CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Training camp can get monotonous for all involved, everyone from coaches to players to reporters. On Saturday, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan decided to shake up the routine at his daily news conference.
Instead of fielding questions from the media, Ryan decided to play reporter. He took a seat with the media types and sent a reporter to his usual spot behind the podium.
And that someone was me.
Ryan had been dropping hints throughout camp about changing places, so it didn't come as a surprise. But I had no idea that I'd be involved in the switcheroo. Must have been a seniority thing. This is my 26th season covering the Jets, which means I've covered more than 2,000 news conferences. There have been some doozies over the years -- Leon Hess showing up to introduce Rich Kotite, Bill Belichick quitting on the spot, Herm Edwards making a future beer commercial ("You play to win the game!"), etc. -- but this was the first time I could recall a coach playing the role of reporter.
Ryan didn't have a reporter's notebook or a tape recorder, but he was armed with questions: How do reporters find interesting material during the dog days of camp? Why did I become a reporter? What's the best event I've covered? The Q&A lasted almost 10 minutes.
Someone made a crack about reading the injury list, as Ryan does at the top of each presser, and I responded with a Rex-ism: "We're going to rely on the doctors and trainers" -- his favorite company line when attempting to dodge injury-related questions.
I wish I had turned sideways during one of Ryan's questions, impersonating his now-infamous response during the postgame grilling after the Mark Sanchez injury last summer, but it didn't cross my mind as I stood behind the podium. I obviously choked under the pressure. I'm sure Ryan would've laughed. Clearly, he doesn't take himself too seriously.
Not many coaches would've staged a role reversal. Could you imagine Belichick sitting with the evil media and asking questions? Not a chance. In a league of paranoia and tight rear ends, Ryan is a rare breed.
He's a regular guy, willing to hang out with those who sometimes make his life difficult. That says a lot about a person.