Hate him or love him, Rex is Rex

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Hate him or love him, Rex is Rex

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- You hate Rex Ryan.

You think him an instigator for saying he wanted to kick Bill Belichick and the Patriots' collective ass. You judge him an attention-whore for the "Hard Knocks" self-indulgence and bombastic press conferences. You call him a pompous windbag for suggesting -- no, stating -- that his New York Jets are the better team and would win the Week 13 meeting.

Just don't write Rex Ryan off. Do so and lose out on some of the most striking sincerity in the NFL. His Monday night post-game reception is a brilliant example.

New York got facewashed, 45-3, by the Patriots in hostile territory. New England was absolutely giddy. More fans than reasonable hung tough in 27 degree weather (11 with the wind chill) to see each precious second tick down on the monumental Jets failure.

Ryan's response: "I came in to kick Belichick's butt and he kicked mine.''

Patriots fans must have howled in ecstasy when that quote hit airwaves. It was sweeter than a white flag; it was a humiliating concession made by an over-sized enemy in a white turtleneck. But even in defeat Ryan wasn't exactly humbled.

"Humiliating? For one night..." he scoffed. "Shoot, I'll fight tomorrow. I guarantee you that. Humiliating? It's the biggest butt-whuppin' I've ever taken as a coach in my career. But I can promise you one thing: I'll be ready to play 'em. I'll play 'em right now if they'll go out and do it again.

"That's the only way I know how to respond. I'll sit back out there and stick my chin out again."

And why not?

Why back down? Why apologize for confidence? Belichick said it himself: all coaches want to win. Ryan just isn't being polite about it. He isn't trying to sneak up on anybody under that worn out veil of self-deprecation. He's lumbering through the NFL's streets, hollering his intentions and waving his gun in the air where everybody can see it.

It's honesty.

Think Rex Ryan said his team was better just to get under people's skin? It's not that complicated. He really believed it was true.

"I thought we were going to play a great game. I really did.'' Ryan said. "I thought we were having the best week of practice that we had. Obviously, we had the injury to Jim Leonhard and that kind of put a damper on us but our preparation was great. I thought we were gonna have a huge game and it was just the opposite. "

Ryan shook his head as he spoke. He was at a loss. The Jets had already beaten New England this year, after all. And though national sports writers were picking the Patriots, nobody expected a blowout. Nobody foresaw the shutdown of Mark Sanchez (1733, 164 yards, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble, 1 sack, 0 TD) nor a declawing of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.

"Our defense gave up 45 points,'' Ryan lamented. "There's been times that's been a quarter of a season at least, giving up that many points.''

When asked if such a number was even conceivable, Ryan wagged his head more firmly.

"No,'' he said. Then he lifted his eyes and focused on the cameras. "I can imagine us shutting people out. That's what I think happens. But, clearly wasn't the case. This is a good football team. They did a great job coaching, out-coached us and outplayed us."

The complimenting of New England was effusive. It might surprise the people who focus on Ryan's chest-thumping but praising the Patriots makes sense for the Jets coach. Why? All part of the honesty.

"We were trying everything but it just... shoot. They got the job done,'' he said, brow furrowed. "But you've got to give them credit. Tom Brady was hot. He can burn you. They've got a lot of weapons and they did a good job. They protected the quarterback pretty well and gave Brady enough time to make some plays and their guys came up with some big plays for him. "

Huge, huge plays. Brady was surgical on Monday night. The New England quarterback completed 21 of 29 passes, racked up 326 yards and recorded four touchdowns. Gaudy numbers next to Sanchez's tallies. The crowd really started rollicking after a fourth quarter run up the middle by BenJarvus Green-Ellis made the score 45-3. The Patriots were shoving Ryan's bravado back down his throat. Chants of "J-E-T-S! SUCK! SUCK! SUCK!" mixed with cries for running up the score on the hated rival.

But if the Patriots were trying to needle New York on the field the way Ryan did with his words, the Jets coach wasn't squirming. If anything, it brought Rex Ryan right back to where he started.

"I wouldn't say Belichick was necessarily trying to rub it in, but this is the same team that took a bunch of shots on us and they had paybacks. Let's face it, we kicked their butt at our place so they're trying to come back. Trust me, we'll remember this, there's no question about that. "

So where does he stand now, exactly? Respectful of the Patriots' quarterback, nearly reverent toward their coach. Wary of the now Number One team in the AFC.

"We know that this division goes through New England. We thought we were gonna put a stranglehold on it because we would have been up a full game on 'em and have the tie-breaker on 'em. Right now we've pushed. We won one, they won one.

"To say we underestimated them... I don't think so,'' Ryan said. "They've still got Belichick at coach and Brady as quarterback so we'll never underestimate the New England Patriots."

He will probably continue to overestimate his New York Jets, though, and believe to his core that it's the truth. A quality of confidence most teams would probably love in a coach. And a quality most fans clearly love to hate in a rival.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe

The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.

“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”

Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.

Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.

“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL


Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.

Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.   

Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children.  He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.

Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.

Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004.  He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.

The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993. 

In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”