FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Nick Mangold's high ankle sprain means that the Jets center is likely out for this Sunday's game in Oakland, leaving undrafted rookie free agent Colin Baxter as the Pro Bowl center's replcement. Baxter, who with his long flowing hair bears a resemblance to Mangold, has an awful lot of catching up to do to take the place of one of the game's best offensive linemen.
Mangold's advice to Baxter?
"Get a haircut," Mangold said before turning serious. "He's only been here what, two, two-and-a-half weeks? [I'm] just trying to get him to fill him years into the system in a couple days - trying to get him on board, the same page, in case we need to use him. I want the guys around him, if he needs to be called up, to be comfortable with what he's doing. My goal is to get him ready."
The injury to Mangold happened in the first quarter of the Week 2 blowout win over Jacksonville, forcing Baxter into his first NFL action. There were ups and downs as would be expected of a player coming off the sidelines and onto one of the league's most experienced units. It is a steep learning curve for a player who was cut Sept. 3 by San Diego before being signed the next day by the Jets.
The benefit for Baxter of playing last week should help the assimilation into the starting lineup. This will be helpful since the Raiders defense already has five sacks this season and at times this year, the Jets' pass protection has been flakier than a commercial for dandruff shampoo.
"It definitely was an unexpected situation, so it will be nice this week to get to see the looks in practice and get to go through that and get coached up on the finer points of everything," Baxter said. "I went in last week knowing what to do, but a lot of the things I hadn't really been taken through really in a detailed way. So this week, I get to go do it; I get to go watch it on film."
The hope is still that Mangold will recover sufficiently and be able to play in Oakland. Having utilized crutches the past two days, Mangold, with a boot on his right foot, walked around the locker room on Wednesday on his own power.
Hopeful that he can perhaps play even this weekend, he dismissed speculation that he would be out for a month
"That's not my report. I'm going day-to-day, see how I can do," Mangold said.
"You don't want anything lingering and I think that's the fear of the injury and trying to rush back before it's ready. So I'm going to make sure it's ready but I'm going to make sure it's ready as soon as possible."
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer