Jets rookie Sauce Gardner pays $50,000 for No. 1 jersey

Apparently, Sauce Gardner really likes the number 1. Like he really, really likes it.

The rookie Jets cornerback revealed Tuesday he paid fellow cornerback D.J. Reed $50,000 to purchase the jersey No. 1 that Reed had been planning on wearing with the Jets.

“I always had 1,” Gardner said. “When I got the nickname Sauce, I had No. 1. It’s a lot of little things. I feel like it best fits me.”

Gardner said it was a quick negotiation. He had been wearing No. 4 for a brief time, and Reed then took that number.

The Jets won’t care what number Gardner is wearing as long as he’s making plays in that jersey. The early returns have been positive on the No. 4 overall pick. Gardner’s coverage skills are clear as you watch him in the spring practices. There is no contact in these practices, but Gardner rarely looks out of position and usually is not thrown at.

Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner speaks to the media after practice at minicamp in Florham Park, N.J.
Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner speaks to the media after practice.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Coaches have praised Gardner’s approach.

“That he doesn’t repeat errors,” defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said when asked what stands out about Gardner. “He’s a guy that is so hungry to learn. If he gets beat, most of the time he figures it out on his own because he has such a good football brain and a thirst for the game and a thirst to better, and to learn and grow. But if he doesn’t, he’ll go immediately to [cornerbacks coach Tony Oden], he’ll go immediately to [defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel] or myself, whoever, to figure it out, and it doesn’t show up again. He’s going to have his lumps, and he’s going to have his rookie moments, which they all do but at the same time, there’s going to be less than most.”

One area Gardner has been working on is making sure he is not grabbing wide receivers. Along those lines, Gardner wore what looked like large oven mittens during some drills this spring to prevent him from using his hands too much.

“I just always want to be great. I push myself. I did that in college,” Gardner said of the mittens. “I was talking about it with my coach and he was like, ‘Now that I think about it, I do have some gloves,’ so it just worked out.”

Sauce Gardner practices at OTAs in Florham Park, N.J. on June 8, 2022.
Sauce Gardner practices at OTAs.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Gardner said he is driven to be as close to perfect on the field as possible.

“As a corner, nobody’s perfect, but I still try to be perfect,” he said. “Even though I can’t be perfect, I try to be consistent. I don’t want it to be one time where I’m being technically sound and then one rep where I grab. I just try to be perfect even though there is no such thing.”

The Jets initially had Gardner working with the second team, but Reed has not been participating in recent practices for an undisclosed reason. That has led to Garnder getting more time with the starting defense, a place he figures to stay for a long time.

Oden said Gardner has been a sponge for information since arriving in New Jersey.

“One thing that stands out to me about him is his intelligence,” Oden said. “If you’re watching on film, you will see it. He’s smart. He’s hungry for knowledge. Just talking to him a few minutes ago about the summer, you can’t give him enough information. … There’s a lot of people you can give information and they can’t process it all. I’m still in the process of trying to find out how much he can handle, but the more I give him, he continues to want more.”

Gardner said learning the playbook has been “easy” for him. He said he now is learning how to take care of his body so he can play “forever.” He plans on staying in New Jersey after the team breaks minicamp this week to work out with the trainers in preparation for training camp at the end of July.

“I feel like I got adjusted,” Gardner said. “I got used to the tempo of playing in the league. I feel like it’s going real well.”

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