Pats-Jets pregame: Byrd inspires Jets

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Pats-Jets pregame: Byrd inspires Jets

Associated Press

FOXBORO -- Dennis Byrd gave the New York Jets a big lift before their playoff game against the New England Patriots.

Byrd, one of the most inspirational players in franchise history, addressed the team Saturday night at the Jets' hotel and delivered what wide receiver Braylon Edwards called on Twitter, "the most inspirational message of my life."

Byrd's career ended in 1992, when he suffered a broken neck while colliding with teammate Scott Mersereau in a game against Kansas City, leaving him temporarily paralyzed. Three months after breaking the C-5 vertebra in his neck, he walked on crutches to a news conference at his hospital in Manhattan.

The next season, he walked out to midfield on his own for the coin toss, as the crowd at the Meadowlands gave him a standing ovation. The team's most inspirational player award is named in Byrd's honor, with running back LaDainian Tomlinson winning it this season.

Coach Rex Ryan, who called Sunday's game against the Patriots "the second-biggest in franchise history," normally addresses the team the night before games. They are usually emotional, inspiring speeches, but this time, the coach stepped aside to have Byrd speak.

"As God is my witness, I have never been more ready to perform in my life," Edwards tweeted. "Dennis Byrd, I respect, salute and honor you."

No Jets player has worn Byrd's No. 90 since his career ended. Byrd, 44, lives in Oklahoma, and was expected to attend the playoff game between New York (12-5) and New England (14-2).

Byrd wrote a book about his story called, "Rise and Walk," which was later turned into a television movie.

Quick Slants Podcast: Antonio Brown’s betrayal; Matt Light; eyeing up Pittsburgh

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Quick Slants Podcast: Antonio Brown’s betrayal; Matt Light; eyeing up Pittsburgh

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss the aftermath of Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video. Curran interview Matt Light ahead of the AFC Championship. They dissect the press conferences of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and look at how to beat the Steelers.

SUBSCRIBE iTunes | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | AudioBoom

2:29 Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live aftermath

13:14 Stopping Le’Veon Bell

27:16 heywassyonumba? with Patrick Chung and Kyle Van Noy

32:30 Injury report updates for AFC Championship

36:51 Brady and Belichick’s press conferences

44:50 Matt Light interview

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick knows that how you play, not where, is what matters most. 

That's why when he was asked on Wednesday about the advantage the Patriots will have by playing at Gillette Stadium in the AFC title game, he wasn't willing to go all-in on how a comfortable environment will positively impact his team.

"I don’t know," he said. "Go ask Dallas and Kansas City."

The Patriots apparently thought enough of home-field advantage that they played their starters throughout their regular-season finale win in Miami, exposing their best players to potential injury in order to maintain their positive momentum while simultaneously ensuring a better road to the Super Bowl. 

The Patriots fans in attendance on Sunday will help when the Patriots take on the Steelers, Belichick acknowledged. But there's much more to it than that. 

"Yeah, of course," he said, "but the game is won by the players on the field. That’s who wins football games – the players. And they’ll decide it Sunday night."

And if you needed any further proof, just ask the Cowboys and Chiefs how helpful their home crowds were in the Divisional Round.