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Jets welcomed like heroes in Indianapolis

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez celebrates with

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez celebrates with coach Rex Ryan during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers in an NFL divisional playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Credit: Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - If you didn't know any better, you'd have thought you were in the middle of Manhattan the night before a Jets home game.

As the Jets' team buses arrived at their hotel last night, a throng of fans waited inside the lobby screaming "J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!" Then Joe Namath, here as a guest of the team, walked in and the crowd went crazy.

Even team owner Woody Johnson got a chant; when he walked through the lobby, the 100 or so fans screamed, "Wood-y! Wood-y! Wood-y!"

And then it was Buddy Ryan's turn to be mobbed by the fans. The father of coach Rex Ryan is making his first trip to see a Jets game in person this season. Buddy Ryan was on the Jets' defensive staff when they won Super Bowl III after the 1968 season against the Baltimore Colts.

Buddy Ryan was all set to dine last night inside the team hotel. The restaurant: Shula's Steakhouse, owned by former Dolphins coach Don Shula.

"We're looking forward to a great game," fullback Tony Richardson said shortly after arriving at the hotel. "It's almost us against the world. Everyone's written us off, but we're here now. Everybody's looking forward to a great game."

He added, "This is what you go to training camp for. You don't have to have an out-of-body experience tomorrow. It's just football, blocking and tackling."

Namath, mobbed by Jets fans as he attempted to get through the lobby, said his thoughts are with his old team.

"All these people here," he said, referring to the fans, "they deserved to be here. I've got a good feeling."

Namath wouldn't go so far as to guarantee a win, but he seems confident. So does Johnson.

"My expectations are we'll win," he said, "but I never go into a game thinking we're going to lose."

A guarantee? No, he said.

"We'll let the coach take care of the guarantees," Johnson said. "He's very confident, as you know."

So is Johnson, even though he described the weekend at the AFC Championship Game as "unexplored territory for me."

"I think they're good, very good," he said of the team's chances. "I'll go along with what Rex said. He's extremely confident. We're number one in defense, pretty good at running the ball. Mark [Sanchez] had a good week. So it's all good."

Johnson also was asked about the loss of his daughter several weeks ago.

"It's been tough," he said. "The personal issues can't be solved by this."

He added, "I think about my daughter all the time. If I could bring her back, I would. There's nothing I can do at this moment. I'm sad about that, but I'm rooting for the New York Jets."

Keller mourns

Jets tight end Dustin Keller's uncle, Tony Kendall, 47, died Wednesday. Kendall lived in Indianapolis, and Keller, a former Purdue star, was expected to visit with family members last night. "We're praying for him," Richardson said. "It's one of those things. Unfortunately, when you lose someone, it affects you. We'll pull him through tomorrow."

New York Sports