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Jets sign top pick Gholston

July 25, 2008 7:13:23 PM PDT
Vernon Gholston was ready to hit the books after taking the field for the first time as the New York Jets' latest millionaire. "I'm definitely a step behind," the No. 6 overall pick said Friday. "I missed practice (Thursday) and I haven't been up here, but, you know, it's just something to deal with and I'll do some extra studying tonight and keep pushing."

Gholston's one-day, two-practice holdout ended when the deal was approved in time for the pass rusher to be on the field with his teammates for the start of practice on the second day of training camp. Gholston's agent, Ben Dogra of CAA Football, told The Associated Press that the contract is worth $50 million, with $21 million guaranteed over five years.

"I was just pretty much sitting around and waiting," said Gholston, who flew in to New York early Thursday. "I thought it would be done pretty quickly, but with a process like this there's so much going into it that it took a little longer than expected."

General manager Mike Tannenbaum said the contract took a while to complete because it was "north of 50 pages," and because of new language in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

"The contract was extraordinarily long and complicated," Tannenbaum said. "Both sides, I give them a lot of credit."

Because the deal took some time to be approved, Gholston wasn't on the field Thursday, marking the second straight year the Jets' top pick wasn't signed at the start of camp.

"A contract like his, you might have to triple check or quadruple check," coach Eric Mangini said with a smile.

The deal is the latest in a spending spree by the Jets since the offseason, when they doled out over $140 million while bringing in big-name free agents such as Alan Faneca, Calvin Pace, Bubba Franks and Damien Woody and trading for Kris Jenkins.

"To be honest, I honestly don't even know what the numbers are," Gholston said with a smile. "My agent told me it was good to go and I was like, 'Hey, let's go ahead and sign it."' While cornerback Darrelle Revis missed 22 practices before signing last year, Gholston thinks he'll be able to pick things up quickly after sitting out only two.

"Once I get going and learn the system and learn what I'm supposed to do and what they expect of me, I'll be fine," said Gholston, a defensive end in college who lined up mostly at outside linebacker with the second-team defense in his first day as a paid pro.

The 6-foot-3, 264-pound Gholston set an Ohio State record with 14 sacks last season and is expected to immediately improve the Jets' pass rush. In New York's 3-4 defense, Gholston will be asked to stand up as a linebacker more after playing mostly from a three-point stance in college.

"He's got a little ground to cover here, to make up," Mangini said. "We'll be focused on that and we'll make sure we get him up to speed as quickly as possible and see what he can do."

Gholston had several games last season in which he was dominant, including notching the only sack allowed by No. 1 overall pick Jake Long of Michigan last season. He had four sacks against Wisconsin in November, and had three other games in which he had two or more sacks. His combination of speed and power made the Jets believe he's a perfect fit for their defense.

"I'm just a guy willing to win," Gholston said. "I can't really have too many expectations right now because, obviously, I don't even know what's going on half the time on the field. (I'm) just a guy willing to go out there and play hard."

Gholston insists he'll remain highly motivated despite his bigger bank account.

"I was never motivated by money," he said. "I played at Ohio State for free. Obviously, when you grow up, you have to make a living. This is just what I chose to do. At the same time, where I was picked, you just get paid, I guess."

Gholston didn't play football until his sophomore year at Cass Tech High in Detroit, and played offensive line after being overwhelmed at linebacker. He returned to defense as a senior, and was a major recruit for Ohio State. It took time for Gholston to develop, but he eventually became one of the best players in the country.

"I'm definitely playing catch-up, so you really try to focus on the football part," he said. "Once I do that, hopefully I can be a good player."


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