(WSCR) – It takes a full week to prepare for an NFL opponent, and that’s if the coaching staff doesn’t have any distractions, but distractions are nothing new the Jets.
The Jets will have to prepare for the NFC North champion, Chicago Bears, while talk of their head coach’s personal life steals headlines from one of the biggest games for the Jets all season.
But like any team, or family, they’re looking out for each other.
The finger. The show. The reporter. The knee. The wall. And now, the feet.
Through it all, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson has stood by his coach and team during this, ahem, interesting and winning year.
“I’m very proud of the organization,” Johnson said Thursday. “I think the organization responded very responsibly in every case. The culture that I’m looking for is starting to develop and has developed to the point where the people in this building are able to handle it and be resilient and focused on what our real job is, and that’s playing football.”
Johnson still had to answer plenty of non-football questions during a 10-4 season in which the Jets are a win away from a second straight playoff berth under Rex Ryan.
His latest defense came a day after the embarrassed coach declined comment about a foot-fetish report posted by the sports website Deadspin.
“I have a lot of respect for Rex and his family,” Johnson said. “My respect has not diminished one iota.”
The site put up four videos of a woman – who bears a close resemblance to Ryan’s wife, Michelle – and shows her displaying her toes to an off-screen cameraman who sounds a lot like the coach. Ryan said Wednesday it was a “personal matter.” Johnson thinks it is, too.
“My reaction is, I don’t really want to talk about that,” he said. “I’m going to respect Rex and how he wanted to characterize it. It’s a personal matter, and that’s the way it is.”
Johnson said he has spoken with Ryan and offered his support.
“He’s still the coach of the New York Jets,” the owner said.
Ryan’s twin brother, Rob, who is Cleveland’s defensive coordinator, refused to get dragged into the Jets’ latest drama.
“That’s a personal thing with Rex,” he said. “Whatever happened, happened. I don’t think any of us have wings on.”
Johnson disagrees with the perception that the Jets have racked up an “inordinate” number of headline-grabbing distractions this season, something some fans and media have attributed to Ryan’s brash personality.
“I don’t think it’s loosey-goosey and I don’t think we lack discipline,” Johnson said. “You can’t win the number of games we’ve won, even with a rookie quarterback (last season) with a loosey-goosey anything. We are very disciplined. I think the perception is that he smiles, or whatever, and that gets confused for a lack of whatever. But I don’t look at it that way.
“I know the players don’t, either. Players want to feel that they are getting better and they want to feel that the people in command are giving them a formula that they are capable of winning with. I think they feel it. I know they feel it.”
The NFL paid the Jets a visit last week about a play on Dec. 12, when assistant coach Sal Alosi tripped a Miami player running along the sideline during a game.
“Obviously, tripping somebody outside by a nonplayer is something we don’t condone,” Johnson said. “You can call it a violation. It’s a rules violation. It’s not called because it’s not done very often.”
Alosi, the Jets’ strength and conditioning coach, was initially suspended by the team without pay for the rest of the season, including the playoffs, and fined an additional $25,000. The team suspended him indefinitely two days later when it learned Alosi was responsible for ordering inactive players to form a sideline wall.
Johnson, who spoke to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and apologized, hasn’t decided what to do with Alosi.
“Indefinitely is a pretty long time,” Johnson said. “We’re focused on the season, not really the season, but we’re focused on the Chicago Bears at this point. In football, that’s about as far as you can go.”
Johnson also called New England owner Bob Kraft to apologize after Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said the Patriots also use the wall tactic.
“Our job is not to insult another team, particularly from a coach or owner’s standpoint,” Johnson said. “That’s not what we’re here to do.”
After a series of high-profile moves in the offseason, when the team brought in LaDainian Tomlinson, Jason Taylor and Antonio Cromartie, things really heated up in the summer when the Jets became reality-TV stars on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”
Ryan’s foul language drew the ire of many, including former Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy, and all the boasts about being “soon-to-be champs” rubbed other teams the wrong way.
September brought an investigation by the league after reporter Ines Sainz, of TV Azteca, said she felt uncomfortable in the team’s locker room. As a result, the NFL developed a workplace conduct program, underwritten by Johnson.
A few weeks later, wide receiver Braylon Edwards was arrested and charged with drunken driving, a case that is still pending. Prosecutors say Edwards had a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit after being pulled over in Manhattan. He was already on probation after pleading no contest to aggravated disorderly conduct in a dustup outside a Cleveland nightclub. Edwards is due back in court Jan. 11.
Last January, Ryan was fined $50,000 by the team after he was caught on a cell phone camera flipping his middle finger at a fan during a mixed-martial arts competition in Sunrise, Fla.
Through it all, Johnson insists his team will continue to improve – on and off the field.
“Once we’ve made a mistake, I think we are pretty good at trying to make remedies, trying to cure, trying to correct what we’re doing, and we try to get better every year,” he said. “We’re going to work on things like our culture. We’re going to work on trying to make ourselves an organization that doesn’t have, preferably, any incidents, but we know that we’re going to have some.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Berea, Ohio, contributed to this report.