- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On a day that Wayne Hunter was excused from Jets practice for personal reasons, coach Rex Ryan said the team was not in the market for another right tackle despite some reports indicating they were.
"Right now to say we're in the market for a starting tackle, I don't believe that to be an accurate statement," Ryan said.
He said that Hunter had been in team meetings during the day, but that during a conversation with Ryan earlier Hunter asked to be excused from practice.
Ryan wouldn't characterize the conversation with Hunter, who has been the brunt of fan criticism since giving up 2.5 sacks against the Giants last Saturday. It was Hunter's first game after missing much of camp with a back injury.
He said Hunter would return for the Jets' next practice, and that Hunter will play with the first team offense on Sunday in the third preseason game against Carolina on Sunday.
"I'm not saying that we're looking at a right tackle or we're looking at whatever," Ryan said. "Quite honestly I'm pretty happy with the roster we have. We're going to have some tough decisions on this roster on being able to keep all our guys we're going to end up letting some good players go and that's just the way it is. I like this team -- obviously it hasn't shown up on the scoreboard -- yet but I believe that it will."
With Hunter out, Austin Howard took most of the first team reps in front of about 2,500 fans at MetLife Stadium. Brandon Moore also took some late reps off as Vladimir Ducasse was subbed in. Nick Mangold addressed the communication problems the offensive line has exhibited in the preseason, but said he expected the unit to improve, including Hunter.
"We all struggle at times and Wayne's a heck of a fighter," Mangold said.
Ryan admitted that New York can make any player's stuggles more of an issue, and sympathized with the heat Hunter is taking.
"Sometimes it is more difficult here. I've had my share of it as well and it's not easy," Ryan said. "We support each other."
At the same time, he shut down the idea that Hunter's absence was a calculated way for him to avoid the fans at MetLife.
"No," Ryan laughed. "No I wasn't."
After the practice, linebacker Aaron Maybin was asked about the offensive line. Even though it's not exactly his area, Maybin took a big-picture approach.
"Are we struggling?" Maybin said. "It's hard for me to say. But are we exactly where we need to be? No side of the ball is, offense, defense or special teams. So I just think the offensive line understands they need to get better just like we understand as a defense and as special teams."