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Jets Pumped, Not Pressured, for Ravens Tonight

Posted Sep 13, 2010

There is no way to quantify it, only to argue the point as one might with a friend in a favorite watering hole about the best quarterbacks or the best heavyweights of all time.

Is this the most important Opening Day in Jets franchise history?

The storylines certainly support that theory. The Jets, fresh off their five weeks of summer cable stardom as the focus of "Hard Knocks," say their goal is to go to and win the Super Bowl, as soon as February 6, and in the process to be the best defense in NFL.

And in this first game toward those and other aims, they merely have to beat the Baltimore Ravens, which head coach Rex Ryan lists along with his Jets and the Steelers as the most physical teams in the league today.

There are the multiple Jets-Ravens connections, with Ryan going up against good friend and former boss John Harbaugh and exchanging by all sounds of it friendly banter with his former top Ravens defender Ray Lewis about smashing each other and cashing checks.

There is Darrelle Revis back in uniform and the questions about whether he'll look like a guy who spent five weeks away from the office or a guy who has the keys and the title to his own island.

And let's not forget this is the Jets' first game that counts and the first regular-season primetime game in history in their brand new pigskin palace known as New Meadowlands Stadium.

Pressure, anyone?

Ryan was adamant during his second opening week as an NFL head coach that if anyone should be feeling the pressure from this offseason of great expectations, it should be him (but he's not).

"My players haven’t made those comments. I’ve made those comments. The pressure is on me and not on our players," he said. "It’s on me. If it doesn’t work out the way I think it will work out, then who is it going to be on? It’s going to be on one person and that’s going to be on me, not on our team. I would disagree there. If you want to win, you ought to be man enough to stand up there and say we expect to win. I’ve got news for you — we expect to win this week, next week and every week.

"Now, does it happen? No, it doesn’t happen all the time, but we expect to win. That’s how we approach every game."

Mike Pettine, in his second season as Ryan's defensive coordinator and his ninth on the same staff as Ryan, says that's not the approach that every head coach and team take toward a season, but it's always been the approach that Rex and he have taken.

"It’s been said that we’re not afraid to say it — we believe we can win every game," Pettine said. "If you’re worth anything as a coach or a player in this league, you’ve got to look at the schedule one game at a time and believe that on a game-to-game basis, you’re going to win every one. I’ve been around that mentality. I’ve been around the reverse mentality where coaches look at it like, ‘I think we can win this block of games here. It’s going to be tough, we can split these.’ We don’t look at it that way. You can’t afford to concede anything.

"We voice it and I think it maybe gets interpreted the other way that all this team does is talk trash. Rex has a firm belief in us as a coaching staff and a firm belief in the players on this team. We think we’ve built a team that there is no reason that we can’t go into every game expecting to win."

And so the pressure gauge isn't in the danger zone for the players. Mark Sanchez, beginning his second year as the starting QB? Nah.

"I think, most important, it’s about reminding yourself that you have guys like Braylon [Edwards] and Jerricho [Cotchery]. Braylon’s worked so hard this offseason to be a dependable guy and a guy that knows the system — he’s always in the right spot. J-Co? I can lean on him all the time. Dustin [Keller] has had a great camp, he’s ready for the season. The offensive line will keep your jersey clean. They really take the pressure off of you."

And for a respected veteran such as Jason Taylor, who'll be filling in for Calvin Pace at OLB as long as Pace needs to rehab his foot, what pressure?

"I feel great," Taylor said. "It’s the same thing I was doing before Calvin got hurt. It’s the same thing. You’re just doing it a few more times. It’s really not that big a deal. I know some people don’t think I can’t do it anymore, there’s a million different things being said, but that’s fine."

You could survey the entire Jets locker room and get the same reaction. Old vets but new Jets like LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Cromartie? Ice water courses through their veins. Former Ravens like Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard? Not a chance. Kris Jenkins back from his knee surgery of last year? Ready to roll. New guy like Kyle Wilson in the nickel packages? He's so professional that his butterflies haven't shown all summer, let alone this week.

So some say the Jets could succumb to this pressure as one of the preseason favorites in the AFC East and the talk of the town around New York and New Jersey. Others see a possible letdown after the offseason and preseason of hype and Hard Knocks. Sure, these conditions could happen, have happened to other teams.

But those other teams weren't the Jets.

More likely, the Jets, in Ryan's favorite phrase, will be "popping out of their skin." He wants them fired up to take on the similarly tough Ravens with their similarly lofty aspirations, so much the better to prevail on Opening Night on this first of many national stages.

"We’re so ready to play an opponent for real, to get things going in our new stadium," Sanchez said. "This is a game that counts. This is huge for us, so we just can’t wait. Our guys are so excited. Monday can’t come soon enough."

And now Monday is here, kickoff is hours away. And as Ryan also says, in a very short time "we'll see" a little more about the 2010 Jets.

Preseason Live: New York Jets

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