Coming off the bye week, the Jets went into their preparations for Sunday’s game in Buffalo refreshed physically and also mentally. They came out a bit more beat up, and according to head coach Rex Ryan, that was by design.
The Jets practiced in pads for the first time since Oct. 19 and tried to wipe away the rust that can settle in following a bye week. While the days off are a positive for the players’ overall well-being, the Jets convened last Monday at the team’s facility and then didn’t meet again till a week later. It does take the team out of a certain rhythm.
That’s why Wednesday’s practice was in pads.
“Get back on the field and pick that intensity back up and hit, because that’s what happens out of bye weeks. You need to tackle well and sometimes you get a little rusty,” safety Jim Leonhard said. “Obviously you’re not hitting as much with the rules the way they are anyway, but it’s great to get the pads back on and get your legs back under you and pick that intensity up. Coming off a bye, you need to regain that momentum you had coming into the bye week.”
The Jets are hampered by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which limits padded practices to just 14 during the 17-week regular season. When looking at the schedule, the coaching staff decided to use one of these precious padded practices this Wednesday to help the team regain their sharpness from before the bye week.
“Just [with] that time off, set your pads. That was a man’s practice today, a lot of fundamentals,” Ryan said. “When you come off a bye week, tackling is important.”
Outside linebacker Jamal Westerman said that Wednesday’s practice was “technique-heavy” with a focus on hitting and sharpness. Under Ryan, the Jets have lost the past two seasons after the bye week and with a trip to 5-2 Buffalo on Sunday, they can’t afford any slip-ups.
“We went out there, really worked on our technique. It was a man’s practice as Rex likes to call it. Playing against a team like Buffalo that likes to run the ball, it’s important,” Westerman said. “We’re coming a week that was great for your body but hitting guys, hitting them, bending your knees and making tackles, you wanted to get back into that football mentality. It was good that way, I don’t want to say to wake us up, but to energize us as a team again.”
For a team that won two straight heading into their bye week, the importance of Wednesday wasn’t just in fine-tuning and readying themselves for what should be a tough game against the Bills, it was also in re-discovering that edge and momentum from their mini-winning streak.
“It’s important to do it, but I think guys are more eager to do it. A week and a half without pads on, the last padded thing we had was the game. It was important for us to come back in with the pads and hit a little bit. Even if we’re limited a bit, everyone else around the league is limited,” nose tackle Sione Pouha said. “It’s important for us to come back in with pads.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.