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Jets TE Baker arrives at camp, vents about contract situation

Chris Baker isn't happy with his contract, and he made sure everyone knew it on the first day of the New York Jets' mandatory minicamp on Thursday.

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Chris Baker isn't happy with his contract, and he made sure everyone knew it on the first day of the New York Jets' mandatory minicamp on Thursday.

"If the situation was better, of course I'd want to be here," Baker said, "but the way things are right now, I really don't have the desire to be out here right now at this moment."

Baker, who has asked to be traded, is disgruntled because he insists the Jets told his former agent, Cliff Brady, before last season that they would look into redoing his contract. His deal currently has two years remaining and pays him about $1.65 million a year.

"It's just being fairly compensated," he said during a 16-minute meeting with the media. "That's what it's all about. I've been here a long time and always done what they've asked me to do, and then they indicated to me that I'd be taken care of and that hasn't happened."

The Jets have refused to budge on Baker's contract, despite the tight end registering career highs with 41 catches and 409 yards last season.

"This is my seventh year," he said. "They know what I can do by now. It's not like I just got here. I've been here for seven years. It was promised to me and it hasn't happened, so what else am I going to do?"

General manager Mike Tannenbaum thinks part of the issue is a misunderstanding on Baker's part.

"I would just say that, based on my understanding of what Chris said this morning and the conversations I had with Chris' agent last year, Cliff Brady, I was part of those conversations and I know what was said," Tannenbaum said. "I think Chris and I have a difference of opinion about those conversations."

Baker, who said he asked for a trade before the NFL Draft, went to his agent before last season and expressed his dissatisfaction with his current deal. He said Brady spoke to Tannenbaum, who said the team would discuss the tight end's contract after the season.

"If he doesn't feel I'm playing up to his expectations or whatever, he can trade me or release me," Baker said.

When told of Baker's comments, coach Eric Mangini tried to downplay the situation.

"It's part of the business," Mangini said. "It's nothing that's unique to us. It's nothing that hasn't been experienced by pretty much everybody in the room, whether it's players or coaches. It's the business side. That's what it is, and everybody understands that."

Baker's current contract would rank him in the bottom half among NFL starting tight ends, and possibly third on the team at the position behind Bubba Franks and rookie first-round pick Dustin Keller.

"I've got a question for you: Imagine if Coach Mangini were the third-highest paid coach on the staff," Baker said. "You think he would be happy about that? You think he would allow that to happen? I mean, that's how I feel."

During the late practice, Baker was on one knee and staring out at the practice field for a few moments -- away from his teammates -- before owner Woody Johnson struck up a short conversation. The situation has taken on an eery resemblance to what occurred last summer with guard Pete Kendall.

"I don't find it a coincidence," Baker said. "I mean, obviously, that's the practice here. If you don't get something in writing, then you might as well take it with a grain of salt because, obviously, those things aren't held up."

Kendall sulked throughout minicamp and training camp last year, repeatedly expressing his desire to be traded if his contract wouldn't be redone. Kendall was eventually dealt to Washington before the season.

"His situation was ridiculous and it basically tanked our season last year," he said. "His situation was not a good one and last year wasn't a pretty situation, and hopefully I don't get put into that same situation. Like I've said, I've been here and I want to be here, but at the same time, it looks like we're going down the same road."

Baker has been a standup guy in the locker room throughout his career, regularly making himself available to the media after practice and games. He has also been a team player, something he mentioned repeatedly Thursday.

"I've asked for the ball quietly for the last five or six years," he said. "That hasn't happened, and that has nothing to do with me. Last year, they asked me to stay in for blocking and I did that, so as far as that goes, I mean, it is what it is. ... I try to be an all-around tight end and I do what they ask me to do."

Baker had a few difficult receptions in the late practice, showing off the hands that have made him a reliable receiver -- when he's been asked to catch passes. He isn't sure what he'll do when training camp starts, but doesn't see himself as a member of the Jets when the season opens.

"If things stay the way they are, then, no," Baker said. "I don't see how that's possible. I don't want that to be the case, but I don't see how that is possible."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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