(Long Island, NY) Late July in Cortland, New York. The preparation for 16 games that run through the cold of December begin in the heat and humidity of the summer. The team goes through treacherous two-a-days and countless repetitions to ensure that the mistakes are limited when the games count.
Even after the practice session is complete on the field, the players can be seen in the weight room exercising and honing their bodies for the torture that lies ahead. But if you look closely, you will see that their leader is amongst them in more ways than one.
Rex Ryan has always been, in his description, a big guy. Since the Jets first hired him back in January, he has put on a few pounds. Between 30 and 40, and for someone who was overweight to begin with, that was not a good sign. So the first-year head coach decided that he was going on a crash diet, with the first five days being of the liquid kind.
Ryan has made it a habit of getting on the treadmill to shed the extra weight and the early reports have been so far, so good. “We were taking numbers on how much I would lose,” he said. “We got up to about eight pounds maybe? Well, you might want to get with our strength coach because somebody has lost 20 (pounds). When I said that, there were a lot of people questioning me.
“I have a funny feeling (that) maybe some of my predictions may be coming right,” he continued. “Maybe more than just that. It was one of those things that when you see how much you actually weigh you say ‘you’re kidding, right?’ That’s impressive right? I am about two pounds away from my ideal weight. Oh, it is 102 pounds,” he finished with a laugh.
Okay, so maybe Ryan’s diet will take a little more time than he originally planned for, but that does not take away from the intensity that he brings to the gridiron. The former defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens is trying to mold Gang Green into the type of team that opponents will feel it when their offense series is finished. A big part of that will be the newly shaped secondary with the additions of Lito Sheppard and Jim Leonhard.
“I’m very confident in this group,” said Ryan. “We are loaded. Just like in Baltimore, it was great what (head coach Jon) Harbaugh allowed us to do and Ozzie (Newsome), it was ‘keep the best football team, keep the best football players.’”
The Ravens’ loss was the Jets’ gain when Leonhard was signed as a free agent during the offseason. The former Cleveland Browns were not able to keep all their best players, as not only Leonhard left town to join Ryan, but linebacker Bart Scott, as well.
“I look at it as a new challenge to be able to take it to the next level and to be able to try to put my imprint on the defense and play with a bunch of great players,” said Scott. “To be able to have an opportunity to kind of move from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat is very flattering and it comes with a great sense of responsibility and I am ready to take one the challenge.”
The Jets have training camp ad the preseason to hone their skills and get themselves ready to go come September. And that includes the big guy on the sidelines wearing the headset. Only thing is if Ryan has his way, he won’t be as big as he is now.