FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Willie Colon still has love and "the utmost respect'' for Rex Ryan.
But the Jets offensive lineman would be lying if he didn't admit there were things that happened under Ryan's watch as Jets coach that still irk him. Lateness and a lack of focus helped to derail the team in 2014, and at season's end, Ryan was sent packing along with general manager John Idzik.
Colon is confident those issues won't plague the club under new coach Todd Bowles.
"When you go 4-12 and you fight your tail off and you know that you're doing your best and it comes off as guys, maybe, don't seem as passionate as you do about the game, sometimes it does bother you,'' Colon said after Wednesday's session of organized team activities. "But at the end of the day, like I said, coach Bowles is the new sheriff in town. I believe in him, I believe in the direction he's going in, and I feel like we won't have those issues no more.''
During an April interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Jets tight end Jace Amaro said Bowles made it clear to the team that lateness would not be tolerated. "We had an issue with that last year,'' Amaro said. "I think guys just weren't accountable last year as much they could be.''
But even though Ryan repeatedly fired back at Amaro ("He's full of [expletive], and I'll remind him of that when we play him,'' Ryan told Sports Illustrated), Colon backed his rookie tight end. And the veteran right guard did so again on Wednesday.
"We had our issues last year,'' said the Bronx native and Hofstra alum. "And if you're asking us to be accountable, part of being accountable is being truthful about what's going on. And if you're being truthful about what's going on, that was one of our issues.
"So, right now, chemistry is huge for us, being accountable for our actions and how we go about our day-to-day process is important, and ultimately we're here to win. It's not a daycare, guys shouldn't be sent to the principal's office. You're paid to go to work, be the best you can be and be the best you can be off the field. And I think that's all coach Bowles wants from us.''
Asked why he thinks accountability was a major issue last season, Colon replied: "I don't know. I'm only accountable for myself. I can't speak for the guys who went through those issues.''
But Colon has noticed a major shift in the locker room, thanks to the offseason additions of veterans like Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Brandon Marshall. Not only are they talented, but their experience is "an added bonus,'' he said.
Colon, however, gave a rather tepid response when asked about Geno Smith, the presumptive starting quarterback. "I think he is (the starting quarterback), because that's what we're told he is,'' Colon said. "I don't think it's anybody's job to kind of go out there and throw rocks at him. Right now, he's a quarterback trying to find his way and there's a lot of guys on this team trying to find their way. So, we've got to respect his maturation process and let him do what he do.''
In Colon's eyes, 2015 is a critical season for everyone, including Smith.
"This is the year we've all got to take that next step,'' Colon said. " . . . If you're a true competitor and have a passion for the game, you never want to go through what we went through last year. Winning one game a month, it's tough. We're too good of a team right now, we have too many veteran guys for us to be the team that we were last year. So, we've all got to mature and become a lot more focused and a scrappier team.''
These days, the 32-year-old Colon spends much of his practice time pedaling on a stationary bike or playing the role of sideline spectator. His balky left knee -- the same one he had scoped last season -- isn't quite ready to withstand the punishment of 11-on-11 drills. "I'm the old guy in the room now,'' he joked.
Oday Aboushi, a fifth-round pick of the Jets in 2013, has been getting the bulk of the reps in Colon's absence. But Colon said he expects to be fine by training camp. He's also well aware that he'll not only have to compete for his starting job again, but possibly a roster spot.
"That's life in the NFL,'' said the oft-injured Colon. "I'm not threatened by it by any means. If anything, I appreciate it. I'm just blessed to be here, especially after last season and I'm looking forward to the competition battle.''