FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Rex Ryan's sense of humor is still going strong.
Despite a 3-11 record and facing an uncertain future, the New York Jets coach has kept the one-liners and self-deprecating jokes coming. He refuses to pout, even if Sunday's game against the New England Patriots might be his last at home with the team.
''I'm just going to be myself,'' he said Friday. ''I'm not dead yet. I'm always going to be me and that's just my personality. That's just who I am every day. Regardless of the good times, the bad times, or whatever, I think I'm consistent that way.''
Ryan has been in relatively good spirits this week, cracking jokes about himself, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. That's all while possibly facing his final days with a franchise he's led for the last six seasons.
''No, I haven't thought about that at all,'' Ryan said. ''I thought you were going to ask me what I thought of Belichick.''
Ryan famously declared soon after he was hired by the Jets in 2009 that he didn't come to New York to kiss the Patriots coach's rings. Under Ryan, the Jets are 4-8 against Belichick, including a playoff victory during the 2010 season, but the Patriots have won the AFC East title every year during that span.
So, for Ryan, mission not accomplished. But just because he has tried - and mostly failed - to beat Belichick, that doesn't mean he dislikes the Patriots coach.
''I probably think he's a lot better coach than he thinks I am, I think that's safe to say,'' a smiling Ryan said. ''We'd like everybody to think that we don't like each other, but that's not the facts. He's not somebody that you can hang out with or something like that, at least I don't. We're cordial. Anytime we see each other off the field or we talk to each other, it's just the opposite of what people think.''
Ryan is nowhere near the brash, no-holds-barred guy whose daily press conferences were filled with bold statements and wild guarantees. He toned that down a bit in the last few years when he learned that it was negatively affecting his players. But Ryan has managed to be loose during tense times, particularly this season.
His players noticed that effort, and it's endeared him over the years.
''Man, he's the ultimate players' coach,'' said wide receiver Percy Harvin, who joined the Jets in a trade in October. ''He's always going to go to bat for you and he always has your back. He keeps it real. If you ask him a question, he's going to give you the answer. If he don't have it, he's going to find a resource to get it for you.''
Harvin said he ''definitely'' thinks Jets players could appeal to owner Woody Johnson and the front office to keep Ryan beyond this season.
''But I don't even think that's necessary,'' said Harvin, adding he could have called it a season two weeks ago instead of aggressively working back from a severely sprained ankle. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is also trying to get back on the field after missing three games with turf toe.
''Guys will run through the wall for Rex,'' Harvin said. ''When you've got a players' coach, and do things the way he does it, your team is going to be all in.''
And, if this is Ryan's last home game with the Jets, beating the Patriots would be a satisfying ending for the players and coach.
''Definitely,'' linebacker Calvin Pace said. ''Best way to go out - if that's the case.''
NOTES: Ryan said claims by former CB Josh Thomas, now with Detroit, that he didn't receive enough coaching while with the Jets were ''humorous.'' Thomas was waived Tuesday after limited action. ''I never heard it ever in my life,'' Ryan said. ''I've been coaching a long time, and not just about me or anybody else. That's a new one.'' ... Pace on the Jets' showdowns with the Patriots in the seven years he's been with New York: ''It's been a pleasure to play against them, man. I think they bring the best out of us, and I'd like to think they'd say the same thing.''
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