CORTLAND, N.Y. (AP) Rex Ryan's hair was a bit wet and so was his shirt, the result of a strong thunderstorm that drenched the New York Jets as they arrived for training camp.
Dark clouds. Lightning. Sweeping wind. Was it an ominous sign of things to come?
''I think it's a great omen,'' a smiling Ryan said Wednesday in front of the SUNY Cortland dormitories that his team will call home for the next three weeks.
Ryan loves to deal in the positives, of course, and a little rain didn't change any of that. After all, the coach pointed out, it was the first time in his six years with the Jets that every player on the roster passed his conditioning test before making the three-hour trek from the team's facility in Florham Park, New Jersey, to central New York.
''And, it's not a surprise,'' Ryan said. ''This type of team gets it. Our team understands it, and we came in in great shape.''
The team also came in with lots of confidence, coming off an 8-8 season after which Ryan was retained and general manager John Idzik made a few key upgrades to the roster - namely, bringing in Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and Michael Vick, and drafting safety Calvin Pryor and tight end Jace Amaro with the Jets' first two picks.
''I know what our goals are and what every team wants to get to,'' Ryan said. ''One thing I look at, when I talk about the positives I see with this team and the excitement I feel for this team, we understand that there are so many steps that we have to take to get there. We have to improve as a football team.
''If we can talk about it and get there, it would've already been done. Talking won't get it done. We have to earn it, and we have to take every step.''
No more guarantees from Ryan. Those days are long over. But, he still has made it clear that he likes what he has seen from this year's squad and recently declared that he was confident the Jets would be a playoff team.
''Wins and losses, we're going to find out, but I'm certainly not afraid of that,'' Ryan said. ''I feel incredible about this team.''
A lot of how he feels from this point forward will depend on whether Geno Smith can build off his solid finish in an otherwise up-and-down rookie season.
''I think Geno, really, is head and shoulders above where he was last year,'' Ryan said. ''I don't think there's any doubt about that.''
While Ryan maintains that Smith and Vick will compete to be the team's quarterback and there's no timeline to name a starter, Smith will get the bulk of the snaps with the starting offense - at least early in camp.
''I expect to do well,'' Smith said. ''I expect to go to practice and earn my stripes and that's really all I can say about that. The coaches are going to make those decisions. God willing, if I stay healthy, I would hope to be the starter.''
Vick, who signed with the Jets in March, has familiarity with Marty Mornhinweg's offensive system from their years together in Philadelphia but has made it clear all offseason that Smith is the team's starter. He'll be ready, though, if an opportunity arises.
''I think that's already been addressed as far as who the starter is,'' Vick said. ''No more speculation about that. It's all about just trying to get better from this point.''
Regardless of who's under center, the addition of the speedy Johnson could be a huge boost not only in the running game but also in the passing game. The former Titans star said he feels ''explosive'' and has been cleared for football activities by Dr. James Andrews after undergoing offseason surgery on his right knee. Ryan said Johnson was ''flying'' in his conditioning test.
''Yeah, I'm good to go and do everything,'' Johnson said. ''I'm ready to go do whatever they ask me to do.''
NOTES: DL Muhammad Wilkerson, making $1.21 million in base salary this season while playing out his rookie deal, declined to talk about his contract situation. The Jets exercised his fifth-year option for next year, but Wilkerson is arguably the best player on the team and could be in line for a long-term deal. ''Holding out was never an option for me,'' he said. ''I'm one of the leaders on this team. That wouldn't be a good thing to do. That's not a way a leader would lead his team. On the business side, everything will be handled when the time will come.'' ... Among some of the more intriguing camp roommate pairings: Vick and Johnson, and Decker and K Nick Folk.
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