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Jets players appreciate 'fun' first practice under new coach Ryan

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan gathered the New York Jets around him in the middle of the field and punctuated his first practice as a head coach with a complaint.

"We had fun," Ryan told his players Thursday, "but we need to have more fun out there."

After a second or two, the Jets broke the huddle with laughter.

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"Everybody looked at each other and was like, 'Fun? We're supposed to have fun?"' linebacker Bart Scott said.

Yep, this is Ryan's team now, and he expects the chuckles to be a permanent feature of practices this season. Gone are the long, no-nonsense and music-filled sessions that marked former coach Eric Mangini's tenure.

"We had fun with Mangini, but not all the time," running back Leon Washington said. "The perception is that we want to have fun all the time. ... You can't make any comparisons yet because it's only one day, but I definitely like how we started."

Scott, who played the past seven seasons under Ryan with the Baltimore Ravens, was asked if some Jets players told him what practices were like under Mangini.

"Yeah," Scott said with a grin.

Well, what did they say?

"No comment," Scott said, laughing. "You can't burn no bridges."

When Ryan was hired in January, he made it clear he was bringing a confident, in-your-face approach along with him. He talked about how the Jets would make it to the Super Bowl in a few years and meet President Barack Obama and declared that his team would be the most physical in the NFL. They were bold statements for a franchise that has had little about which to brag.

Scott called it being "swaggerlicious," and Ryan agreed.

"Yeah, that would be the word I'd use," Ryan said, smiling. "Swaggerlicious."

Ryan was at it again in between his first two practices with the Jets on Thursday. The NFL allows rookie coaches an extra pre-draft minicamp.

"This is a good football team, so we expect to win, and I think our tempo in practice and all that should be reflective of that," Ryan said. "If we walk around, and I know maybe it's sometimes it's, 'Don't say anything. Let our pads do our talking.' Yeah, we're going to let our pads do our talking, you'll see, and those opponents will see. But we want to have fun and we want to be ourselves.

"If a young man likes to go out there and talk and express himself that way, then so be it. Generally, those are the guys that have to back it up, so it's a lot of fun to see."

Scott was certainly having a ball. Signed in February to a six-year, $48 million deal, Scott was running his mouth nearly the entire time during both practices. He successfully covered the speedy Washington on a short pattern early in the morning practice and let the Pro Bowl returner know about it.

"Bart doesn't shut up, so we'll see how that goes all year," safety Kerry Rhodes said. "That's good for us, though. He's going to give us an attitude, and he's a guy that can back it up."

Just two players weren't in attendance for the voluntary camp that runs through Saturday: running back Thomas Jones, who's sitting out while looking for a contract extension, and quarterback Erik Ainge, who's out for what Ryan called personal reasons.

Right guard Brandon Moore (sports hernia), defensive end Shaun Ellis (knee) and tight end Dustin Keller (flulike symptoms) were at practice, but they didn't participate.

Ryan jokingly said his biggest hurdle while running his first practice was figuring out where to stand on the field. So, he started with something familiar: the defensive line. Then he worked his way around to the other positions.

"I almost felt like I've been chained to a chair or whatever," he said. "As a head coach, you've got to wear a lot of different hats."

Ryan even got involved in some drills with the defensive backs, acting as the quarterback and flashing a few spirals.

"Rex's arm stinks," Rhodes said with a smile. "He thinks he can throw. I was actually throwing with him the other day, and he was talking about his arm, but it's kind of popcornish."

Speaking of throwing, there was plenty of attention on the two quarterbacks in camp, with Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff taking turns running the first-team offense. Ryan reiterated his satisfaction with all three quarterbacks on the roster, despite the increasing speculation that the Jets could be interested in trading up from the 17th spot in next weekend's draft to perhaps take USC's Mark Sanchez.

"The competition really never ends," Clemens said. "This thing's built up with the Jets, and it's Kellen Clemens or Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge and possibly whoever else is coming into the mix."

Just as long as the Jets are having fun.

"Rex is laid back and doesn't put added pressure on you and lets you do what you do best, make plays, and puts you in situations to succeed," Rhodes said. "I think that's what everybody wanted."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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