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Rex Ryan laughs in face of pressure

Rex Ryan has done his best to keep

Rex Ryan has done his best to keep everyone around the Jets loose as they prepare for the AFC Championship Game. (January 21, 2010) Credit: AP

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Rex Ryan has some advice to calm his team's nerves before a big game.

"I always say this: Whatever you guys do, just d-d-d-don't panic," he said in a stammering voice Friday.

When the laughter subsided, Ryan said he never feels nervous before a game, big or small. He'll have concerns. He'll be excited. But he'll be ready, and he's making sure his team is, too.

"We are not going to panic," he said sternly. Seriously. Stutterlessly.

Ryan had promised that the Jets would be the loosest team ever to play in an AFC Championship Game, and now that they are so close to Sunday's contest against the Colts, the looseness is beginning to give way to reality. Game faces are starting to be applied. Focus is being sharpened.

There still are laughs in the locker room, high-fives among the players, one-liners from the coach. But the shadow of the game is encroaching.

"You slowly build up through the week and you get ready for it," said Alan Faneca, a veteran of three AFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl. "We put in all the preparation. We get a little time to relax and do a little mental prep. We're ready to go play."

Ryan's way of maintaining focus is to laugh in the face of anxiety. He said he doesn't worry about the Jets (and the other three teams still alive in the playoffs) selling championship gear on the Internet. "Everybody knows you can't buy a 4X T-shirt, anyway," he said.

Asked about his advice for rookie Mark Sanchez in the biggest game of his young career, Ryan said, "Just because every kid in the world dreams of being in this spot, don't let it affect you."

But even Ryan admitted that the time for jokes and pep talks and news conferences - seemingly some of his favorite aspects of being head coach of the Jets - is over. It's time to play the game. "Both teams are going to be excited about this opportunity," he said.

And though the Jets won't p-p-p-panic, they understand the urgency they need to advance to the Super Bowl.

"The deeper you get into the playoffs, you see the focus get more intense," Faneca said. "The entire football season is a marathon, but once you get into the playoffs, it's a sprint. It's everything you can do every week to advance to the next game."

New York Sports