Commentary

Rex Ryan reflecting Jets' new attitude

After last season's disappointment, Gang Green coach starting from square one

Updated: June 14, 2012, 2:12 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Afternoon Rex is gone. Say hello to Rex in the Morning.

At 10:31 a.m. Tuesday, Rex Ryan walked into the interview room for his minicamp news conference. The New York Jets coach quickly noted the unusual time. For three years, he did his thing after practice, mid-afternoonish. When that 2:30 feeling hit, he provided the five-hour energy with his lively Q&As.

Not anymore. Ryan said he's planning to push his media obligation up this season so he has more time to watch practice tape with his coaches. "I think it will work better for me," Ryan said.

This isn't a big thing -- it won't alter the balance of power in the AFC East -- but it reflects the new attitude around the Jets. It's akin to them saying no to "Hard Knocks," an acknowledgment that it's time to focus on the job.

A disappointing season, punctuated by locker-room infighting, will do that to a team that once believed it was God's gift.

His appearance in a soon-to-be-released Adam Sandler comedy notwithstanding, Ryan has tried to convey a get-serious, sense-of-urgency message to the players.

At the start of the offseason, Ryan told his strength-and-conditioning coach to crack the whip in the weight room. Now he has a pulled-hamstring epidemic at wide receiver, but that didn't seem to dampen his mood on Day 1 of minicamp.

"We're driving them, and that's exactly what I asked for," Ryan said.

The feeling around the Jets is reminiscent of 2004, when then-coach Herm Edwards tightened the screws after a 6-10 debacle. He made the playoffs in his first two seasons, just like Ryan did, but the Jets slipped badly in 2003. Suddenly, Nice Guy Herm became more business-like.

The same thing is happening now at Jets Drive. Staffers say they can feel it in the hallways, and players say they can feel it in the meeting rooms. Linebacker Calvin Pace, describing the attitude on defense, said this reminds him of Ryan's first offseason, 2009, when everything was new and everybody was eager to impress.

"It's like starting over, like it's Rex's first day," Pace said.

They're not really starting over, because this defense has three years in the Ryan system, but last season's letdown seems to have rejuvenated the unit. And as the defense goes, so go the Jets.

"I think everybody had to do some soul searching in the offseason -- coaches included," Pace said.

In some ways, linebacker Bart Scott, of all people, symbolizes the change. He didn't play well last season, turned sour and nearly lost his job. Now he's back, leaner, talking trash during practice, acting like the old Bart. As Pace said, "He just got his passion back."

On offense, everything is different because Ryan hired Parcells Lite, Tony Sparano. He's so intense that he threatens to throw out anyone who falls asleep in one of his meetings -- and that includes coaches.

Sparano likes it on the edge. It got so heated in a recent practice that two of his offensive assistants exchanged words and nearly came to blows. That's right out of the Bill Parcells coaching handbook.

The idea is to create an air of competition, to let players know that mediocrity won't be tolerated. Let's face it, the Jets got fat and complacent last season. The quarterback, Mark Sanchez, was accused of being coddled. (Hello, Tim Tebow.)

No, Ryan hasn't put everybody on alert, but he wants his players to know that he's not gifting any starting jobs either.

"You still kind of like that uneasy feeling, like guys still have to earn that starting spot," he said. "Whether that's realistic or not, you let them figure it out."

And the media, too -- four hours earlier than usual.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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