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REX: This Team Is Much Closer Than Last Year

Posted Nov 8, 2012

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

The injury stuff is exactly like it was yesterday. Instead of me rattling off all of those names, it’s the exact same, so just put ditto on it. The one where Bart [Scott] was limited yesterday, so you guys have all that. It’s the exact same. The official one is right because I had him as out and he wasn’t out. It’s the exact one that you guys got, or at least it looked like it to me [joking]. It better be. Seriously, I think that’s where we’re at. The only two that aren’t going to practice are Kenrick [Ellis] and Joe McKnight. Those two won’t practice.

Again, file this and it doesn’t matter but it actually does matter, we had a phenomenal practice yesterday. It was a great practice and you expect it coming off of your Bye Week. You expect guys to be fresh and popping out of their skin, and they are. You saw it out here on the practice field. Guys are flying around. I think obviously at 3-5 you’re not where you want to be, but this team believes that we can right the ship and we’re going for it. I know Antonio Cromartie had some comments about us making the playoffs and all that. I feel as an entire football team, that we should all feel like that. I think we do feel like that.

Nobody wants to hear it but who cares? That’s really how we feel. That’s our mentality. Whether you like it or not, that’s our mentality. I would think the Jets fans and Jets community obviously would want us to feel that way and we do. We’re not happy with where we are with the 3-5 record. We know it’s tough to get into the playoffs, especially when you back yourself up with that 3-5 record. Again, we’re going to keep swinging until they tell us we’re out. All of us, in my opinion, believe we can make it.

On if McKnight will play on Sunday…

In the past, he hasn’t practiced and all that. If this is going to be a common thing, you kind of weigh those options. Are you better off sitting him at home? Letting him heal more? Or do you just keep doing the same thing over and over? I think that’s kind of where we’re at. We’re kind of balancing the pluses and minuses. He’s played obviously in the other games, but we’ll see. That’s kind of what you have to weigh right now.

On if the decision to play McKnight will be made Friday…

That’s a possibility.

On if playing in the second game with an injury caused a setback for McKnight…

I don’t know how much of a setback it caused. It’s just is he really healthy and ready to go? I’ll always say, can he protect himself and can he do some things? Or are we better off giving him a little bit more time?

On facing the crowd noise at Seattle…

I just think you go into a situation like this, this team has beat four really good football teams — I don’t know what their records are, but they’re four good football teams — at their place. They’ve always been a tough place to play and they have things going in the right direction.

With all of that being said, I think it is a huge challenge that we’re facing, a big one. It’s about as tough of a venue as there is to play in the National Football League, so let’s have at it. I think, obviously, you go out there with a mission to win. That’s what we hit the field to do. You believe you can win, regardless of who the opponent is or where you play and everything else and that’s us. That’s why you have an opportunity and we’ll see what happens.

On if the team should embrace the tough road ahead…

Yeah, I think so. I think as a competitor, you like measuring yourself against tough opponents or whatever and maybe tough circumstances. We haven’t done too well at it, quite honestly, this year being 3-5, but this is a new opportunity for us and we’re all in.

On stopping the run…

It definitely starts up front. It’s kind of like running the ball. It always starts up front with the offensive line. I think it’s the same thing with defense. It starts up front. It sounds simple, but to attack the line of scrimmage and to get off blocks, quite honestly and do a better job of tackling, when you look at it that’s really what’s happened. Trust me, it’s much easier said than done. You have to work at it.

I think Karl Dunbar and Anthony Weaver are doing a great job with the defensive line, really working on those fundamentals and getting back to old school Jet ways of doing things in stopping the run. I think we have to. We’ve been decent around here for the first three years, and obviously teams are running the ball differently. They spread you out and they run.

Sometimes, like in the Buffalo game, you’re willing to give up some yards rushing when you have a big lead and all that stuff, but not that many. That was a little more than we wanted to give up, for sure. We had to get better and the fundamentals got back to the basics, and I think our guy have done a much better job of that.

On if he was surprised by the performance in stopping the run in the first month…

Yeah, because I think when you look at it, we have talent. We lost Sione Po‘uha for quite a bit of the season. I think he had only played in one game in that stretch. It’s good to get him back from his back injury. Obviously, that’s a big man in the middle that helps you. We lost Kenrick Ellis and that’s tough when you lose two guys at the same position. A lot of the time that’s tough on any team.

Again, I think our guys understand that for us, we have to do a much better job stopping the run. When you look at the challenge in front of us, hey, by the way, they run a lot of that zone read and stuff like that, it’s going to take a lot of our practice time to work on it. I’m telling you the facts, like I’ve been telling everybody forever, but they’ve actually did that a ton against Minnesota. We’ll see how much they do it against us. They’ve done a good job running the football. They have the big back and he’s tough.

On avoiding false starts at Seattle…

We’re searching for the answer, that’s for sure. There are some things you have to do, but I’ll feel better talking about it after the game.

On if he believes the team can handle the crowd noise…

Yeah, we do feel that way. I guess we’ll find out if what we think will work will. We know these guys get after it. The crowd is on top of you and they’re loud. We know that’s a challenge also.

On facing the challenges after the halfway point…

We did have those and we did meet those challenges, we did make the playoffs those two years. We faced challenges last year and dropped three straight games. Unfortunately, we’ve been through that as well, so we’ve seen both.

I’ll say this: This team is much closer than I think our team was last year, my team was. That was one of the things I talked about going into training camp. One of my jobs was to make sure this team was back as the type of New York Jet team that we expect, that our fans expect and everything else. That’s guys totally committed to each other and pulling that rope in the right direction. We’re doing that. It’s not showing up on the wins and losses yet, but I’m confident it will.

On if he is confident the offense will improve…

I do and I see us getting better. I know we gave up four sacks two weeks ago, but I think our protections have been better this season. I think we’re running the ball better. I brought the facts and I was wrong. Somebody had it as we were averaging 4.7 a carry our last 97 attempts. I don’t know what happened to those other three, but it was rounded up [laughter]. It was even better than I thought. I had 4.3. But I know we’re getting better in some areas.

We just have to be more consistent and that’s across the board. It’s not just this player, it’s across the board. All of us have to be more consistent and eliminate those self-inflicted wounds. I think our team will be where we need to be when it’s all said and done.

On the team being closer…

I just feel it. I sense it. I guess I’ve made it a big point to be in all of the meeting rooms. I even put in a couple of plays yesterday on offense. I had it drawn upside down for them, of course, but I did put a couple of plays in. It’s really about being a part of it. Being in the locker room more, being in the training room, all over the place. I’m more involved. I’ve been more involved with our offense than I ever have.

I feel good about it. I see the way the guys interact with each other. I see the way they challenge each other on the practice field and all those things. I hear the way they talk. I hear about them getting together off the field and going over tape together and staying here late. Those types of things are things that you notice when you have this thing rolling. Last year, I think we did do some of those things, and I’ve mentioned before, I wasn’t on top of things like I should have been.

On if he took things for granted last year…

I think I really focused on it the first year in particular. The second year we kind of had that thing rolling pretty good. I made a bad calculation. You don’t start from where you left off every year, you start from the bottom, from the floor. That’s something I had to learn as a coach.

On why he didn’t bring Braylon Edwards back this year…

I think it’s always a two-way street. In our situation, we had just drafted a young receiver that we felt great about. We had Santonio Holmes, [Jeremy] Kerley, a young guy that we thought could be a guy that’s on the upside. You’re looking at your roster and you evaluate your team a certain way. Would things have been different had Holmes had an injury earlier? I don’t know.

I’ll say this: I’ve always had a great deal of admiration and respect for Braylon Edwards, as you guys know. I thought when he was here, the way he worked on the practice field, the way he blocked, the way he does the unselfish things on the field, was what I really appreciated about him. That’s a tough guy, there’s no question about it. We do “Playing Like a Jet” videos on Mondays after games and he’d always be in them for his blocks. This guy was a terrific blocker. I think he only had the one or two drops the last year he was here. He had some big years. Both years that he was here, we went to the championship game. Maybe there can be a correlation there as well.

On fixing the special teams errors…

Here’s one that’s pretty easy for me, I remember coming in after the game and there’s [coach Mike] Westhoff and you know it’s going to get fixed. He’s a guy that, he’s never had a game like that in his life. We did give up two returns to Miami for a touchdown but not like this. Not a blocked punt, a blocked field goal, a big return, an onside kick. For his career, he might’ve been lower about this game than he was in the 30 years he’s coached in this league. He’s obviously a guy that takes tremendous amount of pride in his craft and that’s why he’s recognized as the best in this league. 

But sometimes when you look at it, when you have injuries to your football team, even if it’s to a Bart Scott, for instance, then somebody gets pressed into servicing that spot. And what happens is, a lot of times the young players, I’m not just saying Demario Davis, but what happens a lot of times when you press guys into different roles, when they go back to doing special teams, the focus, for whatever reason, sometimes isn’t there. We made a couple mental mistakes that really cost us, but that’s what we have to get back to. 

Our leader on special teams is Eric Smith. When you look at the value that Eric Smith brings to this football team, as a defensive player, we recognize that. He’s in a lot of packages, we play three safeties, he’s just basically a starter out there as a safety. But what he does for your special teams, it’s hard to measure. We give up a kick return where Eric Smith’s spot would be, we give up an onside kick where Eric Smith’s spot would be, we give up a blocked punt, well, Eric might’ve been there. I mean, there’s so many different things. And again, you don’t make excuses but the facts are facts. This guy was a big loss for us and now that he’s back, you feel really good about it. He’s about as smart of a player that I’ve been around so he makes others around him better just with his communication. So I’m really, really happy that Eric’s back.

On the difficulty of cutting ties with players…

Some of the toughest decisions you’ll make as a coach, for me, the toughest thing in football is to cut people. But the other thing: Guys leave. You have Brad Smith in Buffalo. Braylon [Edwards] went to San Francisco. Jason Taylor went back to Miami, Jerricho Cotchery to Pittsburgh. You have all these type of guys, great teammates and great players, but in this business, sometimes you can’t keep everybody you want to. We would have loved to keep our entire team, but that didn’t happen. The day free agency started, we had 19 free agents.

On if he ever wonders if the team should have kept a certain player…

The more time you spend doing that, the less time you are focused on what you have. We have a lot of great people here. The guys that have replaced some of these guys are really good, outstanding young men. I think that’s kind of wasting energy. You can learn from things, but I don’t know what good that would do you. We’ve had more than that. Thomas Jones had [1,402] yards rushing, yet sometimes from financial things, you can’t afford to keep everybody. Alan Faneca was a Pro Bowl player, was terrific for us, but he went to Arizona. There are a lot of things that go into it, but you can’t look back. You can’t look back and say, "I wish I would have done this or that."

On signing Ricky Sapp from the practice squad…

Just the way he has been practicing, he has been a handful for us to block. The young man is a guy that just keeps going. Remember, he had the high ankle sprain in training camp. He was having a great training camp and then he got injured. We really didn’t get a chance to put him out there in games, so he went on the practice squad. He has worked so well. Let’s see what he can do. We will. We’ll find out. He’s going to be active for us and we’ll watch him chase the passer.

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