Rex Ryan angered by anonymous shots at Tim Tebow
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez was in this situation 10 months ago, staring at anonymous quotes, allegedly from his own teammates, in a New York tabloid.
This time, the nameless attacks were directed at his backup, Tim Tebow, a quarterback who rarely sees playing time unless it's as a punt protector.
Instead of discussing their upcoming opponent or the desperation surrounding their 3-6 record, Wednesday the Jets were forced to address comments allegedly made by players and personnel within their own organization. But in the face of anonymous rip jobs of Tebow in a Daily News article, Rex Ryan and his players maintained they won't be divided.
The coach said he wasn't bothered by the comments, which characterized Tebow as a talent-less "gimmick" and a failed quarterback. What angered Ryan was that they were issued anonymously, which he called "as cowardly of a thing as there is."
Tebow didn't seem distressed by the comments, though he admitted he felt "some frustration and some sadness.
"You're human," he said, smiling all the while. " . . . But you try to be stronger from it. It always has made me stronger in the past and it will continue to make me stronger."
Ryan said during the offseason that these Jets don't have as much talent as his previous teams, but that he believed this group could wind up being his best because it was more unified. So Ryan said if anyone thinks these anonymous quotes are a sign of trouble on the horizon, think again.
"I feel extremely confident that this team is coming closer together," Ryan said, adding that he addressed the "cowardly" nature of the unnamed remarks.
To outside observers, it may seem like deja vu at the Jets facility, where losing streaks have been known to breed internal discord. But Ryan denied the locker room fissures that sunk their 8-8 season last year have re-emerged.
"I don't think we have the same problem," he said, adding that last season's locker room "rift" -- which resulted in anonymous negative comments about Sanchez -- were "over-exaggerated" by the media.
Invoking his tried and true "us against the world" tactic, Ryan suggested it's even possible this Tebow attack could galvanize his players. "The team, in my opinion, is not going to be pulled apart by outside people. I think this team is coming together.''
Sanchez expressed sympathy for Tebow, but said this controversy eventually will blow over.
"I don't think it affects our guys," said Sanchez, who also labeled the unnamed sources "cowardly. I feel for Tim. It can't feel good. But at the same time, I've been there. You wake up the next day and you keep playing. Stay positive and keep smiling."
Sanchez said such comments aren't "as divisive as people might think" and the Jets still are focused on beating the Rams (3-5-1).
Tebow also joked that he gave guard Matt Slauson, the only player named in the article, "a hard time" for his comments. Slauson told Newsday in October that Tebow and the read-option offense "isn't an option" for the Jets. Slauson said his comments published Wednesday -- calling Tebow "an athlete" whose ability as a quarterback is "not even close" to Sanchez -- were made in the offseason.
"They were so long ago, I don't even remember them," Slauson told reporters.
Though Ryan disagreed with Slauson's assessment of Tebow, he was more angry that comments by others were anonymous.
Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley also was dismayed by the report, though he questioned the validity of the sources.
"It's definitely not good anyway," Kerley said. "Tim's a good dude. He works hard every day. For somebody to say that, it's a tough thing to deal with. I definitely think it was something that could have been said to his face, a phone call, text message. Not in the media, not in the public.
"Whoever said it needs to take ownership of it."
Kerley admitted the Jets are frustrated with losing, but said he hopes this season will end differently than 2011: free of "name-calling and all that stuff. It's a collective responsibility. We win and lose as a team."
According to Sanchez, there's only one way to rid the team of negative talk.
"Just go win a game and this whole thing turns,'' Sanchez said. "I'm telling you. It's contagious, this kind of stuff."