Any player on the Jets will admit the departure of super-intense head coach Eric Mangini has made the atmosphere at training camp much looser. Oddly enough, though, it seems the team is poised to show more fire on the field under its new leader, Rex Ryan.
New York watched its potentially special season go down the drain in the final five weeks of the 2008-09 campaign once Brett Favre began throwing too many interceptions, and a lack of passion enabled the Miami Dolphins, of all teams, to represent the AFC East in the playoffs.
It was a foregone conclusion the Jets organization would enter this season with a chip on its shoulder. After all, owner Woody Johnson and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum had to believe no way, no how a second-half collapse would occur under Ryan and his hard-nosed methods on the defensive side of the ball.
The first step toward severing the mental edge held by the Patriots and Dolphins came during Monday morning’s practice at SUNY Cortland, as three fights amongst players broke out.
“It was a little rock-‘em-sock-‘em robots out there,” Ryan said, according to the team’s web site. “It always happens in camp.”
Perhaps the creed of Ryan, the architect of Baltimore’s successful defensive unit over the previous four years, and the arrival of one of his Ravens defectors, linebacker Bart Scott, have injected the fragile Jets with a heavy dose of intensity necessary to compete in the rough waters of the AFC.
"It’s not budging, not giving an inch," Scott said. "It’s not being like thugs. It’s just being a guy that’s willing not to back down from any situation. Sometimes, you’ll get people of two equal forces butting heads.
“Sometimes there’s going to be some attitude, some fisticuffs a little bit. Once we get in the locker room, it’s all over with. It’s good for practice.”
In fact, players might be seeing the benefits of added adrenaline never experienced with Mangini, who was notoriously known for spending too much time reprimanding players for mistakes and punishing them with unnecessary laps around the perimeters of the field.
“Oh, yeah, no question; everybody has their own style,” tackle Damien Woody told the New York Daily News. “Coach Ryan believes in putting the accountability on the players. As players, we police ourselves, with no coaches hovering."
Ryan was encouraged when he witnessed running back Thomas Jones throw some haymakers at James Ihedigbo after absorbing a hard hit, minutes before two more brawls commenced.
“I let them know at the end of practice that I don’t need them fighting each other,” Ryan said. “Sometimes it’s good to let off a little steam. Things like that happen. But I sense there’s a lot of pride in their particular units.
“There’s pride in that defense, pride in that offense. What you’re going to see, I think, is you’re going to have pride in that whole team.”
Under Ryan, the Jets are utilizing that apparent overload of intensity to erase the gap between their current states of uncertainty and becoming a legitimate contender, one punch at a time.