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REX: I Felt Like I Got Kicked in the Head

Posted Dec 18, 2013

Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's Wednesday afternoon news conference.

I thought practice was pretty good today. We made a few more mistakes than we have the last couple of weeks. We’re putting that wishbone in offensively, so that’s probably one of the issues [joking]. But no, you put a couple new things in, you have a new opponent, but it wasn’t as sharp. I thought Geno [Smith] threw the ball well. I’m glad we never played today, that we have time to fix some things, but I thought the practice was good. We’re flying around, the intensity was good, we just have to clean a few things up.

As far as injuries today: Kellen Winslow did not practice. That’s that knee injury and that’s the pitch count type deal that we’ve been doing the last few weeks. Guys that we’re limited today: Antonio Cromartie with his hip, Santonio Holmes with foot and hamstring, Ellis Lankster with a jaw and Sheldon Richardson with a wrist and finger. Everybody else was full.

On Richardson getting hurt in the Carolina game…

Yeah. Pretty much, it looks like D-linemen injuries right there, wrist and fingers. Probably broke one sitting here [joking]. He’s fine. He’s a D-lineman, or fullback if you will. But, he’s had that for a while. I don’t know how many of our D-linemen don’t have something like that. Most of them have those things on their hands, wrists, thumbs, whatever. But he should be fine.

On if Austin Howard is alright…

Yes.

On if Holmes reaggravated his hamstring injury…

Well no, he was fine. He was just limited. He looked good today, he really did. Like I said, he might’ve been limited on a few things, but he looked fine to me.

On Howard being limited in the early portion of practice…

Yeah, but he was full by the time [practice ended]. We just held him out so you guys would think he’s out [joking]. I’m just telling you he was out there, so he did all the team reps and things. He was fine.

On his message to the team today, now that they are out of playoff contention…

Well, the team felt like I did, I think everybody did, which was kind of unanimous that the guy kicked the ball for a 61-yard field goal and things like that. But, myself included, I felt like I got kicked in the head. I know, look, it was going to be a stretch, but you’re hanging on hope and so, we all watched it. There’s no question I watched it and as soon as he made it, it’s like man. That’s your mission every year is to get in the playoffs and then let’s see what happens. Even though our hopes were slim, I’d much rather have that than be here today in front of you with no chance of making the playoffs. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to play incredibly hard and everything else because we will. But man, I hated to see that happen.

On if he watched Justin Tucker’s 61-yard field goal live…

Yeah, I saw it live.

On his thoughts while Tucker was lining up for the 61-yard field goal…

My thoughts were I was hoping they were going to go for it on fourth down because we know this kid can boot it and he’s accurate and all that, and I thought he’d make it. I wasn’t surprised he made that kick because the kid, he’s a phenomenal kicker. But, I was hoping they’d go for it. I felt better about Detroit stopping them on fourth down than I did this kid missing from 61, which sounds crazy. And you still though, when he’s out there, it’s 61 yards and he drills it.

On why he’s felt his assistant coaches have done a good job to this point…

I just know. I see guys, they’ve been doing a good job of teaching, developing and I think that’s the mark of a good coach. They’re demanding. I see us getting better, I do. There are different challenges, the coaches have had different challenges. I look at Sanjay [Lal] with some receivers that just, ‘Hey, we just got a guy up, well, he’s starting.’ We kid about that, but that’s really happened. But, there’s different challenges each coach has faced, but I think collectively, I think our guys have done a great job.

On if he’s gotten the most out of his players on this roster…

Well again, like I said, every game we go out we think we’ve got a chance to win. As a coach, you try to put your guys in a situation where they can be successful. Obviously, that hasn’t happened, our record is what it is, but I think we’re doing a good job of it. Like I said, we’ve made mistakes. We’ve made mistakes as coaches, I’ve certainly made mistakes, players have made mistakes, but I think generally, overall, we’ve put forth the effort and I do think we’re getting better.

On the defense the last three weeks…

Again, it’s interesting because we’ve regressed statistically in some areas, some areas we’ve gotten much better. It’s weird because we’ve emphasized it and I mentioned it before, we emphasized the ball being thrown over our head. Well, it’s not going over our head, it’s going underneath us and we’re not tackling as well as we need to. That’s been a problem. Run defense has been as good as it’s been. So, clearly we have to step up in that area. The red zone has been outstanding. So, I would agree with you, we haven’t played as well. But again, we’ve got two weeks left and this is going to be a huge challenge. This team right here, I think, on both sides of the ball, if you look at [Jason] Campbell when he’s come in at quarterback, they’ve probably played at a top ten offense and a top ten defense. So, we’re certainly going to have our work cut out for us.

On why Darius Reynaud was inactive against Carolina…

Because I was trying to get different guys up. With their kickoff guy, we didn’t think we’d be returning a kick, so that was one of the reasons in there. We knew we were going to go after their punt and so, we had Kyle [Wilson] back there, who’s done it in the past for us as a returner.

On who are his most improved players this season…

Well, I don’t know. There’s a lot of guys that have made strides. A lot of guys have improved. But, I think the ones that would jump out at me, clearly you have, I think the communication starts with [Dawan] Landry. Done a great job back there. But, Demario Davis, I think his play has really improved, which you’d expect from a young player, but I see him getting better. You look at the young safeties, Antonio Allen specifically, I think he’s improved quite a bit. The D-line, Snacks [Damon Harrison], the way he’s played, is nothing short of impressive. So, there’s guys. But a guy in my opinion, it sounds crazy and he’s played 11 years in the league, that is playing as good now as he ever has is Calvin Pace. And I think that just shows you the commitment that he’s had, that he’s had in his offseason condition. The fact that we’ve asked him to do several different roles and he’s accepted every single one and he’s gotten better. He’s gotten better as a pass rusher. I think he’s got nine sacks on the season. His play, it’s been super. Hopefully, he’s able to get that 10th sack. That would be a little cherry on top because you want to get that double digits, but it’s been more than just the sacks for him. His play has been outstanding.

On if the success of last season’s rookie QBs created unrealistic expectations for rookies starting at quarterback…

I understand where you’re coming from with that. I think the history of this league though shows you that rookie quarterbacks, no matter how good you are, struggle. You go back to a Troy Aikman, I think Dallas won one game that year and by the way, I don’t think he was the quarterback. You’ve had Peyton Manning struggle, Eli Manning struggle, a lot of these great quarterbacks have struggled, but you’re right. Russell Wilson comes in, he has a big year. Joe Flacco, when I was with him in Baltimore, goes to a championship game as rookie. Mark Sanchez goes as a rookie to a championship game. Ben Roethlisberger as well. I think the game, because of the way the college game is played, that some of these young guys coming in the league have a better opportunity of being successful earlier than maybe what it used to be. But again, I don’t know about exceptions or whatever, specifically for Geno or not. I think he was gotten better and like I said, in areas that aren’t picked up statistically.

On his confidence level of Smith going forward…

Again, his career that I’m worried about right now is on Sunday against Cleveland and that’s where my thought is. I think the young man will have a very bright future. But, with that being said, it’s all about Sunday and I don’t want think past that.

On Josh Gordon and who he would compare him to…

I don’t know, the guy’s a tremendous run-after-the-catch guy. He’s leading the league in yardage. He’s leading the league per catch at almost 20 yards a catch. Big, strong, fast guy, but he’s physical and his run after the catch is the thing that jumps out at me. I don’t know who you really compare him with. Maybe like an Andre Johnson. I know earlier in his career, I remember thinking, ‘Oh boy.’ Like this guy, his run after the catch was extraordinary and so that’s what this guy is. I mean, he leads the league in receiving yards and he missed two games. He’s been an impressive guy.

On if the team was interested in trading for Gordon earlier in the season…

Again, I know our guys are familiar with all the players in the league and things like that. I never had that conversation.

On if it’s disappointing that Smith has not improved over the course of the season…

See again, he had that stretch of three games that I think brings it down. And I can understand that, and again, that’s not saying we shouldn’t consider that because we absolutely should. But, I think when Jeremy [Kerley] has been out there and Holmes has been out there a little bit, I think it gives us a better opportunity to see what this young man can do. But, I’ve seen him improve and certainly in a lot of areas. Statistically it doesn’t jump off the chart, but I know he’s getting better.

On which areas Smith is improving in…

I think one of them that is, I think he’s accurate with the football, he’s more accurate with the football, but I think he’s done a nice job on the move. And I think the other thing he’s done is he’s used his legs better than he has at any point and this is going to his college career as well. He’s had mobility, but never necessarily ran with it in college. I think when you look at his average, I think we’d be surprised. He’s maybe one yard or something, but he’s certainly made some plays that way. His footwork has been much better as far as his depth – three-step drops, five-steps, seven-step. I think he’s got a better feel for pressure in the pocket than he’s done. And the thing that I know has been greatly improved is the way he’s protected the football in the pocket and that’s something that’s hard to do. But, I’ve definitely seen that.

On how much he thinks Smith can benefit from another season working with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg…

I really do and I understand the question, but for us to really talk about anything outside of Sunday, I don’t think is really where our focus is. Our focus is, hey, get better. I say he’s got probably a bright future in front of him, but that future needs to be Sunday and that’s where our attention is. So, anything past that I think is maybe for a different time. But, right now it’s all about seeing what we can do Sunday. 

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