Rex Ryan has held back nothing. He’s given direct, honest answers when questioned about specific team topics. He’s shown a penchant for deadpan humor and anecdotal tangents. The beat writers have been impressed, and why not? For the previous three years, they had been dealing with a head coach who employed bizarre strategic tactics like refusing to reveal which knee belonging to a star linebacker had been injured and operated on, even after the procedure was complete. This maneuver, steeped in paranoia, represented perfectly Eric Mangini’s manipulative, controlling tenure. But, in the departed coach’s defense, the team he left was bubbling with talent, even before the additions of Lito Shepphard, Jim Leonhard, and Bart Scott. Every instance Ryan enthusiastically mentions how much his players seem to enjoy practicing, one recalls Mangini specifically targeting college prospects that legitimately loved football and displayed leadership qualities. The stars were aligned for the dismissal of Mangini, no doubt about that. And the timing seems perfect for a personality like Ryan to ingratiate himself with a starving press corps and dismayed fan base. But destiny only makes suggestions. It’s up to the individuals ensnared to fulfill their promise. These cosmic questions will be answered officially starting week one, but for now, well… take it away, Rex. We’re all appreciative of these pressers:
Open with a Joke-
To begin today’s conference, Ryan acknowledged his controversial remarks regarding Bill Belichick and the Patriots, poking fun at himself. He pulled out a script and said, with perfectly robotic delivery, “Hello everybody,” the laughter already building. “I like Tom Brady. I like Adalius Thomas,” the gathered media was now really cracking up, as Ryan finished, “I really do.” He went on to assess the day’s practice.
“The guys were energized and doing a tremendous job. The focus is good. I love the competition. It’s not false enthusiasm. I like the enthusiasm that our guys have. Sometimes I say ‘come on, we have to pick it up, give me some false enthusiasm’ but you don’t really have to do that with this bunch. They’re excited to be out there competing against each other.”
The injured Jets are closer to returning but may not see action against the Ravens.
“[Donald] Strickland will miss this game,” Ryan began. “It is not that serious of an injury but we are just going to have him stay off his foot. He has a broken toe. He’ll miss this game. We’ll keep him off of it for a week. If this was a regular season game, he would probably play. But we are probably going to hold him out. (Damien) Woody is getting better, (Kris) Jenkins, and (Darrelle) Revis, all of those guys are questionable to doubtful for the game against Baltimore. They are improving, so that is good.”
Of course, the major news around the league regards Brett Favre, who is positively Shakespearian when it comes to indecision. His interior monologue would probably put Hamlet to shame at this point. First, he retired after the favored Packers were toppled in their house by the Giants in the 2008 NFC Championship Game. After all, Favre’s interception in overtime helped set up the game-winning field goal by Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes. There he was, tears raining from his eyes, declaring he had nothing left. The decision seemed final. However Favre reversed course late in the off-season, and demanded to be traded from Green Bay, who decided that former first-round pick Aaron Rodgers deserved a shot. The Jets, desperate for the playoffs and leery of Chad Pennington’s injury history, practically ran to the altar, dealing for the future first-ballot Hall of Famer. The move seemed to pay off, until Favre’s arm ran out of bullets, requiring a surgeon’s blade. So Favre, after a brief flirtation with the Vikings, retired again before camps opened this year. But that was before yesterday… when Favre, much like Jason Voorhees stalking after that last camper with an axe imbedded in his head, decided he still had unfinished business. Perhaps he wants to stick it to the Packers while wearing the Viking Purple. [They can’t be blamed for decisively going with Rodgers, a steal late in the first round year’s prior] Who really cares at this point? Rex Ryan chimed in, asked whether the Jets helped Favre get where he wanted to go via a release.
“I guess you can look at it different ways,” said Ryan. “That wasn’t our purpose. He obviously is a legend. We have the utmost respect for Brett Favre. I know I do. Once we drafted (Mark) Sanchez we couldn’t afford Brett. You know how I talked about him when I first got here. I would have loved to have had Brett Favre as our quarterback. Again, the way it worked, the timing of it when he decided he was done, we went to the draft and drafted Sanchez. We were obviously out of that business. Would I try to convince him to come back? I don’t know. That would be speculation. We were just going to move forward and that is what we did with our team. I’m sure he is happy. He is in Minnesota and we wish him the best there.”
The New Guy-
Ryan seemed enthusiastic about recently signed punter Ken Parrish, who will compete with Reggie Hodges for the pivotal position.
“He can boom it. Again, we’ll see what happens when the lights are on. I am sure he will get an opportunity. (He is) a former police officer, I understand, in (Philadelphia). So I have to be careful what I say about this young man (laughter). I don’t want to be driving through Philadelphia with bonus tickets along the way (laugher). He is a great young man.”
There doesn’t seem much traction in the all-important quarterback battle. Though Ryan hinted that the upcoming Ravens game could serve as a worthwhile barometer.
“Both of them look good at times. There are some great throws out there. It’s almost status quo. I think it’s a decision that I am not going to say the deadline is this. I’ve said all along that I want to make the decision as fast as possible. But, it’s going to be a prudent decision. When the timing is right, we will make it.
“When we feel confident that we definitely have the right guy that we feel good about going in against Houston, that is when we will make that decision. We’ll see how it is. This is going to be a great test. Baltimore never gave up more that 13 points a game last year at home. I know it is a preseason game, but tell their fans that.”
Wide Receiver Department-
Ryan shared more positive tidings about the receiving crew, especially David Clowney, who seems primed for another impressive preseason.
“We’ll play all of those guys. We won’t be the only team in the history of this league who will just play multiple receivers. At times, everybody shines. You see what Brad (Smith) can do. You see the different thing he brings to the table. (Chansi) Stuckey has had a great camp. (David) Clowney, what he always says is ‘who can cover the Clown? (laughter).’ After he made his catches I made sure to say, ‘who can cover the Clown? I don’t know if anybody can cover the Clown (laughter).’ But the guy is a football player. Just like I showed you those plays of him blocking away from the play, he wants to be a complete receiver. I like the strides he is making.”
Erik Ainge is almost the forgotten man on the quarterback depth chart, but Ryan took note of how soundly the second-year man defeated Harvard rookie Chris Pizzotti for the third and final spot.
“They were competing for that job. Clearly, [Ainge] won that. Could he be a No. 2 or a starter in this league? Probably. When we ended up drafting Sanchez, I never thought we could split the reps three ways, you know what I mean? Is it fair to him? All he does is go out and play. Like I said before, will he get a chance one day to be the starting quarterback of the Jets? He may. Joe Flacco, as we said, went into the second-to-last preseason game (last year) as the number three quarterback, and the rest is history.”
Today, the Jets inked rookie free agent safety Nate Ness. Ness was signed by the Browns in May before being waived in July. During two seasons with the University of Arizona, Ness notched seven interceptions and totaled 107 tackles.
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