By Mary Paoletti
Patriots fans who want Rex Ryan to shut up have to keep waiting.
On Wednesday morning, while New England slept under a foot of snow, the Jets head coach spoke with the media via conference call. His attitude was typical: unapologetic, outspoken and controversial.
"In this country you're allowed to have opinions and all that kind of stuff," Ryan said. "Obviously, as an organization we respect Tom Brady, there's no question about it. But is there dislike between us and Brady and Brady and the Jets? Of course there is.
"We're not apologizing for anything. Did we vote Brady to be the starting quarterback in the Pro Bowl? Yeah, we did. There's plenty of respect without being all lovey-dovey. We have a right to our opinion. A comment like that is no big deal."
The treatise was Ryan's defense of cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who, the coach says, will not be punished for calling Patriots QB Tom Brady an a------. And why would he be? Ryan has set the tone for this Jets team and speaking ones mind is at the heart of its weekly grind.
And that means taking subtle, or not so subtle, jabs at Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
"Maybe they do follow my lead in the fact that we can say what's on our mind or whatever. I don't say that, 'Whatever we do, don't say this or don't say that.' We're a transparent organization. We let our guys speak. We don't tell them what to say or what to say."
That one's an uppercut.
Of course, the tight-lipped Belichick won't even flinch, but that's not what Ryan is after anyway. His words are meant to be an injection of steel into the spines of his players and he's been doing it since boasting Super Bowl intentions on the first day of training camp.
Heading into a playoff matchup on New England's home turf, the Jets will need the confidence.
When the teams last met in Week 13, the Patriots inflicted a 45-3 beatingon New York. It was a complete turnaround from the 28-14 loss Belichick's team took in Game 2 and showcased a much-improved Pats defense and an unbridled Brady.
Ryan was forced to acknowledge the complete defeat ("It's the biggest butt-whipping I've taken as a coach in my career.") To shrug it off would have been ridiculous. And that's not Rex, right?
"Danny Woodhead is in football because of the New York Jets. It was an excellent pick-up for them."
Well, that's an odd way to describe waiving a player, isn't it. Classic Rex Ryan spin. Just a coach looking at the NFL world through hunter green-colored glasses.
"I'm not worried about their injuries," he said on the conference call. "We lost Kris Jenkins for the entire season and I don't know if they lost anyone as big as that. Statistically, they've improved since we played them last. They've got some big guys."
What about the injuries to Leigh Bodden, Kevin Faulk, Ty Warren and Mike Wright? They don't even register on Ryan's radar. Apparently, congratulations are due to Belichick and The Replacements for making the compensation for those roster hits look like a breeze.
But wait! Not so fast. Ryan didn't waste much time complimenting New England before bouncing back to his favorite vacation destination: his Happy Place.
"If you visit Revis Island, the success rate going to that island is not real good," the coach pontificated. "Brady knows that. He can look at a different matchup that he likes better than that matchup. This is a once-in-a-lifetime corner. He is, in my opinion, the best corner in football. It's not smart business to target him.
"I'm not worried about anything," he continued. "I'm concerned, but I'm not worried."
Not worried and not done talking. The only ridiculous thing, with regard to Rex Ryan, would be to expect otherwise.