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Joe Namath calls relationship with Jets 'awkward' and 'clumsy'

Former New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath is

Former New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath is introduced to announce the induction of Leon Hess into the New Jersey Hall of Fame during the induction ceremony at New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, N.J. Credit: AP, 2011

Joe Namath is the most iconic of all Jets, but in recent years, he's also been one of the franchise's most outspoken critics. That's why, he said, his relationship with the team is so damaged.

"I wouldn't say communication has been totally cut off," Namath told Newsday Thursday. "I still get along with some of the players and some of the personnel, but it's been a bit awkward. Whenever some of the criticism rubs you the wrong way, it's clumsy. I would say right now it's a clumsy relationship."

His recent criticism of the Jets has included words such as "misleading" and "deceptive," which go beyond questioning play-calling and talent assessment.

"Prior to last season, the team was being touted as the best team that coach [Rex] Ryan has had yet," Namath said. "When I say deceptive, some of the reasons they were giving on why they signed [Tim] Tebow, for example, and why didn't they use him. I find it deceptive when you are getting players for reasons other than winning football games. Is winning the basic goal here, which it should be? I just have had problems with some of the explanations and unexplained moves over the last couple of years."

Namath, who turns 70 Friday, was speaking on behalf of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's "Future 50" expansion and renovation project. He will attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday in Canton, Ohio.

The Jets declined to comment through a team spokesman, but Ryan spoke of Namath at Thursday's OTA in Florham Park, N.J.

"I've always respected and admired Joe Namath,'' Ryan said. "Does it upset me that he'll make comments? I don't always agree with his comments. But he has a right to them."

Namath seems to have an optimistic view of the Jets' immediate future. He said he thinks they can make the playoffs in 2013. "The new batch that's in here, I look for them to win," he said.

He bristled at the idea of Ryan being a "lame-duck" coach. "I can understand it a little bit," he said. "The general manager didn't pick the head coach. But in the meantime, he is the head coach and Rex and his team have got to prove they're all worthy of being there the year after.''

Namath thinks Mark Sanchez will remain the starting quarterback. "Sanchez has an edge, but he's got to show it,'' he said. "And my guess is that come September, he will be starting because of his experience."

On WFAN Thursday, Namath said his relationship with team owner Woody Johnson has been reduced to brief encounters. "It hasn't been the same as it was originally," he said. "We don't talk. [It's just]: 'Hi, how are ya?' "

Can the relationship be fixed?

"I would think so," Namath told Newsday. "Change is a positive. Change is a constant."

And can the Jets be fixed?

"I certainly hope so," he said. "I'm a fan, I'm pulling for them."

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