INDIANAPOLIS - A period of postseason self-examination has led to this epiphany for Jets coach Rex Ryan: Fewer guarantees. More fun. On Thursday, Ryan faced the media at the NFL Combine. A year ago, in the same room at Lucas Oil Stadium, Ryan said, "This is the year we win the Super Bowl. I thought we'd win it my first two years. I guarantee it this year."And this year? Ryan was blaming his guarantee for a season that ended with the Jets out of the playoffs. "I think my comment hurt us," Ryan said toward the end of a 15-minute session. "I don't think there's any doubt. It put pressure on guys that, quite honestly, never needed to be."In the next breath, Ryansoundedthe horn for extra fun at Florham Park. "And I'll say this about our team, we're gonna have as much fun as any team in there. 'Cuz that's how we do business," he boasted. Fun's awesome. In my experience -- and I'm sure in Ryan's as well -- successful teams have a lot of fun.But the fun drips away when the team is rudderless or fractured or has some real miserable players who are self-centered and have been built up to believe they are better than they really are. And that's what the 2011 Jets were. When Ryan ran off at the mouth last February, I asked Ryan if his persistent and hollow guarantees might backfire. The coach who cried "Super Bowl!""I don't care about people taking it seriously," Ryan shot back then."We made it to the AFC Championship two years in a row whenI think people predicted we'd win six games. So, I don't care what people think. I care what our orgainzation believes and what our fans believe. "So, empty promises...I know we got to the same place (the AFC Championship) last year, it might not appear we got better, butI thinkwe got a lot better last year. If we can improve a little bit more, then why not us? We did beat the team with the most wins in the playoffs at their place (New England). We came (to Indianapolis) had a great win against a great team. We're the only team to make the final four the last two years, so why wouldn't I be positive? (Should I say), 'Hey guys, I'll be happy if we're 8-8.' That's the wrong guy standing in front of you."I'm always gonna say the same thing," Ryan concluded. "I believe we can be champs and why wouldn't I believe it. Somebody tell me whyI shouldn't believe that we don't deserve to be champions."Self examination led Ryan to conclude on Thursday, "I tried to put the (pressure) on myself to take it off our team. I don't think I accomplished that this season."Ryan was asked if he really believed words in February caused a his team to "fall off the rails" in December. "I don't see us as completely getting off the track," Ryan said, warming to the metaphor. "I think we got in the gravel a little bit. We just gotta right it. And we can't kneejerk react it or we'll roll it the other way. There's ways of handling these things. I think our football teamis a little closer than people give it credit for."It's interesting, for a guy as open, honest and genuine as Ryan is, he spends an awful lot of time thinking about playing head games with his message. Too much time, it seems. So much that he seems tangled up in who exactly he wants to be sometimes. Asked how he plans to exhibit the verbal self-control that's eluded him since 2009, Ryan said, "It's not just self-control. I'm gonna have fun. I have fun with the opponents media. Opponents players. Opponents coaches. This is not life or death. But one thing I'm totally serious about is winning. And if I think there's something that I say or a comment that I'm gonna make pulls us away from that mission, then I'm not gonna say it. But will I always be myself. Of course. I am gonna have a great time."Party. Hats.
DETROIT = Case Keenum threw for two touchdowns and ran for a score in the first half to give the Minnesota Vikings a double-digit lead and they went on to win a seventh straight game, 30-23 over the Lions in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit. Click here to read more.
The Patriots hit Thanksgiving with an 8-2 record, a stranglehold on first place in the AFC East, and a rest-of-the-season schedule -- save for the much-anticipated meeting with the Steelers on Dec. 17 -- almost bereft of quality opponents. So they have a lot to be thankful for.
But here are some things you may not be aware of . . .
SURGICAL-GRADE DIPPED LATEX TUBING
Whoever came up with the stuff Tom Brady's resistance bands are made out of -- it's actually "surgical-grade dipped latex tubing sheathed in ballistic nylon," according to the TB12 website -- probably deserves a tip of the cap from the entire region. The 40-year-old uses the bands extensively as part of his training regimen, and he currently leads the league in passing yards, yards per attempt, quarterback rating, rating under pressure and touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was retired just a couple of years ago. He traveled. He spent time with his grandchildren. Then the Patriots called. After some time to think about it -- and after talking it over with his wife Susan -- Scarnecchia opted to come back after two years away from the game. At 69 years old, he's helped this year's unit overcome some early-season struggles, and he still seems to be on top of his game. Think the Patriots are happy he had his wife's blessing to jump back in?
You weren't expecting this, were you? Bill Belichick has said he's not a fan . . . but that's on game days. "I’m done with the tablets," he said last year. "I’ve given them as much time as I can give them. They’re just too undependable for me." But when it comes to players using tablets on their own time? They're incredibly useful. Whereas years ago players would have to come into the facility early or stay late in order to watch extra film, now they can study from the comfort of their own homes, on a team flight, or while riding in a car (as long as they aren't driving). For teams that have players who want to be over-prepared, having access to all-22 video at any time can be an advantage.
DR. ROBERT WATKINS
Who's this, you ask? He's the Los Angeles-based back specialist who operated on Rob Gronkowski's back last year. He operated on the big tight end in 2009 and 2013, and his latest procedure seems to be holding up as well as possible. Gronkowski quickly regained his strength and athleticism, and he continues to be his team's most dynamic offensive weapon. He has 41 catches for 619 yards and five scores this season, and he's been used extensively as a blocker in the running game and in pass protection. Gronkowski deserves credit -- as does the Patriots medical, training and nutrition staffs -- for being so effective in his return to the field, but the Patriots are probably thankful that last year's back surgery went as well as it did.
FLOWERS CONSTRUCTION COMPANY
Trey Flowers has been arguably his team's most dependable defender this season. According to Pro Football Focus, he's been on the field for 606 snaps, which is fourth among edge defenders. His 338 pass-rush snaps are second among 4-3 defensive ends, per PFF. He's played through injury at times, and he's remained productive. Against the Raiders he had three quarterback hits and three hurries. So why would the Patriots be thankful for Flowers Construction Co.? That's the Huntsville, Alabama company run by Flowers' father, Robert, who put Trey to work when he was growing up. The work ethic he learned on-site has helped him go from a fourth-round pick who lost most of his rookie season to injury into a playing-time iron man and one of the team's most reliable defenders.
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