Two of the opinion leaders on the Jets were presented with the state of their team as perceived by “the experts” who have come out of the woodwork the past few weeks to predict how the Jets will finish in the AFC East (consensus has them third, behind Buffalo, ahead of Miami) and how they’ll fare against the Bills at home in Sunday’s opener (not well, according to the set of experts on CBS Sportsline’s crack staff, among others).
Head coach Rex Ryan said the Jets are “right where we need to be.”
“It does remind me a little bit for whatever reason of our first year here,” Ryan reminisced about the 2009 season. “But you’ve got to go back in and earn it and prove people wrong. Does that drive you a little bit? I’d be lying if I tell you it never did. Of course it does. Human nature is ‘I’ll show you.’ I’ve been that way all my life. It’s the reason I’m here today. I’m going to compete, our whole football team is going to compete, the organization is going to compete.
“I’d much rather be picked third and later be somewhere else at the end of the road,” he added, and he didn’t mean fourth.
Mark Sanchez had a similar take about the Jets’ competitive spirit but not about how the opinions of the football gurus grinds away at his gut.
“I think this team has something to prove to each other but not to anybody on the outside,” said the QB preparing to make his fourth opening-day start for the Green & White. As for those third-place predictions, “Who cares?” he said. “Is it human nature to say ‘Well, we’re better than what they said’? Who cares what they said. We’ve got to go out and practice hard and rely on each other.
“The home opener’s important,” he said, and he’s won two of his three home openers, not to mention five of six home games in September. “But you never want to put so much into it and make it bigger than what it is. We’ll just rely on the work we put in during the week and on Sunday it should be automatic. That’s my mental approach, and I know a lot of our guys feel the same way.”
Well, yes, except Rex doesn’t want to remove a little extra edge from this game. “We’ve got a ton of work to do,” he said, “and it’s all about this game and this week.”
The reported knee injury suffered by Isaako Aaitui on Monday led to his release and to the return of Marcus Dixon, the third-year man who was released at least in part because Aaitui had impressed with the Dolphins this summer at both NT and DT.
Dixon gave a bittersweet recap of his time away and his mindset now that he’s in some ways starting over again with the Jets.
“I kept the door always open” for a return, he said after today’s practice. “There were other options out there, but just the timing of my release, I couldn’t get moved anywhere.
“But I’m glad to be back here. I just know I’ve got to go out there and take it one day at a time, really. You never know. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder now — I ain’t gonna lie. But I’m going to go out and do what I’ve got to do. We’ve got the Bills this week and that’s my focus.”
He called his three days away from the Jets complex an eye-opener.
“It made me realize a lot of things that are important,” he said, casting a hard eye at his situation. “There’s really no guarantee. And I think I might’ve gotten a little comfortable a little bit. So I’m back on my, I guess, my college mentality, where I’m just hungry. I realize, I guess, that I’m always one of those guys who’s going to be on the bubble. I’ve got to prove my worth. So that’s what I’m going to do and help the team win.”
Dixon was a steady, honest contributor to the D-line rotation last year in his only full season with the Jets. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that maybe he’s got even more to play for than a lot of others when the Jets and Bills kick it off Sunday.
The first Jets injury report of the season is now available on newyorkjets.com. And this report shows the Jets leading in the number of listed players, 15-4, over the Bills. This is not necessarily a good score.
Yet still most of the Jets seem to be in the likely-to-play category. As you’ll remember, the first two days of the week each team reports only whether a player’s participation in team drills was full, limited or non-existent. Two Jets didn’t participate in today’s practice in the Atlantic Health Training Center fieldhouse (due to the heavy morning rain) — TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) and S Eric Smith (hip/knee).
Six Jets were listed as limited — RB-KR Joe McKnight (hamstring), G Brandon Moore (hip), D-linemen Sione Po‘uha (low back) and Mike DeVito (calf), and LBs Bryan Thomas (ankle) and Nick Bellore (shoulder). Six other Jets were full participants.
The NFL platform doesn’t allow us to give you the opponents’ report in chart form, but for the Bills, the two injuries to watch were to WRs Stevie Johnson and Brad Smith, both limited with groin injuries.
Buffalo coach Chan Gailey said Smith is “getting better. He’s going to go on the practice field today and hopefully he’ll be ready to do a little more tomorrow, a little bit more Friday. And hopefully we’ll get him for Sunday.”
See More of Curt in Canton
The Curtis Martin Hall of Fame Special airs for the first time tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET on SNY. The SNY crew followed Curt around Canton in early August, from autograph session to news conference to parade to gold-jacket dinner to enshrinement ceremony. Tune in to watch No. 28’s glorious weekend at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Curtis Martin, injury report, Marcus Dixon, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, season opener
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