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Chirpy Jets carry momentum into Patriots game

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Alex Marvez

Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com. He has covered the NFL for the past 18 seasons as a beat writer and is the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He also is a frequent host on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J.

The NFL's biggest head coach has a mouth to match. Rex Ryan — all 6-foot-3 and 350 pounds of him — actually made one of the NFL's top rivalries even more heated. That's because he wouldn't pay lip service to New England entering Sunday's home game against his New York Jets. Ryan began spicing things up this summer when saying he didn't join the Jets "to kiss Bill Belichick's (Super Bowl) rings." He then sardonically praised Belichick this week in a self-deprecating telephone message soliciting Sunday raucousness from Jets season-ticket holders. Ryan's players have bought into the shtick with their own shots at New England. The most inflammatory came from Jets safety Kerry Rhodes. He spoke about wanting to "embarrass" the Patriots. Such chirping is music to Ryan's ears. "It's funny because I never realized my comments would stir it up as much as it did," Ryan told FOXSports.com on Friday in a post-practice interview at Jets headquarters. "But the fact it's out there is good. It is a special game. You're facing the team that everyone has ranked as No. 1." Ryan then chuckled. "The fact that we don't care is a good thing," he said. "That's the truth. We expect to win. People can take that any way they want." Yup, these aren't Eric Mangini's Jets anymore. Such bravado was never permitted under Mangini, a Belichick disciple who also adhered to the theory of never providing the opposition with bulletin-board material. But unlike Belichick, Mangini's heavy-handed coaching style didn't click with his roster. His three-year New York coaching stint ended after last December's Jets collapse. Enter Ryan. Fresh off a fourth season coordinating Baltimore's dominating defense, Ryan quickly showed the apple hasn't fallen far from the family tree. Taking a page from his eccentric father and former NFL head coach Buddy Ryan, he encouraged individuality from his players. Rex Ryan doesn't try controlling their media comments, nor does he personally use the cookie-cutter clichés of his peers. He has made Jets practice less monotonous through different gimmicks, like having a position player become a "guest kicker" every Friday (running back Leon Washington became the latest to shank his field goals this week). In return, Ryan demands attention to detail and an aggressive approach on both sides of the football. "For the rest of the guys here, it's a shock," said linebacker Bart Scott, one of four former Ravens who joined the Jets this offseason. "A coach can actually be happy every day and bring enthusiasm and fun to practice. But that's the way he is." So far, this Rex has proven a perfect Rx to what was ailing the Jets. Even with a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez, New York dominated Houston in last Sunday's 24-7 season-opening road win. "The mentality a team has starts with the head man on down," said right tackle Damien Woody, an 11-year veteran (and former Patriot) who joined the Jets in 2008. "He said, 'I don't want you guys uptight. That's not me. I'm a loose type of guy. We're going to play loose, fast, physical and have fun doing it.' That started growing on guys more and more. "We've always had great chemistry in the locker room, but now guys can breathe." Ryan, 46, admits it took some time to find his coaching voice. He said he was unsuccessful in previous head coaching interviews because "sometimes I might have tried to tell somebody what they wanted to hear." "At the end of the day, you'd better be yourself because you have to be consistent," he said. "Coming here, I don't have to worry about putting on a show. I can just be me." Ryan, though, does have a serious side. Just ask defensive end Marques Douglas, who spent five seasons playing under Ryan in Baltimore. "Don't take his smile for weakness," Douglas warned. "You'd better get it right. If you don't, he'll bring somebody else in." Ryan's blue eyes could turn icy if the Jets fall to New England. The Patriots (1-0) are programmed not to exchange verbal salvos, but Belichick's charges tend to make yappy opponents eat their words. Brady summarized his team's approach earlier this week when proclaiming "talk is cheap." Brady is right — especially until New York proves competitive against New England. The Patriots have won 13 of their past 17 meetings, including eight consecutive victories at Giants Stadium. "To make it a true rivalry, we've got to balance it out some," Woody said. That would really give Ryan something to blab about.
Tagged: Patriots, Giants, Jets, Ravens, Tom Brady, Damien Woody, Bart Scott, Kerry Rhodes, Leon Washington, Mark Sanchez

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