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July 30, 2014

Jets brashness on display

 

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Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
New York Jets running back Chris Johnson (21) takes a handoff from quarterback Geno Smith during practice Tuesday at SUNY Cortland training camp.

By TANEY BEAUMONT
Staff Writer

A lot has been made already in the still-young Jets training camp about the team’s collective confidence after a disappointing 8-8 season in 2013.
Head coach Rex Ryan couldn’t be happier about the situation.
“I have no idea where they get that from... I have no idea,” said a smiling Ryan, who in previous years has been known for his brashness when discussing his team and its prospects. “You know I’m a great coach; just ask me. But you know what? You know my (Sugar) Ray Robinson quote — ‘To be a great champion you have to believe in yourself or nobody else will.’ That’s it...you can’t hide in this league, and if they’re saying it, that’s great because they really believe it. You don’t want to get embarrassed, that’s for sure.
“That means you’re going to put in the work, you’re willing to do that, and you know what comes with it. And the great thing is that guys are confident that ‘You know what? This is how I feel about myself, and how I feel about myself and my teammates.’ So that’s a good sign, I think. You get a few bullets shot at you when you take that approach, so maybe it’s not recommended. But you know what? It’s who we are, it’s how we feel....they’ve got to play us, too, so we’ll see at the end of the day. The beauty of it is, we get to find out, and again — we’re not running from it, we’re running into it.”
Pressed as to whether it might be too early for such an attitude, Ryan said that “Sometimes you get tired of the questions, maybe. But you know what? I believe in myself, so there. Here’s what it is. I think for a guy like Dee Milliner (who told the New York Daily News Monday that he considers himself the best cover man in the league), why would I say that somebody is better who plays the same position I do, when I know I have God-given ability, I have a lot of good teammates around me, I’m confident in my abilities, I know I have a great work ethic, and I know I have to get better?
“We’ll see. We certainly believe in everybody that’s chimed in there a little bit.”
“Every team in the league has got those same goals and aspirations (to be the best),” quarterback Geno Smith said. “That’s the reason we play the game and why we practice hard. We have confidence in ourselves. We understand that it takes a ton of hard work and you’ve got to prove it out on the field, but we never want to sell ourselves short so the main thing is that we continue to stay focused. Everyone here is level-headed; no one is saying we’ve cornered the market on anything. We believe that we have to put the work in, and if we do we’ll have a good team.”
Is Ryan’s squad feeding off the fact that his own confidence level seems to be up this season?
“Maybe,” he said. “Maybe there’s a reason, maybe I am more confident in this team. It feels natural to me. My problem is, I’ll tell you the truth, no matter what I believe to be the truth. I know it gets me in trouble and all that stuff, but I’m just telling you what I believe.
“Does it look like I’m a little more confident this year? Yeah, (this) team’s a little different. Last year we had seven new starters on offense, seven new starters on defense, a new punter and 11 new coaches. Maybe I wasn’t as confident initially. I mean, I was was confident, but it was like, ‘Hoooo. I don’t even know some of these guys. But I knew myself, and I knew we’d give it our best shot, for sure.”
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One player who’s clearly confident in the Jets is running back Chris Johnson, who the team acquired as a free agent in the off-season.
“You see those things, you see how hard those guys work, and you see the passion that those guys have,” he said when asked his view on players dubbing themselves the best in the league at their positions. “I don’t think there’s too many people in this league who’d go out there and say there’s another guy better than them. So at the end of the day they’re out there working hard and that’s what they’re trying to accomplish.
Ryan was asked about the source of his confidence in Johnson, who had off-season knee surgery, and joked “The whiplash I got from watching him run 94 yards against me (for Tennessee against the Jets in 1992) was one reason. You watch him on tape, and did we see the 2,000-yard guy? Maybe not, but I know one thing — he’s still pretty darn effective. And that’s the guy we saw — he still went for over 1,000 yards last year.”
Johnson feels that he’ll justify the Jets’ confidence in him, and is happy with how things are going for him so far. “I have high expectations for myself, so for (them to have them too, it’s like we’re on the same page,” he said.
And how is he feeling so far physically?
“It’s been good,” he said. “Any time you’re in camp you’ll have the regular aches and soreness or whatever. It’s just something you have to stay on top of and continue to work to make sure you’re ready to go. I’m pleased with it. Every day in practice I get more and more work to see how it reacts, and it’s been reacting fine so I’m pretty pleased with that.
“I’m getting it (the offense) pretty good. This is our third time, going from OTAs to mini camp to regular camp, so I’m getting it pretty quick. This is a different chapter for me and it’s kind of exciting, any time you can do new things instead of continuing to do the same old things, same old team, same training camp. It’s kind of exciting.”
Asked how he could tell that his speed was back, Johnson said it was “Just off my bursts and how I felt coming out for the first day of camp, and even when I was working in the off-season just testing it out, doing my sprint workouts and stuff like that. I wasn’t able to do many lateral moves last year, and I’ve been able to do them so that feels good.”

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