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Sunday, January 29, 2012
Sunday notes: The importance of chemistry

By Rich Cimini

Thoughts and observations on Pro Bowl Sunday, seven days from the real game:

1. Does team chemistry matter? It's one of those long-debated topics in sports. Former Jets RB Curtis Martin, commenting on his former team's locker-room turmoil, is a big believer in chemistry.

"In my experiences, there have been a lot of times when we weren’t the most talented team, but our chemistry and togetherness were so strong that we won games," Martin told ESPNNewYork.com, using the '99 Jets as an example -- a team that rallied around Ray Lucas after Vinny Testaverde's season-ending injury and a 1-6 start.

Martin added: "You look at the Patriots, you look at the Giants. They're together. They have a good bond. I really think the locker room is super important. I think locker rooms win games more than the players out there on the field, because if you have a bad environment in the locker room, it doesn’t translate well into performance."

I agree. Maybe you can get away with a fractured locker room in baseball, but not football.

2. It sounds like Rex Ryan is a fan of Alabama RB Trent Richardson, projected as a top-10 pick. Ryan, who attended the Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala., told the Pensacola New Journal, "Oh, yeah, I've seen him. I know all about him. That guy is a great football player."

The Jets, picking 16th, probably won't get a shot at Richardson unless they trade up. Then again, maybe he slides. Because of longevity concerns, running backs have been known to slip. Only one back has cracked the top 10 in each of the last three drafts -- C.J. Spiller, ninth overall, in 2010.

3. One player that caught the Jets' eye at the Senior Bowl was Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw (6-2, 273). One opposing scout told me, "He fits '34' teams like the Jets. He's an outside pass rusher, kind of reminds me of James Harrison. He has size to him and strength, and he can rush. He's a good football player." He's a definite possibility for the Jets at 16.

4. Saw the wire photo of C Nick Mangold, LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, RG Brandon Moore and CB Darrelle Revis posing for their Pro Bowl shot in Hawaii -- flanked by Hula dancers, by the way -- and I couldn't help but think: With three offensive linemen in the Pro Bowl, how did it go so wrong for the Jets? It couldn't have been all Wayne Hunter's fault.

5. Why should players care about the Pro Bowl? Winners get $50,000 apiece, losers get $25,000. For players that pay expenses for friends and family, the extra dough comes in handy.

6. The Jets are planning to hire former Vikings DL coach Karl Dunbar for the same position, according to the Daily News.

7. I had a weird dream the other day. I woke up thinking the Bucs had hired Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. Crazy, right?

8. Goose-bump moment from "Namath," the HBO documentary that debuted Saturday night: Namath's almost-miracle comeback against the 49ers in 1971. Joe Namath, sidelined for 13 months, replaced the injured Bob Davis in the third quarter, with the Jets trailing, 17-0. Namath worked his magic and, even though the Jets fell short, 24-21, the crowd roared for 15 minutes after the game. Teammate John Schmitt, recalling the moment, is so moved that he says through tears, "It's the greatest game we ever lost."

9. Right now, I'm leaning heavily toward the Giants over the Patriots. I went back and checked out the Week 9 meeting in Foxborough and was amazed at how they rattled Tom Brady, who was so disgusted after an interception that he fired a water bottle into the ground on the Patriots' bench.

10. Anybody who thinks Peyton Manning is going back to the Colts is delusional. Ain't happening, folks.