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REX: Everybody Respects Dennis Thurman

Posted Aug 1, 2013

Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's afternoon news conference following the Jets' Thursday morning training camp practice at SUNY Cortland:

I’m sure you guys got stats so I’m looking forward to hearing them as the day went. But great competition I think on both sides of the ball. A lot of positives on both sides and then some coachable things on both sides also. So it’s a good thing. You learn from it, you get the tape, you get in the classroom and the idea is to get better and we’ll see how much better we get in the days that follow. But I really liked the first time we go with a two-minute and a lot of scenarios happen and things like that when you do that but I really liked how the guys competed against each other and the fact that we were making plays on both sides of the ball was encouraging to me.

I thought our blitz pickup was much better with the backs than it’s been. We had a couple of huge blocks, one by the rookie from Wake Forest [Tommy Bohanon], ACC team, not as good as Clemson [joking]. And then the Maurice Jones-Drew guy [Chad Spann], the little guy. He’s not small, he’s just short. He blasted somebody today on a blitz pickup so that was encouraging. Spann? Spann is his name. But it reminded me of the shot that he had on Shawne Merriman that time, it was like "Whoa!" It was one of those types of hits. That was good to see. Obviously I expect it, you’ve got a great running backs coach with Anthony Lynn. You expect guys to improve and certainly that seems to be the case.

On how he defended Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards when they were in Cleveland…

Oh, it was interesting. What we used to do a lot of times, because this guy is a tremendous receiver — he’ll tell you this – I’d always play quarters on him so I’d always have somebody on the underneath and hitting him and then we’d have coverage on top of him. And on the opposite side they had Braylon so we’d roll coverage to both of them. So we’d play basically a Cover-2 to Braylon and a Cover-4, if you will, to Kellen. Both those guys were really, really tough and we thought it gave us our best chance to defend them. You’d have a guy hitting them underneath and a guy on top of on both those guys.

On what he saw from Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith on drills inside the 10-yard line…

Well, again, it gets tough down there because it gets compacted and things, but I thought Mark did a great job, especially on the Gotta-Have-Its. Like after the two-minute when we did the Gotta-Have-Its he makes a great throw, two times rolling. Now the defense helped him out when they never had the personnel on the field. If you play with nine on the field, bad things happen, OK?

That’s why I’ll never forget my dad playing with 12 out there. Why did I bring this up? It has nothing to do with our team but I’m going to tell you the story. There’s 12 guys out there and so there’s a flag, they stop it, flag. His first game as D-coordinator with Houston. Nobody comes out. So he doesn’t yell, he doesn’t do anything, leaves 12 out there again — another flag. Finally they leave 12 out there again and the kid finally is like, “All right.” After the second penalty you see a guy walking off like this.” He goes, “You know you aren’t supposed to be out there.” Never yelled, never did anything. Somebody had to have the walk of shame off the field. But literally they were going to go three snaps in a row with 12 guys. And they interviewed him after and he goes, “Well, that was our 47 defense — 46 plus one.” Great comeback and it would have been better had they won the game but I think they lost.

Obviously there was a substitution error on one of them but Mark did a nice job down there. And then I thought Geno was impressive at the end, that last play. When you’ve got to have it, he scrambles and keeps his vision down the field and finds the guy open at the end. So that was impressive. Both guys I thought had a good day today.

On RB Chris Ivory’s status…

Well, I hope to get him out there soon. He’s got his strength and everything, but apparently when he would lift his leg all the way or something he could feel it tighten. But again, I would lean on J-Mell [head athletic trainer John Mellody] for that. I thought it would be progressing a little bit better than he has. Hopefully, it’s just a matter of time before he gets back out there because we all want to see him but you also don’t him want to reinjure the thing if it’s not healed, you don’t want to put him out there.

On if the media’s negative predictions for the season motivate him…

You know what? If you’re a competitor, how does that thing not get you? How does that not motivate you? It’s almost like, "OK, well, we’re going to show you." Of course, that’s your human nature, whatever. You’re not going to get a group of 53 and how many coaches in the entire organization and saddle you with those types of things and not rally, if you will, behind it because we don’t believe those are true. It’s going to be proven out, it’ll be proven out when the season comes rolling around. We feel we will be much better than that.

On if he takes those predictions personally…

Of course, absolutely. Everybody does, the entire organization, anybody. You can talk to Bruce [Speight, senior director of media relations] and he’ll take it personal.

On if the team will prove predictions wrong…

The one thing about the regular season, you can’t hide from the fact that you are what you are and nobody runs from it.

On what Sheldon Richardson has shown in training camp…

We don’t want to put him in Canton yet but he looks pretty good. He’s an explosive guy, explosive athlete. He certainly belongs here. Loves the game. You can tell just the way he plays he is a very passionate guy. He loves playing.

On the quarterback competition…

Well, I think, with us, we think it’s going to be great competition at that spot. We don’t think there is any doubt about that. We’ve said from the beginning that certainly both guys have the tools to do it. Mark we’ve seen do it, be an effective NFL quarterback. We feel great about Geno as well. Let it play out and we’ll see what happens.

On if Smith has made any fundamental improvements…

He’s got a phenomenal quarterback coach, number one, David Lee, and then another guy that’s been around and helped build some of the top quarterbacks in this league with Marty [Mornhinweg]. That’s a great combination. So I think that’s really been good for Geno. There are a couple things we knew that he would have to improve on, like with his footwork, number one, the depth of routes and things, but he has picked that up very quickly.

On the key things Dennis Thurman is working on…

Well, again, Mike Pettine's a great coach, DT, we’re all from the same system. But here’s a guy that is, he’s so humble and all that, never put himself out there, which is good for us, because we don’t want to lose him. But from a guy that played, what, nine years in the league, missed one practice, has respect from every player that he ever competed with, with maybe the exception of Wilbert Montgomery, but everybody respects Dennis Thurman, for the player he was but also for the intangibles he brought. One of the smartest guys in the league and he has that wealth of experience that he has with the defense, the fact we’ve been side by side for how many years? At least 10, I think. So we know each other well, we’re one and the same, we think the exact same way. So I think that’s really a good thing for us.

On the impression that Ryan runs the defense and that defensive coordinator is just a title…

Maybe so, but we’ve got two other guys who went from this staff to defensive coordinators in the league, Bob Sutton and Mike Pettine obviously, they’re coordinators in the league and I’m sure it’s going to spawn off to other places. Vic Fangio’s done a pretty good job in San Francisco, I’d say, and he was with us. I think it’s good. And again, we plan on Dennis not going anywhere for a long time, but if he gets a head coaching opportunity which may be in front of him, I’m not sure, but he’s smart, he motivates, he teaches, so there’s probably no reason he can’t be a head coach.

On the impression that Ryan runs the defense…

No, I'd say that Dennis is the defensive coordinator, that’s what I’d say. But as far as installing, it’s all based on us. This is our defense, the New York Jet defense. And we do things collectively and then we just have maybe one presenter, but then the followups are by the position coaches, obviously by Dennis, and things like that. I may be the presenter, the original presenter, but certainly that’s not, and if we split up individually I certainly can’t be in every single meeting. We have a great staff, and we lean on our staff. This is us, this is our defense, just like it was when I first got here. It’s the New York Jet defense.

On if the low predictions for the team are motivating him…

That’s the really thing that’s driving me right now. You know what’s funny, though? Hey, I never thought about that. That’s fine. I hope I have to face that and you can ask me that later in the season and I’ll be like, "Yeah, darn right." But no, I’ve never really thought about it that way. I just want to win as a football team.

On if he has ever coached a team that he thought was not going to be good…

Oh, man, I mean, I'm confident. I’ve told you guys this before, I have never gone into a game I didn’t think I would win, ever. Maybe that is just the way I’m wired or something like that. Just like you're never going to enter a fight you didn’t think you would win. I think that would be, probably, not a very smart thing.

On DBs coach Tim McDonald along with Thurman…

Yeah, great combination. Unfortunately for us, those two can’t play for us now. But really, he has a lot more experience coaching than you think. He actually won a couple of state championships as a [high school] head coach in California. Then he coaches the secondary. He's got two sons, one was a second-round pick with the Rams, and another of his sons is at UCLA, and things I know, that had to be tough on him. The guy is phenomenal, there is no question. You mentioned his playing days. What was he, an All-Pro seven, eight times, something like that? So when he speaks, it’s the old E.F. Hutton deal. I mean, they’re listening. He’s a very strong man, he demands that the guys do things right, and If you don’t like it, he will put you on the ground. He is still a big man; I mean, you are going to pay attention to him one way or another.

On if he expects the defensive line to play beyond their experience level…

Well, yeah, and certainly we have a lot of God-given ability. We drafted these guys extremely high. I guess three years in a row we drafted a defensive lineman. You get drafted that high for a reason, but you have to even raise your game up higher, but I expect them to. You see a young leader like a Muhammad Wilkerson, who is a leader by example and is entering, what, I think his third year, yet he can be a leader and guys look to him. He gets those guys to work extremely hard. Karl Dunbar, phenomenal defensive line coach, so I think that’s where you’re going to see these guys really progress under his tutelage.

On who has elevated their stock…

It’s really early and we haven’t gone through a live scrimmage deal, but [Vidal] Hazelton, I think he seems to be popping up to me. Very competitive guy, good blocker, has done well competing for the football and things. I think he’s kind of popped out at me. And there’s other guys, really, like I said, when we get the pads on, we’re doing it for real, we’ll probably get a better idea. But I’ve been impressed with a lot of guys, I really have. Dalton Freeman is a young man we picked up as a free agent, seems to be picking things up really well and that’s a tough position. When you’re a center in this league, that is a tough position, especially picking up, moving your line this way, that way. [Nick] Mangold does it so easily, but you forget how talented Mangold is and how smart he is. But I’ve been impressed with how Dalton has handled himself also.

On what Richardson can do to improve…

I think the number one thing, you have to come in here, learn the system and then there’s things that he does already. He gets off the football extremely fast, very athletic, chases the football and a guy— you don’t want to coach effort, well, you don’t have to coach effort. This guy is going, there’s no question. From fundamentals and things, there’s always a little transition from college to pro, but like I said before, he has a great teacher. Karl Dunbar is about as good as it gets as a fundamental teacher. I think that’s really going to help Sheldon.

On how Dee Milliner looked in his second day of practice and if he will play in the Green & White Scrimmage…

I hope so. He got I think about 10 plays in today. I thought he looked pretty good. We’ll see how he feels with that shoulder and things. Certainly, we’re going to make sure he’s healthy before you put him out there. I like what I saw from him, the little bit today. Gave up, I think, one completion and came off on two. He looks pretty good and hopefully we’ll be able to progress him, and if he plays in the Green & White, that’ll be great, but I’m not sure yet, though.

On his reaction to Riley Cooper and how he tries to maintain the camaraderie on the team…

First off, I’ll focus on just my team. I’m not going to focus on somebody else’s team. But as far as that, I think coming up to Cortland helps because I think you get away. As much as I love the families and everything else, the guys to be around their families and encourage them to be around and things, I think it’s good. We get up here, this is what we have. We have each other. We have football and we have each other. I think there’s a camaraderie. I think that builds a camaraderie that way. And the fact that in the meetings and everything else, you learn a lot about your teammate and I always think that’s a good thing.

One thing with us is we recognize the fact that every one of us is different. There’s not one perfect person in our locker room. We’ve all made mistakes, obviously, me more than others, but the thing is, we respect each other and I think that’s the big thing. No matter how different we are, we all respect each other and that’s how it starts. The fact that we compete against each other and all that, yet we respect the fact that this player across from me is helping me get better and I’m helping him get better as well. That’s kind of how we look at things.

On if there will be more position battles in the Green & White Scrimmage between first- and second-teamers...

Absolutely. This year, unlike others in the past, you’re looking at replacing maybe six or seven starters on defense. You’re looking at at least two new guards and some other things on offense. So there’s definite competition and there’s competition for the starting groups for sure. And there’s also competition for who’s on the 53 and who’s on the practice squad. I’ve never been around a team where you really can’t tell. It’s certainly not in pen, but I’m not so sure it’s in pencil yet, either. That’s going to really add to this competition and even make the Green & White Scrimmage maybe a little more interesting than it’s been in the past.

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