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Schwartz On Sports: Jets/Ravens Preview

(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

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By Peter Schwartz

After getting used to their new home with two pre-season games, the Jets will play their first regular season game in the New Meadowlands Stadium tonight.

From 1984 through 2009, the Jets players, coaches, staff, and fans had to deal with playing in Giants Stadium. For many of those years, driving into the complex on gamedays meant looking up at that big blue sign.

“It was kind of difficult when you’re pulling up to a stadium and it says someone else’s name on the stadium,” said wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. “It feels good to be able to go into this stadium. Everything is green on that day. We’re able to call it our home. We’re excited. It feels like home when we’re in there and we’re going to treat it like home.”

Running back LaDainian Tomlinson will be making his Jets debut tonight. After nine seasons with the Chargers, Tomlinson has a new lease on life with Gang Green. Over his last few seasons in San Diego, Tomlinson has heard all of the whisper from around the league that he is washed up and has lost a step.

With a new team, Tomlinson comes into the 2010 season with a chip on his shoulder.

“I think every year you have something to prove,” said the five time Pro-Bowler. “That’s the way I approach it. Probably more so than any other year because I’m with a new team, I’m going to approach it that way. I’m always motivated (and) excited to play.”

Tomlinson was actually on the receiving end of a compliment from Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis this week. Tomlinson and Lewis are friends so the leader of the Ravens defense took some time away from his verbal sparring session with Jets head coach Rex Ryan to give his buddy a pat on the back.

For those who think that Tomlinson has nothing left in the tank, Lewis says think again.

“Everybody has their own opinion about people being washed up,” said Leiws. “I’m always going to protect my players. I don’t think anyone is washed up until whenever you’re done, you’re done. Anytime you see a guy like LT, it wasn’t his fault that San Diego’s offensive line didn’t produce or they went without a fullback (by) letting go Lorenzo Neil. A lot of factors came into (people) talking about he’s not the same anymore. If you watch the man play football, the man plays football better than probably any back in (the) game right now. That’s one thing, if you don’t respect that he’ll hurt you with it.”

Lewis said that Tomlinson as one of the three or four best running backs in the game. While Tomlinson is appreciative of the gesture, he certainly understands that there’s some gamesmanship involved.

“He’s going to try and tear my head off,” said Tomlinson. “He’s buttering me up. We have a lot of respect for each other.”

Lewis and Ryan also have plenty of respect for each other but that didn’t stop them from a friendly war of words this past week. Lewis was asked about Ryan’s confidence and all of the talk about the Jets being a favorite to go to the Super Bowl.

“The only danger it can be is writing the check that you can’t cash,” said Lewis. “Rex can talk all he wants to. Rex isn’t putting on pads, so that’s pressure on his players. If it’s pressure and his players respond to that then let them respond. At the same time, you put that bulls-eye on your team’s head. They’re doing all this talking. They’re in the Super Bowl. Ok. Do what you do. Come Monday night no matter what you do, the whistle has got to blow and somebody has to get hit.”

Ryan has never met a microphone, notepad, or subject that he doesn’t like. In fact the only thing that has muzzled him during his time with the Jets was the media blackout during the Darrelle Revis negotiations. So it’s not a surprise that Rex fired back at Lewis with even more words of confidence.

“That’s fine,” said Ryan. “He does know me. We’re fortunate I’m not in pads. We’ll definitely agree to that. By speaking what I believe the truth, I don’t think it’s anything to get fired up about. If you need to put it up in your locker room, go for it. The good thing is we get to play the game on Monday. We’ll get to see. Obviously, if you’re going to choose an opponent to open up your new stadium and start your season, you wouldn’t choose Baltimore. I certainly didn’t choose them, but that’s who’s on the schedule and we’ll line up and play. The great thing is we get to compete and we’ll see it. I know they’re going to be ready and popping out of their skin. I got news for you, so are we. This is going to be a great game. It’s going to be a physical contest and I think it’s going to be a game that people are going to remember.”

It will be a game that features Shonn Greene as the Jets starting running back with Tomlinson seeing just as much action on the field. I would also expect that there would be plenty of occasions where both backs are on the field at the same time.

“Both of those guys are going to be heavily involved in every week’s game plan,” said Ryan.

Tony Richardson will be the starting fullback over rookie John Conner. However, the third round pick from Kentucky will get playing time. “The Terminator” will have ample opportunity to let the Ravens know that he is around.

“We’ll start him on special teams,” said Ryan.

Some other storylines for the opener……

CARRYING THE LOAD WITHOUT SANTONIO

With wide receiver Santonio Holmes serving a four game suspension to start the season, other member of the Jets offense will have to pick up the slack. The Jets will have Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, and Brad Smith as their top three wide receivers but I would expect that Dustin Keller would be an even bigger part of the offense than in seasons past. I caught up with him this past week and we talked about a number of topics including the new stadium, the first game, and what to expect from the Jets offense.

Listen to the interview…

Keller is entering his third NFL season. He will be holding a charity golf event Tuesday, September 14th to benefit his “Believe and Achieve” foundation. It will take place at Chelsea Piers and will include some his teammates. Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, and Mark Sanchez are scheduled to attend.

For more info, log onto: http://dustinkeller81.com/2010/09/01/dustin-kellers-foundation-presents-2010-golf-gala/

A TOUGH FIRST START

On Thursday, Ryan anointed Matt Slauson as the team’s new starting left guard. He replaces Alan Faneca who was cut during the off-season. Slauson beat out second round pick Vladimir Ducasse to win the job.

“It feels great,” said Slauson. “It’s a dream come true, being able to play on the best offensive line in the NFL. I couldn’t be more pleased right now.”

We’ll see if his feelings on the matter change after facing the tough Ravens defense tonight. It’s not exactly the ideal way to get your feet wet in the NFL.

“I just have to know what to expect,” said Slauson last week. “I know that they’re going to be coming after me because they consider me the weak point now on the line. I just have to study, prepare and get it done.”

A LOCAL BOY COMES HOME

The Jets defense will have to concern themselves with former Rutgers running back Ray Rice. Not only is he a threat running the ball, but also he can be a dangerous weapon catching passes out of the backfield.

“He’s tough,” said Ryan who knows Rice from his days in Baltimore. “He’s effective in the screen game and in running draws. This is going to be a big challenge for our defense.”

The native of New Rochelle enters his third NFL season. In the Ravens press notes, Ryan has three entries on his “Bucket List”

1) Win a Super Bowl
2) Make another Pro Bowl
3) Become the best running back in the NFL

OPENING NIGHT FESTIVITIES

As if the Jets/Ravens game isn’t enough, the organization has plenty of special opening night performances and events planned for the evening.

*At 530, there will be a concert in the plaza outside of the stadium featuring former Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist Slash and Nicole Sherzinger from the Pussycat Dolls. Sherzinger, the “Dancing With The Stars” champion, will also perform the national anthem.

*At halftime, multi-platinum rock band “Green Day” will perform live on the field with the Broadway cast of “American Idiot”. Following the show, there will be a spectacular fireworks display.

*Before the game, a U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber will fly over the stadium. It will be flown by members of the 393rd Bomb Squadron while military members of all five uniformed services are on the field unfurling a ceremonial full field United States Flag.

TRYING TO CLEAN UP A MESS

The Jets on Sunday released a statement regarding Saturday’s incident with a female reporter at their practice facility in Florham Park, New Jersey.

Here is a statement from the jets regarding the incident with the female reporter yesterday…

“The New York Jets believe that reporters have a job to do and it is our obligation to provide them with proper and professional access. Woody Johnson spoke with Ines Sainz of TV Azteca today to discuss the time she spent covering the team yesterday. He stressed to Ines that he expects all members of the Jets organization to conduct themselves in a  professional manner at all times. We will continue to work with the League to gather the facts and take any appropriate steps necessary to maintain a respectful environment for the media.”

On Sunday night, Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum called Association For Women In Sports Media board member Joanne Gerstner to schedule an educational awareness session with the team. The issue was addressed with the team during a meeting Sunday night. Also, Senior Director of Media Relations Bruce Speight addressed the team.

That’s it for now! Enjoy the game! Check back for my post-game blog!