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Ryan's Not in Hawaii but His Presence Is Felt


The rain rolled away, except for the mists that flowed down Oahu's ravines and across highway H-1 to spritz car windshields. And so a sunny, breezy day in Hawaii heralded in one more week of NFL football.

The AFC Pro Bowl squad practiced first this morning on the Kapolei High School field 30 miles from downtown Honolulu. And even though the workout was hardly high-intensity and lasted for a few ticks under an hour, AFC and Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh liked what he saw.

"It doesn't really hit you until you stood in front of this team last night," Harbaugh said after the first of five practices this week before Sunday's game. "We've got a pretty good team."

And the Jets' contingent helped make it so. Six members of the Green & White were there in their red and white uniforms. Thomas Jones looked every bit as muscular and quick-cutting as he did during the season. Leon Washington showed his speed getting out of the backfield and snaring some short Peyton Manning passes. Alan Faneca and Nick Mangold worked along the offensive line. Kris Jenkins looked fine at nose. Darrelle Revis kept step with Texans WR Andre Johnson.

Before the NFC players took the same field a few minutes later, Harbaugh met with reporters leaving the field. I asked him how it felt being the head coach of the AFC's runnerup squad coaching in this game but without his defensive coordinator — new Jets head coach Rex Ryan, of course — who helped make the Ravens' success happen this season.

"No doubt, Rex and also Mike Pettine, they deserve to be out here, too," Harbaugh said, adding into the conversation Pettine, who went from Baltimore LBs coach to Jets D-coordinator. "Buddy Ryan used to say 'There's a winner in town,' you know? The Jets are going to love every practice and every meeting. Rex is a highly competitive guy. He's awesome."

Harbaugh could've given the coachingly correct response without the extra sincerity, but sincere is what he does. In fact, that trait has rubbed off on his Ravens staff. I asked Jenkins back at the players' hotel, the Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa further west in Kapolei if he'd had a chance to communicate with Ryan yet and what his first impressions were. He smiled and dropped his voice a conspiratorial 10 decibels.

"I think it's going to be a good year," Jenkins said. "A lot of the coaches here are telling me that I'm going to enjoy him. It's good. I'm looking forward to this."

But before jumping into Ryan's and Pettine's defensive plans, Big Jenk will be playing in another Pro Bowl. He's been to Hawaii before but he said it never gets old.

"Nope, never does. It's an honor. This is paradise," he said, looking around at the Ihilani with its saltwater pond stocked with hammerhead sharks and stingrays and the white-sand lagoon and Pacific Ocean just beyond. "To get to play football with everybody who's been selected as the best ... it's tops."

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