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REX: Jake Locker’s a Special Athlete

Posted Dec 14, 2012

Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's morning news conference before the Jets' Friday afternoon practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center:

All right, let’s do the injury thing first. These guys will not practice today: Clyde Gates, that’s a concussion, Dustin Keller, ankle, Stephen Hill, knee, Aaron Berry, hamstring, Bilal Powell is a shoulder and a toe. The X-rays came back, it was negative. So I thought he fractured a toe but that thing came back negative so there is no fracture. Basically, it's soreness and so we’ll see how he progresses through the week but he will not practice today. Bryan Thomas, chest, and LaRon Landry, heel, and that’s just the typical thing we do with LaRon so he’ll be fine.

Guys who will be limited today: Sione Po‘uha with the low back and Braylon Edwards, hamstring. The rest of the players will go full today: Kenrick Ellis, knee, [Mark] Sanchez, low back, Matt Slauson, knee, [Jeff] Cumberland, wrist, Calvin Pace, shoulder, Nick Mangold, shoulder, Bart Scott, toe, Brandon Moore, hip, Joe McKnight, ankle, Tim Tebow, ribs, Damon Harrison, ankle and Ricky Sapp, ankle. Those will be the injuries.

I’ll start with Tebow. I think I said he won’t do personal protecting and all that stuff. Well, he actually got a couple of reps there, more mental things, but he moved around great. This is the best he’s looked in several weeks. So we’ll see about that, there could be a chance that he does Wildcat, we’ll see. He moved around that good that we may get him back in similar roles.

On if Powell’s shoulder injury is new…

No, I think it’s just the old one, we just have it down there. But the toe is the new injury.

On if Thomas had a setback with his injury…

No. He’ll do whatever, he is trying like crazy to get back, and sometimes you have to protect the player from himself.

On if Keller will play Monday…

I’m not sure. I was thinking it would be OK, I felt good about that, but we’ll see. The fact that it’s an extra day, hopefully that will help us. I know he’s doing all he can do and getting the mental preparation and everything else. So he’s out there watching, I think he’s dialing up the game plan. It’s just if we had to play today, I don’t think he’d be playing. But hopefully, with this being a Monday night game, hopefully he’ll be able to get out there.

On changing his mind about Tebow after he looked good in one practice…

I thought he looked really good and that’s why I said, you know what, I was out there when I was just adamant about, well, there will be no Wildcat, but I’m like, he may be able to go back to similar roles. As good as he looked to me, he’s always been cleared to play, but as good as he looked to me that I don’t want to rule that out for the simple fact that this is as good as he’s looked in several weeks.

On if Tebow will get an X-ray on his ribs before he plays Monday…

No, I don’t think so. I don’t know if that’s what we’ll do or not, but again, he’s always been cleared to play I just think that you guys have seen him out there too. He’s moving around a lot better than the last couple of weeks for sure.

On how he can tell Tebow would be ready to take a hit when they don’t take hits in practice…

Well, that’s true, there’s no doubt that’s true. Just looking at the way he’s throwing the football, he’s moving. Before it was kind of like you could almost tell that he wasn’t real sure. Now it’s I can’t see a visible difference from the start of the year to right now. So that’s why, again, I just want to say that if he continues to look like this and even improve, then maybe we can have him in a similar role.

On how Edwards looked Thursday…

Really limited. We never did a whole lot with him. He got a few snaps on offense and did some individual work, it wasn’t full speed, so we’re being cautious there. But again, I’m going to lean on the trainers and we’ll see how he progresses. But we’re hopeful that he’ll be able to go on Monday.

On if he watched the Cincinnati game…

Our whole thing is it’s all about this opponent. I’ve said it the last several weeks, it’s just about what we have to do, and that’s to find a way to beat Tennessee. That’s where our entire focus is. Did I glance at it? Yes, but I actually didn’t even see the end of the game. That’s the way it has to be. That’s the position we’re in. All the other stuff aside, we know that we have to win this game. That’s 100 percent of where our focus is.

On the team’s focus…

I just want to win. You think about who’s up next, go take care of your business, improve, put out the best football team you can each week. That’s a challenge to the coach, that you have your team ready to play. I think as any coach, regardless of what’s around you, your focus is on winning that game and putting your players in situations where they can be successful. That’s what you try to do as a coach every single week, regardless of what your record is.

On Jake Locker…

He’s a special athlete, I don’t think there’s any doubt, a guy that presents a ton of problems for you. It’s strange, but they’ll pass more than you think. Having Chris Johnson back there, you’d think it would almost be the other way around, but they’re balanced, maybe more leaning on the pass than the run. They have a lot of confidence in [Locker], but he’s a guy, if a guy is open, he’ll throw it, if he’s not, you have to be ready for him to take off. That’s certainly what our team knows and you have to have your antenna up, not just for when he throws the ball down the field but when he takes off with it.

On the public perception that Johnson is having a down year…

He’s still 1,000 yards, one of the leading rushers in the league. What is he, [eighth] in average [yards per game]? He’s a dangerous guy. He’s somebody, every time he touches it, you hold your breath. He’s that kind of athlete, so dropoff in play? I don’t know. I don’t necessarily see it because he’s the same explosive guy to me on tape. You don’t get a whole lot of sleep worrying about this guy, that’s for sure. He’s a great player. Obviously, everybody knows about him. He’s no secret.

I think when he first got into the league, you weren’t necessarily that sure. You saw a guy, "Hey, he’s a little undersized for a running back," and then he’s blowing by you and "Oh, man." You can say a guy is fast, you can read the numbers, but when you see it on the field, it’s happening right in front of you, it’s a little scary. I saw it first-hand several times when we played against him here but also in Baltimore.

On the notion that the run defense has not performed up to his standards…

I don’t know. Like I say, we’ll see where it all adds up in the end.

On the improvement on run defense…

I think we’ve definitely gotten better with the run defense. This week will be a challenge because you have the quarterback averaging [8.5] yards a carry. That’s a bit of a challenge, and Chris Johnson. But again, sometimes you pick your poison against looks, but I think our run defense has definitely improved, I can definitely say that.

On stopping the run…

The main thing is you try to stop people one way or another, but I don’t like when people can run the football. The big thing, especially when you know they’re running the football, you have to be able to stop it. I don’t think we’ve stopped it to our standards. There’s no question. We expect to be one of the best run defenses in the league and statistically we’re not even close to that. We’ve given up some huge runs. Last week, we were playing great run defense and then on a second-and-15, we said, "Hey, let’s let them run the ball." We got a call in and all of a sudden [Montell Owens] goes for 32 yards and a touchdown. That was disappointing because up until that point, I thought we played pretty decent against the run.

On the offensive line in the run game…

We went from maybe more of a zone running scheme to more of a gap running scheme. I think earlier in the year you can attribute some of that to really changing mentality a little bit. Certainly we’re able to move people off of the football and we’re opening up some running lanes. I think that’s obviously been good for us. It’s probably a key for our success, being able to run the football.

On if things are clicking for Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson on gap runs…

I think so. I think we’re more familiar with it. I think guys are used to playing off the scheme a little bit where we run complementary runs, the power and the counters. We’re very multiple in the running game. I know one thing, we’ve been stressing and stressing it about getting off the football [with a] low, flat back. I see our guys getting better as the year has gone on. That’s a real positive.

On pushups at practice for penalties…

I think collectively we came up with that. When we came from the bye week, those are some thoughts I had about how we can get better, not just the opponent, but find ways where we can do a better job. It has nothing to do with the opponent. Obviously, penalties is one of those statistics and I think we’re third in the league now, where going into the bye week we were 15th. I think it’s good.

We post them up, we talk about them, we show how the penalties affect games. We do the same thing with turnovers or mistakes, whether it’s a communication error, technique error, we show that. I have a report each week. Each game we have that report. We’ll go over those things and obviously with the turnovers, we need to do a much better job of that. We’re going to keep pounding it. If there was a magic solution to it, trust me, we would have signed up for it. I don’t think anybody is trying to get that right more than we are.

I think the penalties are something that you drastically see since that time. I’m proud of that because the guys have really taken ownership in it. I’ll say this too, the officials we have out here do a tremendous job for us. Our players recognize that and sometimes you get a little bit of this back-and-forth stuff, but they understand that they are there to help them and say, "Hey, look, we’re calling it tight." That way when we get into a game we’re not surprised, we can play faster, we understand. I think our offense is the least penalized offense in football. I think our back end is doing a tremendous job, especially with as much man coverage as we play, of knowing the rules and competing for the football down the field.

On Kyle Wilson

He’s been tremendous. This is the guy we signed up for when we drafted him. The vision for Kyle was that we were going to get a guy with starter ability and that’s definitely what we have. He came in as a nickel, which is a tough position to play in this league. He kind of had some growing pains and he’s really stepped it up in those areas. Also, being a full-time starter is something he has always had that type of skillset [for], but I think he has that mentality. This guy is a true pro, there’s no doubt. He’s doing a tremendous job.

The way [Antonio] Cromartie is playing on the other side, just a little heads-up about Cro. How good has Cro played? We have not given up a 100-yard receiver all season and he’s matched up generally on the best guy, so that’s how good statistically this guy’s playing. When the Pro Bowl [voting] comes out, it’d be ridiculous if he doesn’t make it. But Kyle has to take on that burden, the fact that they’re not going to throw here, it’s coming at you, and he’s really answered the call.

On if Wilson has allowed them to blitz more…

I knew we always had confidence in him, but you get more comfortable and Mike [Pettine] definitely is dialed up the blitzes especially recently and different things like that. I think Kyle, I don’t know how many times [he’s been beat]. I think he got beat on one touchdown, he’s had a couple of penalties, but he is playing well for us. We are confident [in him and] we’re also confident in [when] we had Isaiah Trufant. He stepped up did a great job for us, he goes down, now its Ellis Lankster. He steps up. We feel good about Berry, well, he gets a hamstring, now [Darrin] Walls steps up. But we think we’re deep at corner and the way we play defense you have to be.

On if they need another running back on Monday…

We’ll see how Bilal is. We feel pretty good. We have four running backs, that’s generally what teams will go into games with.

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