The Big Nickel: Rex Ryan backs Antonio Cromartie, the Patriots go indoors and no one needs a Jetsons car
|01.12.11 at 4:35 pm ET|
The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Wednesday:
1. When it comes to Antonio Cromartie, there’s no doubt where Jets coach Rex Ryan stands.
“First off, in this country, you’re allowed to have opinions and all that kind of stuff,” Ryan said in a Wednesday morning conference call with the New England media. “Obviously, as an organization, we respect Tom Brady; there’s no question about it. But, is there dislike between us and Brady and Brady against the Jets and all that? Of course there is.
“But, am I going to punish Cromartie for saying something or whatever? No. I don’t want that. We respect New England, but we don’t fear them. A comment like that is just the fact that they’re the enemy like we look at them this week.”
As for Brady — who was called an “ass—-” by Cromartie — the quarterback shrugged off the slight, saying he’s been “called worse.”
“I’m sure there’s a long list of people who feel that way,” said the Patriots quarterback. “We’re spending our time getting ready to play. I don’t think we’re spending our time figuring out what we can do to combat what people say about us. Not everybody has great things to say about our team or organization or certain players, and that’s the way it’s always been. We’re just going to do our talking on the field. I think that’s what we’ve always chosen to do.”
Cromartie’s comments were the latest in a long line of statements coming from the Jets about this week’s game. Ryan says that while the talk out of New York is getting a lot of ink, the Patriots do their share of trash-talking.
“Trust me, they’re saying a lot worse about me and others here. It just maybe wasn’t printed,” Ryan said.
2. The Patriots did not practice on the Gillette Stadium field — it couldn’t be cleared off in time — so they went under the bubble. (This after a Tuesday where Alge Crumpler joked that they would likely be outside on Wednesday, whatever the weather. “Our bubble is just for naming rights — it’s not for us to practice in,” he said with a smile.)
And according to reports, the only player who was missing from the session (which was held in sweats and shells) was defensive lineman Myron Pryor, who has had back issues for most of the second half of the season. That’s an improvement over Tuesday’s attendance, where Pryor and Jermaine Cunningham (calf) were the only two players not in attendance. Click here for the full injury report.
3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead might be the unlikeliest running back combination in the NFL. A pair of undrafted free agents, they have combined for 1,555 rushing yards, with Green-Ellis finishing the year with a team-high 1,008 yards and Woodhead adding 547. (The latter has also flashed some serious skills as a receiver, ending the regular season with 379 receiving yards.)
The two are studies in perseverance. Green-Ellis was signed as a rookie free agent in 2008 and sat on the practice squad for a time before a promotion to the 53-man roster. Then, he waited his turn until this year, when he had a breakout season. Meanwhile, Woodhead was a Division III star who was cut loose by the Jets earlier this season before latching on with the Patriots in September.
Along the way, the duo — who also locker next to each other — have formed a unique bond.
“Our lockers are both next to each other and we spend a lot of time together. We have some days where we’re here 12 hours out of a day,” said Green-Ellis. “We spend a lot of time together. We’re in all the same meetings and everything. Our lockers are next to each other. Our seats are right next to each other, so it’s kind of hard not to.”
“Benny and I, he’s one of the people right from the get-go that helped me out,” Woodhead said. “So did Freddy [Taylor], Sammy [Morris], [Kevin Faulk] – everyone’s helped out. The whole running back room, I think, is a very close-knit group.”
That ethos has translated to success on the field — Woodhead had six touchdowns this year, while Green-Ellis had 13, including two in a December win over the Jets.
“More than anything, I think Benny and I just go out and work as hard as we can every single day, out in practice [or] whether it be in the meeting rooms,” said Woodhead. “And we try to do what we can for when our time comes – maybe to get the ball or block or whatever it may be to help out the rest of our teammates.”
4. There were no Jetsons cars. No one was late to meetings, and no one was at home with their toes up in the air. Despite Wednesday morning’s snowfall, everyone was present and accounted for at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday as preparation continued for Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Jets.
“We got everyone here,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told the media. “We have some experienced Northeastern drivers on our team.”
“Rough weather, but we made it. We got here on time, so everything is all good,” said Green-Ellis. “Fred [Taylor] actually came to pick me up this morning and we didn’t leave my house maybe until about 6:20, but I had been up since about 5:00.”
“It was kind of crazy driving in today,” Brady said. “I think everyone made it safe and sound. So hopefully everyone else did, too.”
5. While the Patriots are understandably cautious about Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes, tight end Dustin Keller also remains a priority. Keller has always had big moments against New England over the course of his career — after a third-and-15, his 16-yard catch late in a 2008 win for the Jets over the Patriots remains one of the most clutch receptions by an opponent in the history of Gillette Stadium. In addition, his 25 catches for 308 yards are career bests for the 6-foot-2, 250-pound tight end out of Purdue.
In September’s win over New England, he was targeted a team-high nine times and caught seven passes for a team-high 115 yards and a touchdown, but in December, he was held in check, finishing with three catches for 27 yards.
“He’s one of their guys — he’s a vertical threat at tight end,” said New England safety Jarrad Page. “He can get down the field. He’s got good hands. And he knows how to get open. Anytime you play against a tight end like that, where guys work in the middle of the field, he can make big plays.”
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