Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Rex: Patriots benched Welker out of respect
By Tim Graham
NEW ORLEANS -- On multiple levels, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan was pleased to see Wes Welker standing on the sideline when the New England Patriots' offense took the field in their second-round playoff game.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick punished Welker for making 11 foot-related comments in a nine-minute news conference. The remarks were thinly veiled references to fetish videos, purportedly starring Ryan's wife, that surfaced during the season.
The Jets shocked the Patriots with a 28-21 victory in Gillette Stadium. Welker had seven catches for 57 yards. Welker had seven receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown six weeks earlier to help the Patriots beat the Jets by 42 points.
"First off, I was happy," Ryan said, laughing, Tuesday morning at the NFL coaches breakfast, which is part of the annual owners meeting. "I was, like, 'Cool! Welker's not there!' Yeah, I would bench him, too. I would bench him for the whole game. Bench him next year."
In seriousness, Ryan viewed the gesture as a sign of respect from Belichick.
"It never surprised me," Ryan said. "It's not the Patriot way of doing things. So [Belichick] was upset about that. At the time, I was, like, that's pretty cool. It was kind of neat."
Ryan explained he and Welker have gotten grittier with each other -- just not in public. Welker's roommate at Texas Tech was Jets volunteer assistant coach Mike Smith. All of them -- plus Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine -- have trash texted each other "for years," Ryan said. Smith briefly played for the Baltimore Ravens when Ryan and Pettine were on the staff and then got into coaching after a nasty shoulder injury.
"We text back and forth and rip each other back and forth before we ever play," Ryan said. "That's what we do. 'Who's going to be on me?' 'We're going to put [Jets nose tackle] Sione Pouha on you.'
"But we have fun with each other. Trust me, we've said a lot worse to each other than what was reported. But I think he just went public with those comments, and that's probably what upset Belichick."
While Ryan has refused to take a submissive role when it comes to his AFC East rival, he once again expressed his utmost admiration for Belichick.
"I have more respect for Belichick than any coach in this league, as you guys know," Ryan said. "But I still want to beat him, and the fact he's in our division, I'm paid to beat him. I've got to go beat him.
"I can't just go 'Hey, Bill, don't kick my butt too bad.' No way in hell. We're not conceding one iota. At times, I feel like we're the only team that can beat him for whatever reason. They lost three games last year, two to us and one to my brother."
The Jets beat the Patriots 28-14 in Week 2 at the Meadowlands and again in the playoffs at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots' other regular-season loss was to the Cleveland Browns, where Ryan's twin brother, Rob Ryan, was the defensive coordinator who flummoxed league MVP Tom Brady.