FLORHAM PARK–Everyone was present and accounted for during practice. Jason Taylor was limited, but Rex Ryan reiterated that he will be ready to go on Sunday. The rest of the limited group was the same: Drew Coleman, James Ihedigbo, Darrelle Revis and Brad Smith.
There has been a slight difference in tone this week from the past two. While there is still an air of confidence, there’s not so much confrontation. The reason is fairly straightforward, the Jets have histories with both the Colts and the Patriots, but not with the Steelers in that same way. As James Ihedigbo said, “This week is about us.”
The team is paying attention solely on what they need to do, with no overtones of proving they can beat the Patriots or that they can get the better of Peyton Manning. Therefore, the talk has quieted down and the team has turned its focus completely inward.
Everyone in the building seems to think this game is going to come down to the fourth quarter and they’ve been open about it from Ryan on down. But, there is calmness when they talk about it. Nick Folk, who has had a few spotty moments this season, said that he is ready for anything.
“You’ve got to embrace that pressure,” Folk said. “If I ever get that opportunity, I’m looking forward to it.”
Mike Westhoff talked about Heinz field itself, which has gotten a bad rap and said that the last time they played on it, it was much better. The field sees a ton of action with not just the Steelers, but the University of Pittsburgh and high school teams using it as well. However, according to Westhoff, they have re-sodded and he doesn’t expect it to be a problem.
Ryan called Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau a legend and the second best coordinator in the league. So, who’s No. 1? “I’ve got to give it to my brother being a twin,” Ryan said. “If it was an older brother, no. But twin brother, I give him the nod.”
There are a lot of Pittsburgh connections in the Jets organization including Jason Taylor who was born and raised there. This is the first Championship game of Taylor’s career and playing it in his home town creates a lot of story lines. “This game is big for so many reasons,” he said. “It’s been a long journey to get to this point in my career. You know, never doubted it would happen, but didn’t always expect it either sometimes.”
He then laughed and related a conversation he had with Mike Pettine during practice. He said Pettine told him, “Make sure you don’t drink any of that crap you guys drink before the games and get fired up because I’m sure you’ll be hyped up enough, going back home and playing for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.”
Mike Westhoff grew up in Pittsburgh and still has family there. In fact, his father, Jim, was a record-setting quarterback at Central Catholic. Guess who broke his records? None other than Dan Marino.
Brian Schottenheimer’s father Marty is also a native of Pittsburgh so this is special for their family as well, and of course Darrelle Revis hails from Alquippa.
I had a chat with Shonn Greene about the fact that he’s only in his second year in the NFL and is going to the AFC Championship game for the second time and how different that is from his fellow running back, LaDainian Tomlinson’s experience. “I was actually thinking about that this morning,” he said. “It’s very difficult to get to the playoffs. For me and Mark (Sanchez) getting there two times in a row is crazy. It makes you appreciate it more.”
Braylon Edwards has clearly become more and more comfortable as the season has gone on. Whether he’s playing or talking to the media he has become a consistent presence. Brian Schottenheimer said that the one change he has noticed in Edwards that is likely affecting his play are his practice habits. He said that Edwards has now become one of the best practice players on the team and allows him to make the kind of plays he’s been making of late. As Schottenheimer said, “That doesn’t just happen.”
Anecdote of the Day: Things in the locker room have taken an ugly turn – the beard situation has become a problem. Almost everyone on the team is growing a playoff beard. For many, it’s just not going well. Some of those involved openly admit it’s not going well. Others are in denial. Some people are trying to trim, which in some cases is actually making things worse. It has yet to be determined if there will be a mass shaving if they win on Sunday, or if these things will go right through the Super Bowl, should they get there. It is interesting to note that those guys who shave their heads, continue to do that, even if they’re growing a beard.
Massive kudos to the PR Department for bringing in ice cream sundaes and gourmet cupcakes to the media room in the late afternoon.
Thursday’s Media Count. I have no idea. My guess is around 65.