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Jets Owner Says Team ‘Lucky To Have’ Rex Ryan

Woody Johnson Optimistic About Gang Green's Chances In '13
Jets coach Rex Ryan, owner Woody Johnson (credit: Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

Jets coach Rex Ryan, owner Woody Johnson (credit: Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jets owner Woody Johnson won’t try to temper expectations for his team this season.

“I’m always optimistic,” he said Wednesday.

On the same day the Jets announced that rookie Geno Smith would start the opener at quarterback, Johnson said he had no issue with the move that might have made that unavoidable — coach Rex Ryan’s decision to use quarterback Mark Sanchez behind a backup offensive line in the fourth quarter of a preseason game. Then the presumptive starter, Sanchez hurt his throwing shoulder on a hard hit and could be sidelined for several weeks.

Johnson wouldn’t talk about Ryan’s long-term future with the franchise, but he had nothing but praise for his coach.

“He is a great teacher, a great motivator,” Johnson said. “He’s an excellent head coach, in my opinion. I think we’re lucky to have him.”

LANTERN: JETS MUST REMAIN COMMITTED TO GENO

The owner also supported Ryan’s trip to see his son at Clemson on Saturday on the day teams made final cuts. Ryan’s son is a walk-on for the Tigers and didn’t play in their big win over Georgia.

Johnson said, “I would have gone, too.”

“He’d done his work,” he added. “He was available by phone if we needed him. He’d made all the calls to the players. He regretted that his dad never came down to his games; he wasn’t about to make that same mistake.”

Johnson fired general manager Mike Tannenbaum in the offseason but kept Ryan after a 6-10 record. The coach isn’t left with many playmakers on offense or defense after the trade of Darrelle Revis.

Johnson won’t call it a rebuilding year.

“Every year you’re rebuilding a little bit,” he said. “Maybe it’s slightly more than normal.”

Johnson was in Manhattan to promote February’s New York/New Jersey Super Bowl. Jets fans need no reminder that their team hasn’t played in that showcase event since 1969.

The owner insisted the club isn’t too far away.

“It’s going to take a lot of perseverance and dedication and good training. All those things we have in place,” Johnson said. “We will give it everything we’ve got. You will see it on the field. You’ll see it the first game 1 o’ clock on Sunday.”

The Jets will be starting a rookie quarterback in Week 1 for the just the second time in franchise history.

“I think (Smith) really fits the system,” Ryan told the team’s official website. “He’s a guy who is very accurate with the football, he has good mobility in the pocket and he’s adjusting to the speed of the game.”

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)