EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Other than boxers, wrestlers and the occasional diva wide receiver, professional athletes tend to be careful with their words.
Rex Ryan would rather be careful with the football. His philosophy: Let the verbiage flow.
As long as you back up what you say, what does it matter, anyway?
So far, Ryan’s New York Jets are putting up, so they don’t have to shut up. When they meet Brett Favre, Randy Moss and the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night – the Jets’ third prime-time game in five weeks – it’s an opportunity to solidify their role as a title contender.
And yet another chance to brag.
“No. 1, we’ve got a good football team here, an excellent football team,” Ryan said. “We’ve got guys that are passionate about each other; this is a team.”
That 3-1 team meets a 1-2 Vikings squad that is trying to avoid being distracted by accusations from a former Jets game hostess that Favre sent her inappropriate messages and lewd photos when he played for the Jets in 2008. Favre would not respond last week to a report on the website Deadspin, which also said he came on to massage therapists who worked part-time for the Jets.
On the field, New York has looked as good as anyone since an opening 10-9 loss to Baltimore. The Jets then swept their division rivals by beating the Patriots, Dolphins and Bills in rather convincing fashion.
“Nobody felt worse than we did after that game,” Ryan said of the defeat in the Jets’ first real game in their new stadium. “We did give great effort, but the results weren’t great. We have to talk about this the whole season. We lost to a good team by a point.
“Our team is resilient. We proved that last year when we were the first team in NFL history to overcome two three-game losing streaks (and make the playoffs). I think that spoke volumes about our team. We have a special locker room. Our guys compete. They love it.
“The thing I’m really proud of is the way they prepare … the way our guys study and do the extra things, take care of themselves in the weight room. That gives us an edge over a lot of teams.”
Most teams don’t like to give any sort of verbal edge to the opposition. You know, the old pin-it-up-on-the-bulletin-board advantage.
Ryan’s Jets don’t care. That became clear in 2009, when they went to the AFC championship game as a wild card. It was clear this summer when they were featured in HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” and their brand of braggadocio made the show a hit.
It’s still clear. Favre, who went 9-7 with the Jets before retiring for a second time, recognizes it.
“They’re playing as well as anyone in the league, and that’s not just blowing smoke,” the NFL’s career passing leader said. “Obviously the guys love (Ryan), he’s brash, and they respond to him.”
The addition of Moss to Minnesota’s lineup could help the Vikings (1-2) get back on track. Their downfield passing game has been virtually nonexistent with Sidney Rice injured (hip surgery) and Favre not nearly in vintage form. Other than star running back Adrian Peterson, who leads the NFC with 392 yards despite playing only three games, the Vikings haven’t done much with the ball.
So they acquired Moss from the Patriots, for whom he often tormented the Jets in the last three-plus seasons.
Favre, who turned 41 Sunday and would extend his record of consecutive starts to 289 on Monday night, says counting on Moss to be an immediate savior is unfair.
“He’s a player who can be dominant,” Favre said. “He’s a difference maker. On paper, he can be a great asset. The team is excited about it. We know what he brings. But we still have to play. We still have to block, I still have to make the right reads and we have to do all the little things correctly. We can’t overload him.”
The Jets could be even more of a load to beat – and louder about their wins – in the next few weeks. They should have linebacker Calvin Pace, their top sacker of 2009, back from a broken right foot. All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, last seen being beat in Week 2 by Moss in the end zone on a play that sidelined Revis with a left hamstring injury, could be in the lineup Monday night.
In the buildup to the game, Revis reiterated his comments that Moss doesn’t always go full-out. Fellow cornerback Antonio Cromartie seconded that opinion, saying, “I don’t think he did, either. He plays when he wants to.”
“Sometimes, it’s like, ‘Let’s get this play over and onto the next one,'” added Cromartie, who took over duties defending Moss when Revis left the win over New England. “But we get him into a Monday night game and with a new team, we may get a new Randy Moss. Who knows?”
The Jets know wide receiver Santonio Holmes definitely will play as he returns from a four-game league suspension for violating the substance abuse policy.
“That’s just going to open things up even more,” receiver Jerricho Cotchery said.
He didn’t mean the Jets’ mouths.
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