FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Rex Ryan lined everyone up on the sideline, but not because he was about to force the Jets to do wind sprints.
The coach was readying his players for a lesson — a little reminder, if you will, to ensure that they are completely aware and appreciative of the situation in which they find themselves.
Ryan stood there looking at the mass of humanity. Then he barked instructions, ordering those who’ve been to the playoffs once to step forward toward the numbers.
About 15 to 20 players stepped forward.
When Ryan ordered those who’ve been to the postseason twice to take the leap, the number dwindled almost in half.
With each year tacked on, those numbers kept shrinking until Ryan finally reached five. The last person standing by himself was Pro Bowl left guard Alan Faneca, a five-time postseason participant who also can flash his Super Bowl XL ring for a little extra added motivation when needed.
“I think it probably shocked a couple of guys,” Faneca said yesterday, “guys younger, guys that haven’t been there. To see guys who were stepping out there and to see the guys who really weren’t stepping out there . . . You look down the line and you see a guy who’s been playing for eight years; why is he not on that line, you know? How come he didn’t go one time or how come he didn’t go twice?
“That’s kind of a little shock and awe to wake everybody up that didn’t already know that this is a special occasion.”
With a postseason berth dangling over the Jets’ heads, ready to be snatched if they can knock off the Bengals Sunday night, Ryan was pulling out all the stops, trying to prove to his troops just how difficult it is to consistently make it to the NFL’s postseason tournament.
“I just wanted to show how special it is to get an opportunity to play in the playoffs and never make an assumption that ‘well, I’m a young player, I can go many times,’ ” Ryan said. “Sometimes those days never come. So the opportunity that we have right now in front of us, it is critical that we take advantage of it.”
Ryan didn’t need to underscore the importance of the situation to Jets sack leader Calvin Pace, who’s is in his seventh season and has yet to sniff the postseason dating to his days in Arizona. He’s as fired up as anyone on the team, knowing he finally can experience the playoff vibe with one more victory.
“I think when you are young, you kind of take a lot of stuff for granted,” Pace said. “You probably feel like you can play forever and you think eventually you’ll make it to the playoffs. But that’s not the case, man. Takeo Spikes is a great player, played a long time in this league, and he didn’t make the playoffs. So nothing is guaranteed.
“If you play in this league, you deserve a chance to experience that atmosphere. That’s just my goal for Sunday. If I don’t have one tackle and we win the game, they’re going to have to carry me off the field either way.”
Still, Pace probably won’t catch up to Faneca, the 10-year veteran who’s the Jets’ resident playoff expert.
“I was the last man standing and I only went half the time,” Faneca said. “I mean, I’m the most fortunate guy in the locker room and I only went half the time. So it doesn’t come every year. It doesn’t come that often and you have to — it sounds corny — but seize the day.”