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Ditka? Jace Amaro Knows Just What Rex Means

Posted Aug 18, 2014

Jets Rookie TE Continued His Improvement with All-Around Showing vs. the Bengals

Rex Ryan was asked after the preseason win in Cincinnati which rookies might have jumped out to him.

"The one kid reminded me of Ditka. No. 88 did," Ryan said. He was of course referring to rookie TE Jace Amaro. The coach may have been making a point but he wasn't being facetious.

And Jace knew exactly what his head coach meant.

"After the first game, Coach Ryan said something about Mike Ditka," Amaro told me in the locker room after today's first practice back at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. "I knew exactly what he meant: Go out there and play hard and play tough like he did.

"That's the way I felt like I played Saturday. I felt like I played a lot more physical, did a lot better job with the blocking, caught the ball. I felt good about it."

Amaro got his first pro start against the Bengals due to Jeff Cumberland's aching Achilles and he acquitted himself well. He was in for 34 plays, tied with Stephen Hill for the most by any Jets skill player. He turned in two receptions for 24 yards and had an 18-yard first-down grab wiped out by an O-line holding call.

And No. 88 contributed some of his improved blocking on the perimeter for our ground game, which sprung Chris Johnson for 63 yards on 10 carries and Bilal Powell for 41 yards on four carries. The Jets averaged 6.9 yards per carry in the first half.

This Ryan-Ditka-Amaro sidebar took on a life of its own when it was reported last week from Cortland that Amaro was dismissive of his coach's advice to watch No. 89, "Iron Mike," in his prime. The rookie said that's not what he was saying.

"I guess some people got it twisted that I didn't want to go watch those tapes or I denied a request," Amaro said. "But me and Coach Ryan, we have a great relationship. I know exactly what he was talking about, I knew exactly what he meant. And I would never disrespect any of my coaches like that."

Especially not Ryan, who seems to be applying some tough love to his second-rounder out of Texas Tech.

"Coach Ryan's a great guy. He's hard on me, and I expect that, I want him to be hard on me," Jace said. "He knows how I can play and he knows how he wants me to play."

In short, like Ditka. Amaro's never met the former Bears, Eagles and Cowboys great, but another reason he didn't go to the videotape last week is because over the years as a sports fan and an emerging tight end, he's seen a few of Ditka's highlight clips.

"He's one of the best players every to play the game, and of course he's someone you want to model off of," Amaro said. "He's a great player and I have all the respect for him and what he did."

Amaro may have to get up to speed very quickly, since Cumberland's injury, while not expected to linger, could necessitate a rookie being ready to step into the starting lineup on opening day against the Raiders just in case.

Such a prospect wouldn't have bothered Ditka, and it doesn't faze Amaro.

"I feel really comfortable now with the playbook, the routes. I feel once I settle down a little bit and get confident, I'm really going to show what I can do," he said, adding about a potential start Sept. 7, "If Jeff can't play, yeah, of course, I don't expect anything less. I would feel comfortable. I felt good about it last game. So I think that's really the bottom line."




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WATCH: Powell: Geno 'Showing Growth & Composure'
WATCH: IK: Rex Got Us Ready to Play

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