Rested after bye, Jets hope to finally string two wins together
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Sage words came from one of the quietest voices in the Jets' locker room Monday.
Nick Bellore missed Rex Ryan's Jets in their heyday, when they reached the AFC Championship Game after the 2009 and 2010 seasons. The linebacker and special-teams fixture knows the playoffs again are within their reach this season, but to play in the postseason, the Jets must break free of their win one, lose one routine.
"It's something we've kind of gotten away with to this point," said Bellore, 24, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2011. "But if we want to be a playoff team, which we all know we are, we've got to break that trend. We can't get complacent."
Fresh off their bye, the Jets (5-4) not only are healthy but energized for the second-half stretch. Players and coaches received a much-needed reprieve from the NFL grind. Some jetted off to island destinations; others used the bye week to visit family and friends.
Ryan, on the other hand, used his bye-week trip to New Orleans for both business and pleasure -- gathering intel on the Bills from his twin brother, Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, and helping himself to servings of gumbo and jambalaya.
"It still goes down with the lap band," he said with a laugh.
The Jets returned to practice Monday with one goal -- to build on what they've accomplished. Ryan said he felt "that enthusiasm to be back" as he walked through the facility, noting a sense of "synergy" he said was lacking after last year's bye.
"I don't know if I felt that energy," he said, referring to last year's group.
Under Ryan, the Jets are 1-3 after the bye. But they're determined to break that trend as well, starting Sunday at Buffalo.
Former Bills receiver David Nelson said Ryan's message to the team was simple. "To not settle," he said. "To not go back to the rut we were in, as far as win, loss, win, loss. We have seven games left in the season and everything we want is there for us if we just go out there and take it.
"We put ourselves in a great position leading into the bye week, we're coming out healthy, we're coming out motivated."
Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., who was reinstated Monday after a four-game suspension, conceded that the Jets haven't fared well on the road. But when asked about their remaining seven-game schedule, he said matter-of-factly: "I can't see why we can't win them all."
The Jets were lucky at times during the first half of the season but also played extremely well at times. Their offense has been managed fairly well by rookie quarterback Geno Smith. But the Jets have more to accomplish, he said.
"I think we have a great opportunity in front of us, and that's where the excitement lies," Smith said. "We know, as a team, our best football is ahead of us."
Each dramatic win, however, has been followed by a loss. And that has to change, Bellore said.
"We have to learn how to handle a big win, like the Saints game or the Patriots game. And we haven't done that yet this year,'' he said. "We have to prepare like our backs are against the wall -- like they are, really."