The Jets face the usual challenges on Sunday. An injury has sidelined Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold, the ground game is lagging and they face a Raiders team in a hostile environment. It makes for a daunting task.
Plus, you never know when a fair catch suddenly turns into the infield fly rule.
Since the Raiders and Athletics both call O.co Coliseum their home, the battle between baseball and football schedules overlaps this time of year. The Athletics don’t just leave foul lines and pine tar scuffs behind. The infield dirt from the base paths testify that baseball is played here 81 times a year.
“On that dirt, you should be a lot faster than on the grass — that is, if you’re going straight. But if you’re cutting, that could be an issue with slipping,” running back Shonn Greene told Metro. “I will only switch cleats if I’m really slipping, but I think with the longer cleats, that won’t be an issue.”
The Jets will be bringing two or three pairs of cleats for each player to combat the uneven playing surface. A longer spike on the cleat will be opted for by most of the players due to the hard nature of the dirt. A shorter spike might not bite down quite as much as a longer one will, but it also means that the players are forced to wear the longer spikes while playing on the grass parts of the surface.
“I’m not sure how significant that will be, but you will definitely be able to tell when you’re running when you go from one to the other. You will notice it I’m sure,” fullback John Conner said. “I’m bringing a short pair and a higher pair. The higher ones, they’ll grip a lot better for their baseball field — their infield — it should grip a lot better.”
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Kicker Nick Folk and punter T.J. Conley actually drove out to Newark Bears Stadium to kick off the dirt at the baseball field.
Folk has made all five field goal attempts this year, but he has only kicked off the plush artificial surface at MetLife Stadium. His last time kicking on a field which featured a baseball diamond was Week 3 in Miami last September. He made one of his two attempts, the miss having been blocked.
The 30-minute session in Newark on Thursday afternoon helped to mimic the conditions he will face in Oakland.
“It’s hard as a rock. You want to be wearing something that will stay on top, grab the looser stuff. Baseball fields are pretty hard, it’s not like kicking on a beach where you sink in,” Folk said. “You just need to trust what you’re doing.”
On Sunday, the right-footed Folk will wear his usual soccer-styled Nike cleat on his kicking foot. However on his left foot, his planting foot, he’s still trying to figure out what style he will wear. He figures he will go with the longer cleat, but will wait until his pregame preparation before making a final decision. He doesn’t anticipate spending any more than usual getting warmed up for fear of over-kicking.
His technique will remain the same for the most part, but there may have to be some adjustments to how he plants — especially if he’s kicking partly on grass and partly on sand. There is a slight difference in elevation at O.co Coliseum which can throw off what he calls “a job measured in centimeters.”
“You’re not going to change too much, but it’s going to change a little bit,” Folk said. “How I plant, that’s what is going to change, but how I approach and kick the ball, the speed and power — that won’t change at all.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.