FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Woody Johnson insists his New York Jets are no circus.
Sure, the Jets have been in the headlines all summer, but the team's owner doesn't think that warrants the perception they might be more suited to play under a big top instead of in a stadium.
"I think that's you guys," Johnson told reporters Thursday. "I certainly don't feel that way. We're deadly serious about what we're doing here."
And that's trying to get back to the playoffs after a disappointing 8-8 season in Rex Ryan's third year as coach. But the organization has been largely criticized for creating an unsettled and distraction-filled environment with some of its decisions. The biggest, of course, was trading for Tim Tebow in March, a move that created an unprecedented amount of media coverage in training camp and has continued as the Jets prepare for their regular-season opener against Buffalo on Sunday.
"I think our organization is a lot better than people give it credit for," Ryan said earlier Thursday. "The circus thing is kind of old for me."
Johnson echoed Ryan's feelings during practice, saying that the team is doing whatever it can to try to win games — no matter what people might think or say about the organization.
"We learned this in third grade, the whole sticks and stones and all that about calling people names and all that, that's what that is," Johnson said. "It's a way to sell papers. But I'm not in this to create a circus environment or any kind of environment except a winning environment."
Some of the recent criticism stems from a graphic that appeared earlier this week on the cover of one of the New York-area tabloids' NFL preview section. Ryan, Tebow and quarterback Mark Sanchez are depicted as clowns stuffed into a car, while the Giants' Eli Manning and Justin Tuck are looking down at them from a shiny blue convertible, holding two Super Bowl trophies.
"This is New York, so we're going to be scrutinized," Johnson said. "Everything we do is going to be questioned and analyzed. When I walk out to the parking lot and speak to our fans, everybody has an opinion, and in many cases an informed opinion. But when you're putting together a team like this, a thousand decisions come together."