Good Morning
Good Morning

Rex clarifies SI comments on Hill

New York Jets rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill

New York Jets rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill #84 runs with the ball after making a catch at the Atlantic Health practice facility. Florham Park, NJ 5/24/12 Joe Epstein/For Newsday Credit: Newsday/Joe Epstein

Stephen Hill was blissfully unaware of Rex Ryan's comments in Sports Illustrated until 10 minutes before the media approached him at his locker Monday.

The Jets PR staff had relayed the coach's comments to rookie receiver, who shrugged off the comments and smiled for the cameras.

"Coach Rex Ryan, I understand, is a defensive coach," said the always affable Hill. "But I know he was definitely joking about the situation. Honestly. I'm just ready to play on Sunday. That's my biggest focus."

During an interview a few weeks ago with SI's Don Banks, Ryan was asked for his take on Hill, the former Georgia Tech wideout who amassed just 1,248 receiving yards (on 49 receptions) in three seasons with the Yellow Jackets.

It was a question Ryan already had been asked by the beat reporters who cover the team daily -- but his response in SI garnered instant headlines.

"Well, nothing told me he would (contribute)," Ryan said in the article. "Nothing. When I saw the tape (of his collegiate play) I was concerned. But (Jets general manager) Mike Tannenbaum and (senior personnel executive) Terry Bradway and all our scouts were adamant about this guy. They were adamant that this guy can do it. He can run all these routes, he had good hands and he's got 4.2 speed at 6-foot-5.

"He was the guy they all wanted, but honestly, when it came down to it -- a wideout? Not my dream pick. But now that we have him, of course, I want to claim him: 'Oh, that was my pick.' But it really wasn't."

Asked to clarify his comments on Monday, the Jets coach said his statements about Hill were "blown up."

"That one took off way different than (I intended it to)," he said. "I was actually talking about our scouting department, Mike, Bradway and the guys who identified Stephen Hill. To me, I'm (saying), 'Oh a receiver.' I was kind of laughing that thing off. I've even said it here (in the press conference room): 'This wasn't my guy' -- meaning he's exceeded where I thought a rookie receiver would be, without question.

"The fact he was from Georgia Tech, nothing against Georgia Tech, (it's) a great program. But we talk about us being ground-and-pound, Georgia Tech -- that's major ground-and-pound. How quick can he pick things up? Well he's picked it up way faster than I thought. I was excited about, here's a guy that can run a sub-4.3 (40-yard dash) and he's 6-5. You love those measurable that he has, but then you see him on the practice field. He gets off press. He runs good routes and when we sent (wide receivers coach) Sanjay (Lal) to work him out, he was very impressed.

"What I was kidding about was, 'Oh man, we're going to take a receiver,' and it just got blown up like he (was) not my pick. I'm always trying to convince you guys, 'Oh no, he is my pick.' He's definitely my pick now because I think he's going to have a really bright future. For some reason, they want to focus on that. Call (Don Banks) and see my tone of what it was. I would say, go ahead and call him because I clearly was meaning it (in a positive way). I was trying to say things in a joking manner, but clearly trying to say how happy (I was with Stephen Hill and our scouting department). Our scouting department is terrific, absolutely terrific." 

New York Sports