Rex Ryan punishes Jets after players get into heated exchanges again
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CORTLAND - CORTLAND, N.Y. -- This time, the expletives came from the head coach, not the players.
A day after a brawl involving more than 20 Jets players erupted on the sideline and spilled into an area designated for media and fans, fights again broke out during Tuesday's practice, pushing Rex Ryan to the brink. The coach abruptly stopped team drills and barked at his players in frustration. His words a day earlier apparently had fallen on deaf ears, and in turn, he made their legs pay.
Ryan stood near the 50-yard line, watching the players run "gassers," sprints from one side of the field to the other.
It was punishment for their disobedience, the final straw after a string of shoving matches and sucker punches. And more importantly, it was further proof that Ryan is determined to rein in his players at the first sign of divide.
He had never doled out punishment in such a way, but in this case, he felt justified. "I just wanted them to know how serious I am about it," Ryan said. "And I also wanted to run 'em until I was tired. I'm doing my job. My job is to get this team ready to go, and to be the team that I envision having. And we're going to."
The first dust-up occurred between fellow rookies, linebacker Demario Davis and running back Terrance Ganaway. Then, during 7-on-7 drills, Antonio Cromartie was extra physical with rookie receiver Stephen Hill and later hit tight end Dustin Keller, resulting in a full-on fight between the two. Having already issued a warning about the fine line between physicality and stupidity, Ryan did the unexpected. "Apparently someone never got the message," he said, referring to Cromartie.
"I thought Cro should've backed off and not hit Dustin," Ryan said. "He's trying to be physical, trying to pick his play up. We always talk about developing habits, but in that situation, it's your teammate and you don't want to do it. I thought Cro was wrong in that situation."
Coincidentally, team owner Woody Johnson was on the sideline, holding court with the media at the time of the latest brouhaha. "You can't get this kind of team building other than coming to a place like Cortland," Johnson said, seemingly unaware that tempers were flaring on the field.
Cromartie refused the media's interview request, but other players said the aggressiveness and cheap shots from the past two days were a carry-over from Saturday's scrimmage -- the closest thing to a meaningful game for the Jets since January. Said Santonio Holmes, "We're ready to hit somebody else."
And Ryan is just as anxious as his players to take out this pent-up hostility on a real opponent. "Being physical is one thing. Going past that, is something else. And that's what I didn't like. That's why we stopped and had to remind guys that the enemy is not in green and white," said Ryan, who still followed through with his pre-practice plan to surprise his players by canceling meetings in favor of an impromptu movie night; it was an effort in team-building, not a reaction to recent events, the Jets said.
Ryan's message was received. "Yeah, definitely," safety Eric Smith said. "We got it."
For Hill, gassers are nothing new, "especially in middle school and high school," he added with a laugh. But he was adamant the Jets aren't unruly.
"He's out here doing a great job, keeping us in line," Hill said of Ryan, whom he called "a players' coach. We're not undisciplined, we're just out here at camp. There's fires going up, and we're just kind of tired of playing each other, but other than that, we're in line."
Ryan said the recent fighting has been "mild" compared with his first year here, and took issue with the perception that he has lost control of a wayward team. "Everybody has a right to their opinion . . . no matter how wrong they are," he said. "I think we're a little more disciplined than maybe what general perception is out there. You can't have the wins that we've had in the past and not be a disciplined football team. Again, it hasn't been good enough, we haven't won the Super Bowl yet, but certainly we're aiming to."