It's moving time for Rex Ryan and the New York Jets. And while he may be a rookie NFL head coach, Ryan doesn't plan on changing his annual summer message before he shuffles off to SUNY Cortland.
"Every time he leaves for training camp, his line is 'Goodbye my dear, football is here" as he's driving off in his truck. It's his standard procedure," said Michelle Ryan, Rex's better half. "I stand on the porch and he rolls down the window and waves and says, 'See you in six months.'"
Listening to his softspoken wife, Ryan smiled and nodded his head.
"That's the truth," he belted as he smiled that familiar grin. "That's exactly right."
Truth be told, Ryan's not going to be accepting phone calls until January or February. He'll return to New Jersey in late August but that doesn't mean he'll be returning any summer messages.
"People will call up and want to know if they can speak to Rex and I'll say, 'No, he's not here,' " Michelle said. " 'When will be a good time to check?' "
"February," Rex deadpanned the answer.
Ryan, who served as the Ravens' defensive coordinator the past four seasons and spent the past decade as a defensive assistant in B-More, hasn't planned some elaborate motivational speech for his first training camp meeting.
"Just be honest. I'm not a rah-rah guy, but maybe I am in a way. I'm just myself. I'll let them know how I feel and what I expect in training camp and that's it," he told newyorkjets.com editor-in-chief Randy Lange and myself last week. "But again, we've always said it from day one that we expect everything they got. We want great teammates, we want guys who care about each other, guys that are passionate about helping teammates out and being physical and playing that brand of football. If you're not, you can go play someplace else."
The Jets won't accept soft football players. Don't be fooled by Ryan's smile and his tremendous laugh — he will prove to be equal parts ruthless and methodical to his opponents. And he's inheriting a team that won eight of its first 11 games last season, that's talented, but that was missing something down the stretch as it lost four of five games to miss the postseason for a second consecutive season.
So many members of Jets Nation have a chip on their shoulders, but so does their new leader. For years, Ryan has listened to many people say he wouldn't be where he is without his famous father, Buddy.
"I was a guy who was going to prove it to you and outwork you and outprepare you. My guys were going to be prepared and they were going to play at a certain type of tempo, a certain kind of passion and a certain kind of physicality," he said. "That's the brand of football I want and I'm confident that we have the players and the coaches to get that kind of thing going here."
Ryan has already endeared himself to the Jets organization by simply instilling confidence in workers at every departmental level. The common refrain in Florham Park has been not only do people like this new leader, but they'd feel ashamed to let him down. There will be only so many roster spots available on this '09 Jets team and Ryan is not about to keep any weak links.
"My job right now through training camp is let's make sure we have the right guys, that we are keeping the right guys," Ryan said. "Those are things I am looking for — who's a great teammate and who are going to be the guys you want in that foxhole with you?
"We will not keep a soft football player. If a guy is an individual and he wants to break from the pack, maybe somebody can do a good job disguising it, but we're going to weed it out and that's what it's all about. It's about the football team, it's about the unit you play on, and I think we need to establish that during this training camp as well as knock the snot out of each other."
Snot may have not been flying in the spring but Ryan was pleased with what the Jets accomplished before camp. The additions of a number of former Ravens, including ILB Bart Scott, S Jim Leonhard and DL Marques Douglas and Howard Green, helped Ryan set a tone in the spring.
"I think we're way ahead. When you look at what we accomplished in the spring, it was more about teaching our way of doing things — the way we wanted to practice, the tempo we wanted to establish on the practice field and trying to get our systems taught," he said.
On the Radar we've targeted our Top 25 Hot Topics of Camp, or at least the first 15 Sizzlin' Subjects, for fans this afternoon heading into the Jets' first ever training camp at Cortland. Then before you know it, the Green & White will open their 50th season in Houston on Sunday, Sept. 13.
"The great thing is we get to prove it in September and that's where I want to prove it," Ryan said. "That's where I have my whole career and that's where I will prove it again this year."