<
>

Woody Johnson respects Rex Ryan

12/24/2010 - NFL New York Jets

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- In Woody Johnson's mind, everything is wonderful with the New York Jets.

His football team is immersed in yet another off-field controversy, but the owner insisted Thursday that the perception of the Jets as an out-of-control franchise is being overblown.

Johnson wouldn't comment directly on the latest tabloid frenzy -- reports that coach Rex Ryan's wife posted foot-fetish videos on the Internet -- but he did express support for his coach.

"I have a lot of respect for Rex and his family," Johnson told a group of reporters at the Jets' practice facility. "My respect is not diminished one iota."

Footgate is the latest off-field issue for the Jets, who last week were in the news because of the Sal Alosi tripping incident. The league still is investigating the matter. Johnson said he still hasn't determined the fate of the strength and conditioning coach, who was suspended indefinitely by the team.

Johnson took issue when it was suggested there have been an "inordinate" number of non-football issues.

"I disagree with the word 'inordinate,' " said Johnson, adding that other teams around the league have the same problems. He didn't mention any specific teams.

Johnson actually praised his organization for its damage-control ability and said he likes the culture that is developing.

"We're going to make mistakes," he said. "We're not perfect, but we're pretty good ... Once we've made a mistake, we're pretty good at trying to make remedies and trying to correct what we're doing. We try to get better every year. We're going to work on things like our culture."

The Jets are perceived as a renegade franchise. Last January, Ryan was fined $50,000 for giving an obscene gesture to rowdy fans at a mixed-martial arts match in Miami. In September, the franchise was rebuked by the league for unprofessional locker-room behavior toward a female reporter from a Mexican TV station.

Also in September, wide receiver Braylon Edwards was arrested for drunken driving. Then came the Alosi controversy, which escalated when the team admitted that Alosi instructed inactive players to form an illegal sideline wall on the Miami Dolphins' punt that resulted in Nolan Carroll being tripped.

Johnson revealed that he called Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to apologize.

Continuing his apology tour, Johnson called New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The reason: Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff, in a radio interview last week, called out the Patriots, saying they've used the same sideline wall.

"We don't want to be insulting them," Johnson said. "Our job is not to insult another team, particularly from a coach or owner's standpoint."

The league is looking into whether Westhoff violated a rule by making those public comments. League security came to the Jets' facility last Friday and interviewed team personnel, including Westhoff.

Westhoff said he didn't accuse the Patriots of breaking the rules and he reiterated that he had no knowledge of the Jets' wall. The Jets have said it was Alosi's idea. Westhoff thinks the league believes him.

"I hope they do, because I know it's true," he said, adding that the league conducted a "very thorough" investigation on "something that was ridiculous anyway."

The Jets also are indirectly involved in the Brett Favre/Jenn Sterger investigation. Sterger worked as a Jets sideline hostess in 2008 when Favre, their quarterback at the time, allegedly texted lewd photos to her.

And, of course, the season began with HBO's "Hard Knocks" series, when the Jets' circus atmosphere -- including Ryan's use of profanity -- became a national story.

Johnson refuted the notion that Ryan's coaching style has created a culture that lacks discipline.

"I don't agree with that," Johnson said sharply. "I don't think we're loosey-goosey. I don't think there's a lack of discipline. You can't win the number of games we've won -- even with a rookie quarterback -- and be loosey-goosey. We're very disciplined."

Johnson added, "The culture I'm looking for is starting to develop, and it's developing to the point where people in this building are able to handle [adversity] and focus on what our real job is, and that's playing football."

The Jets are 10-4, one win shy of clinching their second straight playoff berth.

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.