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Owner Johnson on hand to thank team despite his grief

This file photo shows New York Jets owner

This file photo shows New York Jets owner Woody Johnson outside the new Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Oct. 22, 2009. Woody Johnson's daughter, Casey Johnson, died on Monday, Jan. 4, 2009, at the age of 30. Photo Credit: AP

CINCINNATI - Rex Ryan stood in the middle of the euphoric Jets locker room moments after they beat the Bengals Saturday. He could have given the game ball to a number of players. But he didn't.

"We've got one game ball that we know who we give it to," he said.

And he handed it to team owner Woody Johnson.

Johnson has endured an emotional week of unspeakable lows and exhilarating highs. A day after the Jets beat the Bengals last week, his 30-year-old daughter Casey was found dead in Los Angeles. He tended to that matter during the week but was on hand in Cincinnati for the Jets' first playoff win in five years.

Johnson raised the ball in the locker room to cheers from the players. "It's been a very hard period of time for my family, probably the hardest time we've ever had to go through," he said later. "But we felt it was important to be here."

As part of his brief remarks, Johnson thanked the entire organization.

"I'm very proud of the team," he said. "Very proud of the coaching staff and the business staff and everybody for doing this and getting us to this point. I'm really proud of the players."

As he walked away, he was asked if this helped, if overseeing a playoff win could - just for a few hours, anyway - alleviate the sadness he's felt.

"No," he said somberly. "Nothing helps that."

New York Sports