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Ed Reed to start for Jets; David Nelson will be captain

By Tim Graham

No major announcements when it comes to the scratches for today's game between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

But the Jets have announced Ed Reed will start at safety. The Jets signed him three days ago after the Houston Texans cut him.

You also can bank on former Bills receiver David Nelson being a captain. Jets coach Rex Ryan likes to do that when his players go up against their old teams.

All the inactives:

New York Jets

  • Quarterback David Garrard
  • Running back Alex Green
  • Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley
  • Guard William Campbell
  • Tackle Ben Ijilana
  • Tackle Oday Aboushi
  • Linebacker Garrett McIntyre

Buffalo Bills

  • Quarterback Jeff Tuel
  • Running back Ronnie Wingo
  • Wide receiver Stevie Johnson
  • Wide receiver Robert Woods
  • Guard Antoine McClain
  • Cornerback Justin Rogers
  • Cornerback Brandon Smith

Rex Ryan: Just another bland interview

By Jerry Sullivan

I used to look forward to Rex Ryan's conference calls with the Buffalo media before Bills games. Ryan was a flamboyant, outrageous presence in his early years with the Jets. He didn't care what people thought of him. You never knew what the guy might say. That defiant attitude was part of his team's persona when the Jets reached two straight AFC title games. 

No more. Nowadays, Ryan plays it low-key with the media. He utters the usual bland cliches that you get from almost any NFL coach: They respect the Bills. They're focusing on this game and not looking forward. Blah blah blah. That was Ryan's approach to this Sunday's game at the Ralph. I couldn't even get Ryan to speculate about his team's surprising playoff prospects.

At 5-4, the Jets are currently alone in the sixth and final AFC playoff spot. All three teams that also had four losses going into last week (Miami, San Diego, Tennessee) lost. So Rex, are you surprised to be in that position, in a playoff spot after nine weeks?

"I'm not getting into it," Ryan said via conference call late Wednesday morning. "I just know we have Buffalo on Sunday. That's the entire focus."

You sound like the other coaches now, I told Ryan. 

"I don't care what I sound like," he said. "I just know that we're not good enough to look down the road. We have to look at what's right in front of us, and that's where it is. We've been an inconsistent football team. We've been up and down the whole season. Literally, we've been win one, lose one, win one, lose one ... but we did lose to the bye week last week."

The Jets have alternated wins and losses all nine weeks of the season. The pattern says "loss" in Orchard Park on Sunday. But as Ryan suggested, maybe the bye week can bump the pattern ahead to a 'W'.

Ryan isn't looking ahead. He wants to keep his Jets grounded and humble, which is more appropriate with this  year's Jets, an inexperienced bunch who were picked by a lot of observers to finish dead last in the NFL this season.

"We're a young football team," Ryan said. "We have seven new starters on defense, six new starters on offense and five rookies starting. This isn't like a veteran team that can look down the road. Bull, we're looking at the Buffalo Bills, period. This is a team that really had Kansas City beat and almost had New England beat, that lost to Cincinnati in overtime. We got blown out by Cincinnati. So we know what kind of team Buffalo is, and certainly our entire focus is on this team only."

Spoken like a true NFL coach. Really, if you disguised the voice, it could have been Bill Belichick.

Brad Smith thanks Bills fans, but would love to return to Jets

By Tim Graham

When Brad Smith signed with the Buffalo Bills in 2011, much more was expected than delivered.

Chan Gailey craved Smith's versatility, and the receiver/quarterback/kick returner displayed a bunch. But one got the sense that figuring out the best way to deploy Smith was harder than anyone thought.

"I didn't put any expectation on it," Smith told me this afternoon of his time with the Bills. "I just wanted to come here, play as hard as I can, work with my teammates and let the chips fall where they may. I did that, so I'm proud of that.

"I enjoyed my time here and all the friends I made. It's been a good experience."

The Bills released Smith from injured reserve today. He suffered broken ribs in the preseason finale, and the Bills couldn't afford to wait two months for his return. Now he's ready to play again.

Smith did a little bit of everything for Buffalo. In his two seasons, he had 37 receptions for 392 yards and three touchdowns, ran 34 times for 203 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 23.6 yards a kickoff return with a touchdown. He also was a core-four special-teams player, making several key coverage tackles.

Smith could not play for the Bills this year because they put him on injured reserve, but he was able to negotiate his release. He said he's healthy and can help another team.

"It's been long," Smith said of his recovery. "I broke a few ribs in some weird spots. Once it healed enough so it wouldn't rebreak, I had the chance to get back to where I needed to be. I've been cleared by the doctor. I should be good."

Smith would love the opportunity to return to the New York Jets, where he played his first five seasons and became a favorite of coach Rex Ryan.

"Absolutely," Smith said of whether he'd like to go back. "That's a place I love. I love the fans just as much as I love the Bills fans. It's the place I started. That would be real cool."

But Smith also has fond memories of Western New York. His daughter was born here, he enjoyed the community and he's bullish on the Bills' future.

"I want to thank the fans," Smith said. "I appreciate them, the Bills Mafia and everybody for supporting the team.

"I wish them a lot of luck. They got a talented team on offense, defense and special teams. They're going to do well."

Bills found way to lose Sunday that had been unseen for 62 years

By Tim Graham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When I spoke to eight-time Pro Bowl guard Stevie Wisniewski for my NFL Sunday story about overcoming penalties, he shared with me a stat from when he was a coaching intern for John Harbaugh at Stanford.

"If you're minus-one or minus-two in turnovers and also have a net difference of over 30 yards in penalties," Wisniewski said, "it's about impossible to win a game. That doesn't matter who you're playing."

Wisniewski couldn't recall the exact number, but said he thought teams lose 98 percent of the time they're overmatched in penalties and turnovers like that.

Continue reading "Bills found way to lose Sunday that had been unseen for 62 years" »

Rex 1, Pettine 0

By Jerry Sullivan

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One of the big stories heading into Sunday's Jets-Bills game was the matchup between Rex Ryan and his former defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine. On Wednesday, Ryan was asked who would have the advantage in a matchup of defensive minds who favor the same attacking defense.

"We'll see on Sunday," Ryan said.

Well, on Sunday Ryan came out the clear winner. The Jets won, 27-20. Ryan's defense harassed rookie EJ Manuel into a 19 of 42 passing day.  Oh, and the Jets had 513 yards of offense at Pettine's expense -- the most in Ryan's five-year tenure as head coach.

"It's just the way it works, because Mike is a heck of a football coach," said Ryan, who gave the credit to his offensive coaches. "It's just sometimes these things happen. You give up big plays and that number happens. Obviously, I'd rather be on this end than that end. But he's an excellent football coach. I tell you what, when they get a couple of their defensive players back, they're going to be tough."

Mike Pettine on guessing Rex Ryan's D: 'You're chasing ghosts'

Pettine and Ryan 2
Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine says his long relationship with Jets coach Rex Ryan will provide no advantage in upcoming Sunday's game against the Jets.

By Tim Graham


Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine knows Rex Ryan's defense. They worked alongside each other 11 years.

Pettine, however, claimed their long relationship will provide no edge Sunday against the New York Jets.

Pettine was the Jets' defensive coordinator the past four years and previously worked with Ryan on the Baltimore Ravens' defensive staff. Despite their familiarity, Pettine is wary of trying to guess what Ryan will do.

Continue reading "Mike Pettine on guessing Rex Ryan's D: 'You're chasing ghosts'" »

Rex Ryan says he hasn't lost it

By Jerry Sullivan

Rex Ryan is almost certainly coaching for his job this season. His Jets were expected by most prognosticators to finish at or near the bottom of the AFC this season. Many observers felt he would get fired after last season. John Idzik, the Jets' new general manager, is probably inclined to get his own head coach. 

So Ryan hasn't demonstrated the old swagger of his early days as head man, when he talked a big game and took the Jets to two straight AFC title games. The word among the New York media is that Ryan has lost his bravado. On Wednesday, Ryan insisted that's not the case. Of course, it should be noted that Ryan was late for his conference call with the Buffalo media and didn't display his usual relish for the give-and-take with the media.

Rex, I asked, what about the notion that you've lost your bravado?

"Yeah, right!" Ryan replied. "OK."

"No," I said, knowing the Jets' PR man had intended that to be the final question. "What's your reaction to that? That feeling is out there in a lot of the NY media. Don't brush it off."

"Well," Ryan said, "I'll brush it off, because inside these walls, there's plenty of bravado and plenty of confidence. Eveyrbody will see it. It's on show for everybody to see. That's why you play the games. We'll see. Don't think my football team doesn't have plenty of bravado, because we certainly do."

Ryan is on the hot seat, but I doubt that he's lost his swagger. He seemed to have plenty of it during the Jets' narrow Thursday night loss to the Patriots, when the Ryan defense harassed Tom Brady into one of the worst games of his career. The Pats were down to the equipment manager as their fourth wideout, but that game was a reminder that Rex can still coach up a defense.

Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who coached with Ryan for 11 years and will go against him on Sunday, doesn't believe his old boss has lost any of his bravado, either.

"I think externally, looking at the circumstances, you might say there's some heat on his seat," Pettine said. "But I know him and he doesn't feel that way. He's going to go out and prepare his team to win a football game each week. That's what they've done.

"He even said it, that they're a lot better than people give them credit for. He laughed at the initial power rankings that came out, where they had them ranked. He's a guy that given his competitiveness and defensive expertise, I dont think you'd ever want to count out."

With 4.5 sacks, Mario Williams AFC's defensive player of the week

By Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills pass-rusher Mario Williams was named the AFC's defensive player of the week for his record-breaking performance Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

Williams was defensive player of the week twice in 2007 and is the first Bills defensive lineman to win the award since Aaron Schobel in 2006.

Williams recorded 4.5 sacks, a club record, against Carolina. He had 3.5 of them on third down. Since he joined the Bills, 9.5 of his 15 sacks have been on third downs.

"The guy's a tremendous player," New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said today on a conference call with Bills reporters to preview Sunday's game at the Meadowlands. "He's been a tremendous player in the league for a long time.

"He's probably the guy that had the biggest disappointing 10 or 11 sacks he had last year, whatever it was, as there was in the league. The guy's a great player."

Rex Ryan expects new schemes from old pal Mike Pettine

By Tim Graham

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan has a certain somebody in his crosshairs.

"I don't like Pettine," Ryan deadpanned. "That's a given."

The gregarious Ryan actually has an affinity for Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. After working together for 11 years with the Baltimore Ravens and Jets, they will face each other for the first time Sunday at the Meadowlands.

Ryan is used to these kinds of situations. He has matched defensive playbooks with his twin brother, Rob Ryan, several times. Rob Ryan is the New Orleans Saints' defensive coordinator and previously has overseen defenses with the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders.

"It is going to be interesting," Rex Ryan said of opposing Pettine. "I've never done it before. He's kind of a brother, but I've faced my twin brother many times. So I think I'm ready for it. Maybe give him a shot before the game."

Continue reading "Rex Ryan expects new schemes from old pal Mike Pettine" »

NFL Network analysts prefer Kevin Kolb, pumped about Bills' defense

By Tim Graham

The NFL Network's "32 in 32" series recently reached the Buffalo Bills and broke down the biggest plotlines on either side of the ball.

Analysts Darren Sharper and Daniel Jeremiah agreed on both counts: Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel could be a liability in 2013, but Buffalo's defense should be significantly improved under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

Sharper, a five-time Pro Bowl safety for the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints, proclaimed the Bills would be better off with Kevin Kolb running the offense.

"It's a difficult challenge because he's playing with young guys around him," Sharper said of Manuel. "That's why you want to put Kevin Kolb out there to provide a little bit of that veteran leadership to kind of guide these young receivers.

Continue reading "NFL Network analysts prefer Kevin Kolb, pumped about Bills' defense" »

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |