He was asked different ways, giving him ample opportunity to take the bait.
But each time an inquiry was tossed Rex Ryan's way regarding the possibility of the Jets adding a certain receiver who was just released from prison, he kept his fishing line in the water, refusing to directly and openly offer up his thoughts.
Ryan, speaking Thursday evening at signing for his book, "Play Like You Mean It" at the Jets Shop in Manhattan, wasn't about to unveil the Jets' cards and discuss any modicum of interest they may have in Plaxico Burress.
"To really speculate on this player or that player ..." Ryan said, his voice trailing off. "What we had said before, we would love to have all our players back. I mean, we know that’s probably not a real possibility. But we are going to make a real effort. We’ll see what happens, but until we really know what the rules of free agency are going to be and all that, we really don’t have any idea."
During an interview with ESPN last week, Burress said the idea of playing for the Jets was "appealing" and he admitted he's thought about what it would be like to etch his name into New York lore by winning a Super Bowl with both of the city's football teams. Ryan wouldn't bite when asked about those words uttered by the former Giants wide receiver who spent nearly two years in jail serving time for weapons charges.
"What Mike [Tannenbaum] and I has always talked about," he said, "is how we want as many of our own players [back] as we can possibly get. And once the rules are in place and we understand what those rules are, we’ll address those things once we have a better idea what the rules are."
Still, there is a part of Ryan that does enjoy hearing players taking about suiting up for the Jets.
"That’s great. Now, we’ll see what that all means," he said. "When I came here, I talked about how I wanted every coach in the league to want to come coach for the Jets. I wanted every player in the league to want to play for the Jets. But I look at it as, No. 1, you look at the city. I mean, you look at what we have here in New York, you look at the type of facilities that we have, how we take care of our players.
"That was one of the reasons we wanted to do the HBO ["Hard Knocks"] thing, is because we wanted the players to see what we do have, what our facilities are like, how we take care of our players and the type of fun our players have as well. Now, the other thing is we demand an awful lot as well. We want everything you’ve got, so don’t come to play for the Jets if you are not willing to do that."
"I’m excited that players throughout the league seem to have an interest in the Jets because this is a great franchise," he added. "You look at the things that we have in place now, it’s great. But I’m excited about seeing what happens when the rules come out and rolling our sleeves up and having at it."
But there's also the flip side, the one that wonders if it's a smart thing to bring in more free agents with baggage. So far, Ryan has been able to keep everyone in line -- save for Braylon Edwards' DUI arrest in September.
However, there's no guarantee that'll happen again in 2011. Even so, he didn't sound the least bit worried about potentially adding any more free agents who've had their share of off-the-field issues.
"In every single locker room, the one thing is, nobody’s perfect," Ryan said. "Everybody has made mistakes in their life and certainly I’ve made more than my share, but one thing we do is we are all going to respect each other in the locker room. There’s different religious beliefs, politic beliefs. And I’ve talked about it all the time.
"There’s some good looking guys, some not so looking guys – very few good looking to be honest with you – but that’s just the way it is. It’s what makes up our locker room. But the one thing is we respect each other, we respect everybody and I think that’s what people find in our locker room."
As for his current players, Ryan was pleased to hear that 40-plus guys showed up each day for the player-organized wortkouts at Farleigh Dickinson University, just across the street from their training facility.
"Well, the one thing I’ll say about that is, anytime you get that many of our players together, I know one thing: they’re having fun," he said. "And that’s the important thing, you know? What went on in those practices, who knows? But I trust that they are having fun."
Ryan was especially pleased to know that Mark Sanchez, his third-year signal-caller, took an active roll in helping organize the workout.
"Well, I think the big jump that you are going to see that Mark makes this year will be in his leadership," Ryan said. "The fact that this is his third year – I think last year, he proved to all of his teammates how hard he’s willing to work. Not just getting himself back from injury, but knowing the playbook, being in every single offensive staff meeting that we had last year.
"And then going out on the field, he also showed how competitive he is, all those fourth quarter comebacks, how he seems to play the best in the biggest moments and that’s the mark of a leader. I think he is that guy for us now."
At least he's familiar with Sanchez. That's not truly the case for the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson, Kenrick Ellis, Jeremy Kerley, Greg McElroy and Scottie McKnight. Those are the five rookies selected in April's draft, all of whom have yet to be totally incorporated into the mix because of the ongoing lockout.
"When we look at it, whenever it’s time to kick it off, we’ll be ready," Ryan said. "I promise you, we’ll be ready. Whenever that is, we’ll be ready to roll. Like I say, we never make excuses, but I’m excited to see our young guys. I think we had a heck of a draft. I think Mike Tannenbaum and Joey Clinkscales and all those guys did a great job in preparing for the draft. We knew were ready for it, and I think we added some guys that will really help us."