There are some stories that are so crazy they must be true, and one that NFL running back legend LaDainian Tomlinson told about his former coach with the New York Jets, Rex Ryan, has got to be one of them.
With the Jets visiting Gillette Stadium on Thursday night for a big Week 2 showdown with the New England Patriots, much of the talk this week has centered on the two men leading the teams. Speaking Tuesday on “NFL Total Access” on the NFL Network, LT claimed that Rex Ryan once attempted to get the team all fired up by insisting that he planned to punch New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in the face when the two met on the field before a big game between the teams.
Tomlinson, who played for the Jets during the 2010 and 2011 seasons before a stellar career with the San Diego Chargers, didn’t say exactly when the false bravado occurred, but recollects what transpired during the pep talk to pump the team up before a big AFC East showdown as follows:
“We were playing the Patriots one time, and as I mentioned, Rex is a master motivator,” said Tomlinson. “It was going to be a big game, a heated rivalry game, and Rex got in front of us, he said, ‘I’m going to set the tempo today, guys,’ he said, ‘I’m going to set the tempo when I meet Bill Belichick in the center of the field, I’m gonna start it off and punch him in the face. I loved it.
“He was motivating his guys and he wanted to jump it off,” Tomlinson continued, as reported by NFL.com, ” … Our coach showed confidence that he has in us (and) in himself. He can be joking and lighten the mood at the same time while being serious about the competition.”
It’s likely that no Jets player truly expected Ryan to walk out to midfield and cold-cock Belichick instead of shaking his hand and chit-chatting, but Tomlinson is correct: Ryan does appear to have the ability to walk a fine line between being a blowhard players tune out and a fierce, inspirational figure.
But imagine if he had punched Belichick on that fateful day. Granted, there’s no way he’d still be coaching the Jets — which, depending on how this season plays out, may have been preferable to what he’s about to endure in the coming months — but man, what a way to go out, right?