Just as Jets Nation was forced to pick their heads up and move forth to work Monday morning after the Green & White's AFC Championship loss, Jets players had to come in to Atlantic Health Jets Training Facility this morning for final physicals and to pack up their lockers with the loss to the Colts still fresh in their minds.
"It's going to hang on until we actually make it there and win it," said cornerback Darrelle Revis, who made his first postseason appearance this year. "That's the thing. Games like this stick in your mind and hurt really bad. You just have to improve and just try and work harder."
Few players shuffled in and out of the locker room to grab their things and say goodbye until the off-season program and minicamp schedule begin, while many reporters awaited their reaction. The discontent was clear in their faces, knowing how close they were to playing in South Florida in February.
"To be that one step short of the Super Bowl, it hurts," said safety Jim Leonhard. "It'll hurt until that game is over. I'll watch that game and it'll be frustrating. We're definitely not throwing a Super Bowl party."
Most of the players will return to their different hometowns now. But they won't necessarily lose touch as they return to their families and off-season lives during this bittersweet vacation.
"The one thing about our team is that guys are close," said Revis. "I'm sure guys, even though they'll go their separate ways, will call or text each other and meet up at some point."
Although it still burns and will for a while, players have to take the positives out of losing to the team that won the most NFL regular-season games in the 2000-09 decade and use that as motivation for the future.
"Obviously we need to get better," said Leonhard, who was also on the losing end of last year's AFC Championship Game as a member of the Ravens. "This is a great team. Indianapolis is one of the teams that continuously gets to this level. It's what they're made of and who they are. You have to learn from them and now we have this experience."
"It keeps you hungry," said DT Sione Pouha. "When you don't lift up the Lombardi Trophy at the end, you're always hungry."
Although head coach Rex Ryan and the team's goal of meeting President Obama won't be met this off-season, the coach accomplished a lot with New York's AFC representative.
"I think people know that this team here is going to be one that nobody wants to face," said safety Kerry Rhodes. "They're going to have a stronger defense and an offense that's going to be pretty good next year with the quarterback stepping up. If they keep Braylon [Edwards] and Jerricho [Cotchery] and all those guys and that corps together and Shonn Greene and all those guys running around, it's going to be tough to play us."
"Coach had us understand where we are now and how proud of us he was," said Pouha. "He told us to continue to do what we have to do to get better in the off-season and come back and maybe the extra things that we do in the off-season will be that edge that we need for next year. We totally understand that this opportunity comes far and few between and I think that's what gets us stuck in yesterday still."
While they try to shake the loss from their minds, they can seek comfort in the fact that the outlook is positive. And they're glad to play for a coach who instills confidence in his staff and players.
"I've bought it since the day that Rex was hired here," said Pouha. "I've bought and threw away the receipt and I'm not returning it. I'm not refunding it for anything. I'm here to make what needs to happen, happen."
The Jets went further than any team in the AFC East and only one team was better in the entire conference. They made themselves known across the NFL and proved that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.
"We set the foundation of the team that we want to be and put that out there to the rest of the league of who the New York Jets are and who we're going to be from this point forward," said Leonhard. "We can't be disappointed in that."