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."
Tebow is expected to be a major part of the Jets' offense, working from the team's wildcat package and possibly in other ways Ryan has kept largely under wraps. But some fans and media have wondered if it has been more of a publicity stunt to help sell tickets.
Even Sanchez joked about Johnson's recent comments on national TV that you can "never have enough Tebow," saying Wednesday: "Selling seats, man. Sellin' seats."
Johnson said he was just trying to be funny with his comment about Tebow.
"I didn't mean that to be anything other than humorous," he said.
But Johnson acknowledged that the Jets are not sold out for their home opener at MetLife Stadium, so the effect of having Tebow hasn't necessarily translated into a windfall at the ticket office. Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index listed the Jets as having the highest average for non-premium ticket prices in the NFL at $117.94.
"We will not be blacked out," Johnson insisted, his team satisfying the rule by selling enough tickets to avoid not being shown on local television.
Johnson expressed faith in both Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum, but wouldn't comment on the future of the two who are under contract through the 2014 season, citing his own personal policy. But he did praise Ryan's achievements in his first three seasons — including trips to the AFC championship game in 2009 and 2010.
"In terms of my confidence in him, I'm very confident in Rex Ryan," Johnson said. "You just have to look at his body of work. It's unparalleled in our history."
Johnson believes his team is good enough to be a playoff contender this season, although he stayed away from making any bold predictions.
He also refused to issue any ultimatums, as Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie did last week when he said it would be "unacceptable" if his team went 8-8 this year.
"Some owners have made those comments," Johnson said. "I just prefer to look at it optimistically."
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