ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) After six seasons with the Jets, Rex Ryan proved his colorful one-man show can be a hit off Broadway, too.
The Buffalo Bills coach even brought props.
Opening his news conference Tuesday by wearing a bright orange Clemson helmet and playfully suggesting he had nothing to talk about, Ryan then spent 18 minutes touching on a wide range of topics in preparing to face his former team on Thursday night for the first time since he was fired in New York.
Article continues below ...
The nod to Clemson was in honor of his son, Seth, a member of the nation’s top-ranked team which will be playing at Syracuse on Saturday.
Ryan then proceeded to credit Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for being ”one competitive dude,” while critiquing his unruly beard. ”He’s not a handsome kid,” Ryan said.
Ryan rolled his eyes, wondering why anyone would question his motives for designating defensive end IK Enemkpali a co-captain on Thursday after the player was cut by the Jets in August for breaking quarterback Geno Smith’s jaw.
”I’m a little shocked to be honest with you,” Ryan said, noting he has always selected his captains based on their ties to the opponent. ”This was never a thing of disrespect.”
And before he was done, Ryan even had time to needle Calvin Pryor after the Jets safety referred to his former coach in a comment posted on Twitter that read: ”The guy does anything for attention.”
”He’s right. Because what else am I going to do?” Ryan said, before noting Pryor played at Louisville. ”He’s mad because Clemson put it on Louisville again this year.”
It was a drop-the-mike moment for Ryan, whose news conferences are regarded as must-attend events. In 11 months in Buffalo, Ryan has vowed to ”build a bully,” he’s ribbed New England quarterback Tom Brady for bouncing a ceremonial pitch on opening day in Boston, and he munched on a dog biscuit alongside owner Terry Pegula to promote the SPCA.
Ryan might have saved his best material for what could be his most emotional week of the season.
Just don’t ask him to let on after Ryan’s six-year tenure in New York ended following a 4-12 finish last year.
”I get it. I used to coach there and all that stuff,” Ryan said. ”And I know you guys don’t believe me, but it has not entered my mind.”
And yet, Ryan acknowledges he’ll have more to say later.
”I promise,” he said, ”I will give an honest answer after the game.”
Ryan is doing a very good job of stealing the spotlight leading up to a key midseason AFC East showdown between the Bills (4-4) and the Jets (5-3).
Bills players aren’t complaining about Ryan’s tactics.
”He knows exactly what he’s doing, taking the attention off the players,” receiver Sammy Watkins said. ”I like it because he is totally different than any other coach. He has his own unique ways.”
Defense coordinator Dennis Thurman broke into a laugh when asked about Ryan’s playful approach.
”That’s just Rex being Rex,” said Thurman, who has worked with Ryan for 13 years. ”It’s a way of taking the edge off. And he’s always going to be himself.”
Even Clemson coach Dabo Swinney got a big kick out of Ryan.
”He’s crazy. He is hilarious,” Swinney said. ”I love Rex Ryan. Whether you like him or don’t like him, he is who he is.”
Not everyone’s was on board.
Pryor said it was disrespectful of Ryan to have Enemkpali serve as a co-captain. And he questioned Ryan’s coaching decisions in New York by saying: ”He could’ve played guys in the right position.”
Fitzpatrick, by comparison, laughed off Ryan’s critique about his beard.
”That’s all right,” Fitzpatrick said during a conference call with Buffalo-area reporters. ”I’ve got five kids, so something’s working for me.”
NOTES: RB LeSean McCoy practiced on a limited basis because of an injury to his right shoulder. Ryan said he expects McCoy to play, but his playing time might be limited. … RT Seantrel Henderson practiced on a limited basis after missing Monday’s session because of an undisclosed illness. … Ryan and Watkins, who played at Clemson, plan to travel to Syracuse to watch the Tigers play.
AP Sports Writers Dennis Waszak Jr. in Florham Park, New Jersey, and Pete Iacobelli in Clemson, South Carolina, contributed to this report.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL