FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The New York Jets are getting pretty good at dealing with distractions.
The national spotlight of a reality show. Darrelle Revis’ high-profile holdout. Key injuries. An NFL investigation for their treatment of a television reporter. The drunken-driving arrest of Braylon Edwards.
The Jets have managed to shove all that aside and stand tied atop the AFC East at 2-1 after a 31-23 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday night. Their two divisional wins match the number they had all last season on their way to the AFC championship game.
“I mean, that’s a resilient team now,” coach Rex Ryan said Monday.
After all, this is the same bunch that has been compared lately to a frat house, a group of unruly jocks who don’t know how to behave on or off the field. Much of it has been the result of mistakes in judgment, and many in the media have pointed to the brash and unapologetic Ryan as the force behind the “Animal House” behavior.
“That embarrasses me a little bit,” Ryan said. “I think part of it is just because my personality’s a little different. Maybe from afar, people can judge it that way.”
Ryan is different, no doubt. When’s the last team you saw a coach douse a player with a Gatorade bath after a win, as Ryan did with Jason Taylor in the former Dolphins star’s return to Miami?
“I was trying to go for the dump and I think somebody else was going for the pour,” said Ryan, who was assisted by Steve Yarnell, the team’s director of security. “We ended up about knocking out Jason.”
Ryan’s this-is-me approach is refreshing to many and agitating to others. The problem for the Jets is that every move they’ve made has been magnified, thanks in large part to the team’s appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” this summer.
“I think one of the reasons I did ‘Hard Knocks’ is I wanted people to see the men that we have on our football team,” Ryan said. “You know, I’m not saying we’re perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we do try to be perfect off the field.”
Edwards’ arrest for having a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit in Manhattan last week was a huge blow to that quest. The Jets came under lots more criticism when they decided to bench the star wide receiver for one quarter rather than the entire game.
Tony Dungy, Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels were among the many in the media who lit into the Jets for not making more of an example of Edwards.
Ryan did it his way — as usual.
“I don’t care,” he said of Dungy saying Edwards should have sat all game. “Guys, how many shots do I take? Please. That was a jab.”
The fact is, the Jets could have benched Edwards and risked the players union filing a complaint. But, they followed precedent and did what every other NFL team in the past two years has done in a similar situation: They played their player.
“It was embarrassing to me that we had an arrest,” Ryan said. “You know, there’s no question. I’m not picking on Braylon. The other thing is, the guys know that I support them. We’re not going to turn our back on players.”
Which is perhaps part of the reason the Jets are where they are during this early junction of the season.
“You’re going to have distractions each and every week, even if they’re not distractions that are in the paper or on TV,” linebacker Bryan Thomas said. “That’s just being a good football team. The guys come together and support one another and just try to overcome those distractions. Good teams overcome it.”
Just as the Jets did a week ago, when they turned things around offensively after a brutal performance against Baltimore and beat New England. Meanwhile, the team was being investigated for how it treated TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz in the locker room and at practice.
Then, New York dealt with Edwards’ arrest last week and the media crush that followed. There was also the fact they would be without Revis, who strained his left hamstring, on top of not having Calvin Pace (broken right foot) and Kris Jenkins, who’s out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
“It’s a job for us,” running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. “When we step out on the field, we don’t even think about anything else. That includes during practice.”
The Jets sweated out their win in Miami, with their once-feared defense playing mediocre — especially a secondary that allowed 363 yards passing — and needing to be picked up by suddenly sizzling quarterback Mark Sanchez and the offense.
“It was a great team effort,” said Ryan, whose defense allowed an uncharacteristically high 436 net yards. “But, yeah, my pride’s a little hurt. No question about it.”
The fact that the Jets recognize they’re flawed has them convinced there will be no letdown next Sunday at winless Buffalo.
“We need to keep building from here,” safety Eric Smith said. “We can’t overlook them, like we’ve accomplished something so far.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.