- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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NEW YORK -- On Monday morning, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan was planning to be at the team's training facility formally welcoming players to the 2011 season. Instead, Ryan had to be content with issuing a few playbooks before the NFL reinstated the lockout.
"Up until now it's almost been business as usual because your focus is on the draft," Ryan said.
Plan B? Book tour.
The ever-boisterous coach spent almost an hour in his publisher's office talking about his new book, "Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laughs and Leadership in the World's Most Beautiful Game."
Ryan dedicated the book to his father, who has recently been ill, and gave Buddy Ryan the very first copy.
"He can't see too well, so we were trying to read it to him," he said. "It's something I'm proud of. We never threw something together to just go out and sell it or something. I wanted it to be something that a fan will be happy they purchased."
He talked about some of the negative reactions to published excerpts of the book, including his comments about the New York Giants, Kerry Rhodes and Vernon Gholston. He revealed how much it meant that New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker sent over beers to Ryan and his wife at the Pro Bowl to apologize for a postseason news conference filled with references to feet after a fetish video of the couple emerged on the Internet.
But even though Ryan is a literal open book, he would not discuss the video itself or the disruption it caused last season.
"I never talked about it then and I'm not going to talk about it now," Ryan said.
Was there any pressure from his publisher to divulge more about the incident?
"It wouldn't have mattered," he said.
In a chapter dedicated to last season, he discusses several things that made news on and off the field, such as when Ines Sainz, a Mexican television reporter, felt uncomfortable in the Jets' locker room and it spurred an investigation by the NFL.
"I mentioned that was a 'distraction,' and that was probably a word I would change," Ryan said. "I'm not necessarily sure what I would change it to, but I have a lot of respect for that young lady. She has never once said that the Jets did something that wasn't appropriate. I think the word, 'distraction' wasn't the right word. It was more of a 'challenge' at that point."
Ryan has taken some heat from people in the Giants organization for saying that the Jets have started to out-shine their neighbors. The Giants are a more storied franchise, with more Super Bowls and, until recently, more headlines. There is little doubt that the Ryan era has brought more attention to the Jets, even if some of that attention has to do with Tripgate, Braylon Edwards' DWI arrest or inappropriate photos allegedly texted by former quarterback Brett Favre.
But Ryan said it's more than that.
"The facts are we've played better than the Giants the past two years, and those are the only two years I've been here," Ryan said.
Giants defensive end Justin Tuck took umbrage at Ryan's remarks, and so did the Giants' fast-tweeting public relations director Pat Hanlon. But Ryan deflected that at the conference table, and praised Tuck's performance when the Giants won their most recent Super Bowl.
"My big thing is, I think I can whip Pat," Ryan said. "I'm worried about him throwing a BlackBerry at me."
It wouldn't have been a Ryan news conference without another declaration that the Jets will win the Super Bowl. It was a claim he first made when he took the job after President Barack Obama's inauguration, saying that he hoped the Jets would visit him soon.
"His term's not up yet," Ryan said. "I still believe in that."
Asked if two seasons of saying the Jets would win a Super Bowl and losing in the AFC title game made his claims ring hollow, Ryan said he thought more teams should talk that way. Why don't they? Fear of criticism if they fall short. But he would rather set big goals, and have his team try to live up to them rather than meet mediocre targets.
"I want to be great; all I needed was an opportunity," Ryan said.
Ryan clarified that he thought Gholston's combine numbers were what he called phony.
"I mentioned to [then-Jets coach Eric] Mangini he's not going to play to those numbers," he said.
Ryan also didn't think the Jets got the right effort from Rhodes, who wanted to be the No. 1 safety over Jim Leonhard, who Ryan brought in from Baltimore.
"It's the work ethic," Ryan said, "I don't think he gave it to us."
Barton for one tweeted that he didn't know why he was singled out because he never actually played for Ryan, and Ryan said it was a call he made more off of doing his homework on Barton and Baker than a face-to-face assessment. Ryan also said his twin brother Rob had Barton as Cleveland's defensive coordinator and loved the linebacker.
"You have to take shots at them," Ryan said.
Ryan has used opportunities to poke fun at the Patriots, but he thought Welker's foot-filled press conference crossed the line. He said he thought when Patriots coach Bill Belichick benched Welker, Ryan took it as a show of solidarity.
"I thought it was a sign of respect, I really did," Ryan said. "Hopefully Welker will make some other derogatory comments before we play them next time."
As for the process of writing the book, Ryan said his first drafts might have been more brutally honest, and a little harsher. The process smoothed some of his edges, and gave him an appreciation for being diplomatic when necessary.
Could there be a sequel? Yep, says Ryan.
"We win the Super Bowl."
Jane McManus is a columnist and reporter for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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