A conversation with Donnie Henderson

Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson has been lying unusually low during the off-season, for example leaving the minicamp spotlight to new offensive architect Mike Heimerdinger.

But Henderson, who signed a three-year contract extension, talked with Randy Lange of Jets Confidential and The Record recently about the progress his defense was making in Year 2 of his tenure as Gang Green DC and about situations surrounding the Jets' ``Abraham brothers.''

Q: Now well into your second season of orchestrating the Jets' defense, how do you feel things have come together this off-season?

Henderson: Fortunately for us, we're ahead of last year at this time. We've been in the scheme for a year with the same nucleus, so to speak, minus [nose tackle Jason] Ferguson, so you'd like to figure you're further ahead in how you teach things. We've still got to perform, obviously. At the same time, I'm liking this part of it.

Q: Any changeups or surprises you can talk about for the coming season this early in the process?

Henderson: What we've done is we've spent a little more time with the playbook. We've dug some things out that we used last year, saw how we used a lot of things as a base concept, and now we're going back in the playbook and using some other stuff as a base concept. We're playing a little bit of different fronts, toying with some things. Other than that, we're still going to be who we are. We'll be aggressive, play man on the outside, get after you and play cover-two.

Q: You've had to deal with a couple of situations involving guys named Abraham. Donnie Abraham just reported to the off-season program. John Abraham still hasn't signed anything and hasn't reported.

Henderson: I believe John will be here when it's time to go. Both those guys really love playing this game. No matter what you say, when it's time to show up, they'll be ready to go.

Q: Do you have any concerns about Donnie Abraham, since he was thinking about retirement?

Henderson: He's got to work through some things in his mind, but once he makes a commitment, I don't have to worry about him being wishy-washy. It's not a major concern.

Q: Right before Donnie reported, he made some comments that sounded like he was still sorting things out. Has he made a commitment to you for the coming season?

Henderson: He hadn't done much of anything the whole off-season, so he's here trying to get himself in shape. I don't think it's a major deal.

Q: John Abraham, meanwhile, is working out on his own. Is it a matter of not whether John will report but when?

Henderson: Guys like John, you know they can play football. When the lights come on, that's what they want to do. I see it as once he determines he's coming to camp, he's not coming to camp to walk out again.

Q: There seems to be some principle for John about not signing the tender as the Jets' franchise player.

Henderson: Yeah, but the principle is worth six million.

Q: How much is he missing by not being in the off-season program and at the OTAs?

Henderson: John knows what we're doing defensively. He's a pass rusher. He plays a little run, so I would like him here to work on his technique because people run at him, sure. But let's be honest. He can change a game around as a pass rusher.

Q: When John talked during the season about his future and not wanting to undergo surgery on his sprained knee in the off-season, did fans and media misinterpret that as him being selfish?

Henderson: I think what he said was obviously not worded correctly from him, but I don't think he meant anything malicious about it. His intent was not to say it's all about me right now. His intent was probably to talk about the injury a little bit. That's why we tell them not to talk about injuries. It's hard, once you start talking about injuries, to prevent the media from opening up a whole can of worms. I think he's learned from that.

Q: Are you staying in touch with John?

Henderson: We talk through our agent. I have a different type of relationship with John because he and I have the same agent [Tony Agnone]. I can talk to Tony and find out pretty much what's going on.

Q: Is it possible John might not come in for the start of training camp?

Henderson: I don't know. I can't sit here and anticipate it one way or the other There's no sense making a big deal out of it. I could be mad at him for not being here, but I already knew there was a possibility of him not coming. Those who manage problems, that's how you do it. You don't make a big deal out of some things. I guarantee the players are not worried about it. They'd probably like to see him here, but there's that one-liner -- ``It's business.''

Q: You have lots of issues to deal with, naturally, but since you mentioned Ferguson earlier, here's one more question for now: How do you feel you're replacing Fergy so far?

Henderson: We're going to do it by platooning. Lance [Legree] is fighting for that spot and he's got the most experience. You like the rookie [third-rounder Sione Pouha] because he's got the bulk. And you can't count Tank [Reed] out because of his experience in the system. Maybe all three will play that spot. I don't know yet.

Q: Might Dewayne Robertson even get some time at nose?

Henderson: At times Dewayne will play in the shade over the center, but he's going to do what he's been doing, which is playing the three-technique.

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