval was the most festive atmosphere.

Q: Anywhere else you hope to visit before training camp begins in July?

Baker: I'm hoping to get over to Europe when we get a break in May. I may go over there for three or four days, probably Germany. I have a couple of friends who are playing in NFL Europe. I'm going to go and hopefully catch a game and hang out with the guys for a few days. I don't know where else I'm going, but I'll be enjoying summer up here this year.

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