Transcript of Jets head coach Rex Ryan's news conference Wednesday afternoon:
We had Thomas and Leon out here the first day of this week. It was kind of like the great equalizer. When you see the defense, as you guys put it, ahead of the offense, the great equalizer is those two guys. Leon wasn't here today, obviously. His fiancée, Charity, gave birth to a son, Noel.
I think Leon made a great decision because I missed my second kid being born and it's hard to get over that one. Every time it's his birthday, my wife gives me a different look, so I think he made a great decision to be there. I was at an OTA, too, when my youngest one was born. It was a stupid decision, a young-coach move, obviously. I was in Arizona and that year my dad got the head coaching job, so we were fielding questions on nepotism all the time so I never wanted to show favoritism. That was probably my biggest regret in coaching, that I missed my second kid being born. Anyway, great move by Leon by being there.
As a football team, you're seeing our guys develop. We started the team period working on different teams in our division. We look pretty good. I won't say the opponent we were up against today, but like I told Schotty [offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer], "Just keep feeding Thomas that ball." That looked pretty good. With that big offensive line we have and those backs, everything is looking good over there.
The quarterbacks have had their moments this week, some ups and downs. We had a couple of balls, that statistically maybe doesn't show we had that many interceptions, but we had too many that bounced off defenders' hands today. We've got to do a better job of making sure we're not forcing things, we're just putting it out there where our guy can catch it and no one else. I know Mark [Sanchez] underthrew a guy today and I know he wishes he had that throw back. He made some great throws, but it's that one throw that can sometimes be the difference. Sometimes you might not hit all the perfect throws, but we've got to eliminate the bad ones. I think our guys are doing a decent job of that.
I'm excited about our tempo out there. Schotty and his crew did quite a bit of no-huddle today in the 7-on-7 period. We've been doing that throughout these camps, which I think is great for our offense. It's also great for our defense because there'll be times when you're tired and you have to go again. One way of stopping a no huddle team is making them go three-and-out or getting a turnover. So that's a challenge to the defense.
We're really coming around. We've done all kinds of what we call mock situations. Today we had eight seconds on the clock and one timeout, and we need a few more yards before you can kick that field goal. You have to give yourself up. You tell the officials you're doing it and that guy's got to take a knee and give himself up. That's something you don't see very often. A lot of times you'll see teams who will try to take a shot at the end zone or get a quick out-route or something like that. But you can catch a ball inbounds and give yourself up as well and call a timeout.
We were working on those things today. We're working on everything. I know Mike Westhoff has our special teams working backed up, taking safeties, kick returns after a safety, so we're way ahead of the game right now and that's good.
On Dave Harris not practicing…
We're keeping him away from contact for the next couple of weeks. There's no sense doing it. The guy's been phenomenal. It's good because you're getting all the mental work and all that kind of stuff out there, but it's something where we'd rather be safe than sorry.
On Harris' injury…
He had some stitches in the lip. I don't know exactly how many. We're keeping that from New England [laughter]. He had a few teeth that are loose. We're just making sure everything is fine. The young man is getting married in three weeks, so really it wasn't our trainers that made that decision, it was his fiancée. No, I'm just kidding.
On Shonn Greene getting knocked down in practice…
Shonn went down. He got hit in the belly. He's OK. We looked at him and he looks good. It's no big deal.
On Bryan Thomas's role in this defense…
Well, right now he's a starter for us. I believe he's in almost every package. I think Mike [Pettine] and his guys got him in every package. He's a phenomenal athlete. You see that now, in this kind of system, and I'm not saying he'll be better in this system compared to another one, but I think we're going to notice him a lot more. He's going to be asked to do more with his athleticism.
He's an amazing athlete. He' probably a sub-4.5 guy in the 40, got great height, can change directions, so we're going to use his athleticism. He reminds me a little of [Patriots LB] Adalius Thomas, but he's got better change-of-direction skills than AD does. AD is maybe a little more powerful than Bryan, but he's smart. I never saw his SAT scores, but he's a smart guy on the football field.
Like I said, we expect big things out of him. Now you're going to say we expect big things out of everyone, it seems like. You're right.
On being certain that Vernon Gholston will make a big step up from last season…
You rely on your teammates. He realizes now that this is it. Turn it loose. Everybody's going to play the same way and that's the Jets way. We all know he's fast, we all know he's strong, he's all that kind of stuff. Now lets see it on the field.
I think he's starting to show that. I like the way he's moving on the field. He gets better every day. Mike Pettine is doing a great job working with him on playing the run. He's knocking guys back. He's falling in on tackles underneath him, which a lot of times doesn't happen. Most young guys get straight up the field. So he's starting to really learn the game a little bit. I think he's doing a good job picking up the system as well.
On undrafted rookie TE Jack Simmons "taking a quantum leap"…
I don't know about the quantum leap. We're going to have to really see when we get the pads on. He does stand out every time you turn around. It's like "Hey, which one is that?" because there's seven of them [tight ends] out there.
But he's doing a good job, he really is. They have nicknames for some of these guys. You're going to have to ask the players about him. I don't want to speak for the players. He kind of grows on you a little bit. I laugh about at it because [TE coach Mike] Devlin's got these guys through the chutes so they're part offensive linemen, part receivers, and he's got all these marks on the back of his helmet. You might want to stay down a little in those chutes. I'm no expert, but I don't think the helmet's supposed to look like that.
I like the guy. He's a tough kid. He pushes off pretty well, so he's already learning a few of those tricks along the way.
On if Simmons was targeted right after the draft….
He was actually on a tryout basis. He wasn't really signed. He's had to climb up a long road. The one where here's how much chance you have, well, he's already stepped it up a bit. The same thing happened to Jim Leonhard last year and I don't know how much we paid him. It doesn't matter with us. We're going to play the best guys and we don't care where we get them from.
On Kerry Rhodes saying "We will be the best defense in the league" on his Twitter page…
I like that. I love the fact that he put "we will," not "I will be the best safety". He's talking about "we" and that's good. I think the confidence you're seeing on both sides is in their units and that's great. That's where it should be. I'm excited about that comment. Is he the next Ed Reed or is he going to be the next Jack Tatum? I love the fact that he is talking about we will have the best defense. I think he's smart, too.
On the reason players are confident about learning a new system…
It has nothing to do with me. They believe in each other. They believe in the staff and the fact that it's encouraged. The only way that you can be successful and to have that kind of unit that Kerry is talking about is if you do it and believe in it collectively. If you don't, then it doesn't work. I guess it would never work because I've never been around a group that didn't believe. I'm so excited about this one here. Yes, we're different. We're different than we were in Baltimore. We're different than at the University of Oklahoma. Again, the focus is on the unit.
What do we have? Well, we have a lot of great athletes. We got a lot of tall guys that can change direction. We got the big guy in the middle. We've got some young defensive linemen that are going to help. We've got the old guy that looks terrible in [Marques] Douglas. We got a lot of things, but that is who we are. That's kind of neat.
Look at our offensive line. We've got some big guys that aren't really good-looking, but we got talent there. We've got some great players on that offensive line. We've got great backs. We have a collection of receivers that is a good group. Again, if we're focused on the individual, some of those things that are written are probably fair and accurate, we don't have this guy or that guy, but what we have is a collection of good receivers.
That's how I view our football team and that's why I'm so confident in that group.
On if he were told he would have to change his relaxed personality to succeed in coaching…
It wouldn't have mattered if they did because I've been around it long enough to know I'm never going to be successful if I was going to be someone else. You've just got to be yourself. What works for me is the fact that I am myself. If I would have said "I'm going to be Buddy Ryan, I'm going to be Mike Ditka, I'm going to be Bud Grant, I'm going to be Bob Mazie" — my old college coach that I couldn't stand but I admire now — it wouldn't have worked.
The fact that I'm just myself is part of the reason I'm successful and obviously the biggest reason is the people that I surround myself with, the guys that I have working with me from the coaching staff, support staff and the most important, the players. That's why I've been most successful.
On things changing in football so that men like him can be successful in football with his personality…
I think a guy like me would always be successful because I'm honest and I care about people, that's why. Would I have been successful 50 years ago? I believe I would have been. I don't think anything changes. If you care about people and they know that and you surround yourself with good people, it's hard not to be successful. Again, we're all successful. It's not just me individually. It's we all will succeed. That's what you're looking to do. You want to do it consistently. It's not just a one-year hit. To be good, you have to believe in what you're doing and you've got to have the people around you.
On if he was always confident about getting a job as a head coach…
There was a big doubt last year. When I never got a head coaching job last year, I was like this isn't going to happen for whatever reason. I thought I was right for a particular team and was passed over, but it made me focus. I told the GM of that team that I would make the league pay because I'm going to get a chance to coach a group of guys that I believe in and they believe in me and we'll see what happens. We're going to be so good that I'm going to get a job.
It was kind of like a driving deal. That became a "me" thing. That drove me as an individual. I'm so fortunate now. I look back and say "Wow, look at the situation you're in now." We have no excuses. All we have to do is go out and play the way I think we're capable of playing and this will be fantastic.
On encouraging players instead of pointing out what they need to work on…
Anything I do is not driven from anything that has happened in the past. It's just who I am. Again, I'm not an undersell guy. Undersell and then go 8-8. Undersell and overproduce. That's all fine and dandy if we overproduce by winning the Super Bowl. But if we undersell just to be average, I'm not here for the security of it. I want to be special. I want a group of guys that does something that makes history. That's what we want collectively as an organization. That's our goal. That's our driving force.
Look at these buildings. This facility here that Woody [Johnson] put together was not to go .500. It's to win championships and multiple championships. So we'll see if I'm the right guy for it. Woody has the right drive for it and that's what he wants. That's certainly what I want. That's certainly what our coaches, players and staff want.
On the progress of Kareem Brown at TE…
He's better than he was last week when he got that chest injury [laughing]. Kareem is a great young man. He works hard and that's not easy. When you cross over trying to play a different position, it's all fun when you're running off of cards, but now you have a system to learn. We're very multiple on offense, so you've got to be sharp and he's a sharp young man. He's done a good job of picking up the system. He competes awful hard. I have a tough time believing he won't be successful. With what he puts into it, I'll be shocked if he's not successful.
On Gholston's role this season…
It's hard to really say a specific role. I just know he's going to be a big part of what we do and a big part of our success, whether that's being a backup in base and a guy that plays the sub teams. We're just finding our way with what we have. I don't look at it as a defense where we just have 11 starters. I think we've got a lot of starters. I see that man all day. It's hard not to enjoy watching him play. I see him as a starter. It may not be in every package, but it's going to be in some packages. I think Vernon will definitely be able to help us this year. We're expecting him to.
On having confidence in Gholston…
I'm confident in what I see right now. I think his confidence is up. I believe in the guys that we have teaching him and coaching him. You can tell he wants to be out there. He wants to be part of that group. I see him where he's accepted. It's the Jets defense. There is a lot of pride in that.
The tough thing is, I know where Vernon was drafted and all that kind of stuff. There's expectations for him individually. We're wrong by doing that. We just need to place our expectations on that unit. If we do that, sometimes in the stats, he may not show up individually or this player might not show up, but he might play a great game.
I remember Jarret Johnson had as good a game as I had ever seen and he made one tackle. Yet he created a lot of tackles for other people. He was frustrated because everyone wants the numbers, but he played a great game. Again, I know you guys are going to be "Well, he only had three tackles or one sack, whatever it is." That's fine, but let's see how this group does. Let's see how we perform collectively. I know we'll be happy with Vernon.
On if he has seen progress from Gholston after previously saying that if Gholston can't succeed under this coaching staff, he isn't going to…
Absolutely. I said that because, at the time, I had so much confidence in the system. I had so much confidence in the guys coaching them. I knew in my heart that this group would take off and he would come with it. That's what we're seeing right now.
On running back Shonn Greene…
He's just a tough rascal that can pound that football. You saw it in there today. His ribs got a little tender today, but he's an in-between-the-tackles runner. He can get the tough yards. If you're going to say what quarter is going to be Shonn Greene's quarter, I would say it's going to be the fourth. Everyone in the ballpark will know "Hey, Shonn, jump on in there." He'll pound it. The other guys get the good yards and let Shonn get the dirty yards. I see him being that kind of back, I really do.
On QB Erik Ainge…
It seems like the guys rally around him. For a quarterback, that's really important to have that. Part of it is they know that he's an intelligent guy. He knows all the plays. It's not just based on ability. I think he does have ability. There's something, I can't really put my finger on it, but he has something. The guys really want him to succeed and, obviously, he has talent as well.
Sometimes, early in these OTAs, Brian [Schottenheimer] and [Matt] Cavanaugh do a great drill where they're side by side and they're going up and down the field, turning around and things like that. I remember early, I never thought he was in the best shape. Conditioning kind of got him a little bit early and his passes were wobbling. I think he's getting better right now as far as his conditioning and things. I think he has a chance to be a decent quarterback.