CORTLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A day after a 20-player brawl highlighted a chippy practice, Jets coach Rex Ryan had his players run a series of sprints Tuesday as punishment for a few minor scuffles on the field.
“I think sometimes, you’re trying to be physical but being physical is one thing,” Ryan said. “Going past that is something else, and that’s what I didn’t like. That’s why we stopped and had to remind the guys that the enemy is not in green and white.”
“It’s just part of training camp,” safety Eric Smith said. “We’re out there banging around, it gets hot and people get frustrated. Tempers escalate.”
Team owner Woody Johnson addressed reporters and downplayed Monday’s brawl, saying it was all part of the game.
With most of the media off to the side speaking with Johnson, linebacker Demario Davis and running back Terrance Ganaway — both rookies — got into it after Davis was a little too physical on a play. Ryan immediately called everyone over to tell them to be physical, but smart and not selfish.
There was another skirmish a few minutes later involving cornerback Antonio Cromartie and rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill, with Cromartie threatening to punch him. Moments later, Cromartie and tight end Dustin Keller got into it.
“Apparently, someone didn’t get the message,” Ryan said, referring to Cromartie.
He added that he thought Cromartie, who refused to speak to reporters after practice, should have backed off and not hit Keller as hard as he did.
Ryan immediately shouted at his players and had them all line up on the sideline. Every player on the Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32), from the quarterbacks to the kickers, was then ordered to run about 10 gassers — sprints from sideline to sideline — for at least 10 minutes. It was the first time, Ryan confirmed, that he has punished his players in that way as coach of the Jets.
“I guess the big thing is, I just felt it needed to be done,” Ryan said. “There’s no question I thought it needed to be done. And the point I want them to understand is I’m serious about it.”
Ryan, with his hands on his hips, watched as his players did each lap, and then spoke to his team again in a raised tone before resuming practice. Linebacker Bart Scott and cornerback Darrelle Revis (hamstring) were forced to finish after practice was over.
“You know, as a big guy, you never want to be running gassers,” said defensive end Mike DeVito. “No fight is worth running gassers when you’re over 300 pounds. It gets guys’ minds reset and back to focusing on playing football and not the extra stuff.”
Added Smith: “I was just listening for that double whistle so we could stop.”
It was the angriest Ryan had been during a practice with the media watching in his three-plus years as coach. Several of the players said it was the first time they had ever had to run gassers during practice.
“He’s tired of it,” DeVito said.
After the laps, there was another incident on the field during 1-on-1 drills in which offensive lineman Dennis Landolt injured a knee after trying to block defensive lineman Marcus Dixon. Right guard Brandon Moore, who declined to speak after practice, yelled at Dixon, apparently thinking he tried to hurt Landolt, who was carted off the field with what Ryan called a “subluxed” knee that could sideline him a few weeks.
“He knows we’re a physical team, but we need to take care of each other,” Smith said when asked what Ryan told the players. “We’re not being good teammates right now.”
On Monday, about 20 players were involved in a brief brawl after running back Joe McKnight and safety D’Anton Lynn tangled following a play. Lynn, the son of Jets running backs coach Anthony Lynn, shoved McKnight out of bounds. An angry McKnight then fired the football at Lynn.
The two got into it, with McKnight charging Lynn and throwing a punch that didn’t land. Lynn then pushed McKnight — with help from cornerbacks Julian Posey and Donnie Fletcher — and all four went rolling through advertisement placards and into an area where reporters were watching practice, and several players jumped in.
Ryan refused to call it a “melee” and added that he had seen worse fights since coming to New York, particularly in his first year. But for a team coming off a disappointing season that was derailed in large part by in-fighting by players in the locker room, Ryan has been determined to maintain control — something he has repeatedly acknowledged he didn’t have last season.
Some fans and media think the past few days’ festivities have been a carry-over from last season, and that perhaps Ryan still doesn’t have control.
“Everybody has a right to their opinion,” Ryan said, “no matter how wrong they are.”
When Cromartie said last week that he thought he would rank as the second-best wide receiver on the team, Chaz Schilens said it was “a slight,” and it was the first sign of disharmony. Ryan addressed the squad as soon as he heard both players’ comments and told everyone to be mindful of what they say in public to not hurt the team.
The Jets have one more day of practice in Cortland before their preseason opener Friday at Cincinnati.
“I think the guys are just eager to hit somebody else,” wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. “They’re taking their frustration a little bit out on each other, which shows what happens in training camp around this time, all around the NFL. You look at other teams, I’m pretty sure guys have gotten into fights throughout their practice days. The same thing with us guys. … Cincinnati can’t come fast enough for these guys right now.”
“We’re not enemies,” said rookie linebacker Demario Davis. “The enemy’s out there. At the end of the day, we’re all on the same page.”
So, Round 3 on Wednesday?
“I bet we don’t have one tomorrow,” Smith said, laughing.
How would you punish the Jets if you were Rex Ryan? Let us know in the comments below…
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