|ESPN.com: NFL||[Print without images]|
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Without Tim Tebow, it's a lot quieter around the New York Jets than last season. And that's a good thing, according to veteran guard Willie Colon.
Colon arrived in town just as Tebow was leaving, but the native New Yorker -- a former longtime member of the Pittsburgh Steelers -- watched from afar as one of his hometown teams became immersed, and perhaps distracted, by the Tebow phenomenon.
I think having the Tim Tebow circus out of here, and having different things that were kind of holding this team back, are starting to go out the window. I think we're all starting to care about football and only football, which is a good sight to see.” -- Willie Colon on the Jets
"They care about winning and they care about being a better franchise, and not being a circus group," Colon told the Pittsburgh media Wednesday on a conference call. "I think having the Tim Tebow circus out of here, and having different things that were kind of holding this team back, are starting to go out the window. I think we're all starting to care about football and only football, which is a good sight to see."
Colon came from the organization known for its understated approach. The Jets were anything but, especially with Tebow for one, ill-fated season.
The Jets finally admitted the Tebow mistake last April, when new general manager John Idzik, trying to change the franchise culture, released the QB after the draft.
One month earlier, Colon had signed a one-year contract after being released by the Steelers. Pittsburgh (0-4) faces the surprising Jets (3-2) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Colon immediately sensed that intangibles were lacking in the locker room.
"I came here with the attitude that this team was missing a lot," said Colon, who has emerged as a team leader. "They were missing chemistry and they were missing that fight and belief in one another."
The perception of the Jets is starting to change, especially after their upset of the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. Many experts predicted the Jets would win only four or five games, but they're in a second-place tie with the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East, only one game behind the New England Patriots.
Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, a former longtime Jet, said he's not surprised by the fast start.
"I've said all along that coach (Rex) Ryan is a very good coach," he told the New York media. "People are getting to see it, that's just it. He can coach his tail off and that's why you see the team play the way it's playing. He knows how to motivate guys. He just know how to tap into whatever a guy has, getting them to respond."
Colon has contributed at right guard, replacing the venerable Brandon Moore, who retired. He has galvanized a line that includes two former Pro Bowlers, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold.
"Coming here, Nick and Brick, those guys aren't necessarily maulers," Colon said. "Those guys are technicians that do their job well and do it at a high level. When I came here, I had an opportunity to kind of bring that spark, to not have a back-down mentality, to let them know that, 'Hey, we don't have to take crap from nobody.' Those guys are starting to buy into it and it's working out so far."
Asked to comment on his former team, Colon said, "I see a desperate team." He expects them to be motivated Sunday.
ESPN.com Steelers reporter Scott Brown contributed to this report.