Rex Ryan tears into fighting Jets

Updated: August 8, 2012, 11:09 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The New York Jets continued their fighting ways Tuesday, turning a closed practice into a WWE smackdown -- and infuriating coach Rex Ryan.

One day after a headline-making brawl, Ryan stopped practice twice, lashed into his team after separate skirmishes and made them run 11 gassers the width of the football field.

RyanWe had to remind guys that the enemy isn't in green and white.

-- Rex Ryan

Just another day at "Camp Chaos."

"We had to remind guys that the enemy isn't in green and white," said Ryan, explaining what he told the team.

On Tuesday night, Ryan cancelled meetings and took the team on a trip to a local movie theater, according to a source. The night out had been scheduled in advance, but the timing worked out nicely -- a chance to cool off and escape the drudgery of camp.

With Monday's melee perhaps still on his mind, Ryan halted practice as soon as tempers flared. During a "thud" drill -- not full contact -- rookie running back Terrance Ganaway ran hard into rookie linebacker Demario Davis. It sparked emotions between the offense and defense, resulting in shoving and jawing.

Ryan called the team together and, for about a minute, invoked the salty vocabulary he made famous two years ago on HBO's "Hard Knocks."

"Apparently, somebody didn't get the message," Ryan said.

About 15 minutes later, cornerback Antonio Cromartie yelled at rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill and mugged him on the next play, prompting receivers coach Sanjay Lal to scream for a penalty flag. Moments later, Cromartie decked tight end Dustin Keller on a pass over the middle -- a cheap shot in a 7-on-7 drill.

At that point, Ryan called for wind sprints. Quarterback Tim Tebow made like Forrest Gump, winning each sprint by a wide margin.

"I thought Cro should've backed off and not hit Dustin," said Ryan, adding that he called for the punishment laps "to let them know how serious I am about it. I also wanted them to run until I was tired (of watching them)."

Cromartie refused to speak with reporters. He sparked a controversy last week, telling ESPN he'd rank himself as the second-best receiver on the team -- annoying the team's receivers and fueling a war of words.

Just two weeks ago, Ryan talked about how glad he was to be back in Cortland, where he expected the time away from home to foster team unity. This was a team that fractured last season, culminating with a Santonio Holmes-Wayne Hunter scuffle in the huddle in the final game.

So far this summer, they've had two consecutive days of fighting and verbal brushfires.

"You guys are just tired of talking about Tebow, so now you're talking about fights," safety Eric Smith said.

When the punishment sprints were done -- several players said they hadn't run gassers since high school -- Ryan called the team together and delivered another profanity-laced screed.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez addressed the team at the end of practice, earning kudos from Ryan for displaying leadership.

The scuffles all occurred with owner Woody Johnson watching from the sideline, telling reporters that Monday's brawl was "pretty minor" and that three weeks in Cortland would do wonders for team chemistry.

A third confrontation occurred a short time later, when guard Brandon Moore screamed at defensive tackle Marcus Dixon after tackle Dennis Landolt was injured while blocking Dixon in a pass-rushing drill. Landolt was carted off the field with what Ryan called a subluxed knee -- about a three-week injury.

Dixon claimed the Landolt injury was a freak accident.

"I just did a bull rush and I guess his knee got caught up under him or something, I really don't know," he said. "It wasn't done on purpose. That's my teammate. Why would it be malicious? I'm not out here to hurt anybody."

But Moore, the elder statesman on offense, was furious. Afterward, Moore declined comment.

"Yeah, he was upset, everybody was upset," Dixon said. "We were tired, it had been three hours, but we don't want to do anything out here intentional. We're all Jets."

Johnson said he's not bothered by the perception that his team, which bickered through last season, is dysfunctional.

"No, not at all," he said, claiming his support for Ryan is stronger than ever. "This is camp. They've been hitting each other for two weeks now, so things are going to boil over. They boil over every year in every camp. I mean, it's not just the New York Jets."

Ryan bristled when asked about last season's issues, saying, "I'm, quite honestly, sick and tired of talking about last year because I think it's a joke when I have to answer questions about it every single time."

The coach took the blame for last season, admitting he "lost the pulse" of the team. He's trying to move forward, but training camp has been marked with controversy, fueling the perception the Jets are undisciplined.

"I think we're a little more disciplined than what the general perception is out there," Ryan said. "You can't have the wins we've had in the past and not be disciplined."

Ryan wants his team to be physical -- he preaches it all the time -- but he felt Ganaway and Cromartie crossed the line. He called it "selfish" behavior. On Monday, running back Joe McKnight fired a ball at rookie safety D'Anton Lynn after getting shoved out of bounds, precipitating a melee that involved about 20 players.

"It brings a fighting attitude," Holmes said of the feistiness in practice. "It shows that our offense won't be a pushover this season. We just have to understand we can't do anything detrimental to our team by doing those types of things."

Hill praised Ryan for taking charge.

"He's doing a great job of keeping us in line," the rookie said. "We don't want to have people saying we're an undisciplined team. We're not undisciplined. It's camp. The fire is going up and we're tired of playing each other."

The Jets open the preseason Friday night in Cincinnati. Holmes said it best: "Cincinnati can't come fast enough for these guys."

Holmes, last year's instigator, had no role in Tuesday's altercations. Nursing a rib injury, he worked off to the side, riding a stationary bike. Alongside him was Hunter, his old sparring partner.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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