WESTMINSTER — Swaggering, bombastic former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan hasn’t lost his outspoken touch, or his inclination to speak his mind.
If anything, the New York spotlight and his new job as the Jets’ coach have served to embolden Ryan as the popular former Baltimore defensive guru prepares his team for a Monday night preseason game against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
In his latest batch of opinionated remarks, Ryan was critical of the Ravens for issuing retired defensive end Michael McCrary’s old No. 99 jersey to rookie second-round defensive end-outside linebacker Paul Kruger.
"I am disappointed that they gave his jersey to some rookie who hasn’t proven [crap]," Ryan told New York reporters Monday. "Excuse my language."
Ryan has always been emotional when it concerns McCrary, a relentless, undersized two-time Pro Bowl selection who registered 51 career sacks for the Ravens and got the job done with heart and muscle despite bad knees.
When McCrary retired in 2002, Ryan burst into tears and was momentarily unable to talk he was so choked up.
It’s extremely doubtful that the Ravens meant any disrespect toward McCrary, but it’s definitely a compliment for Kruger to receive that number.
Ryan, who has famously said he won’t kiss New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s Super Bowl rings and has exchanged barbs and threats with Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, wasn’t done stirring the pot.
Ryan, who recommended Ravens coach John Harbaugh after he was passed over for the job following an interview with Baltimore team officials, still believes he should have been named as Brian Billick’s replacement.
"Of course, I feel extra about this game," said Ryan during his Monday news conference. "I’m not going to deny that. And I guarantee you they do, too. I was there for 10 years. … I’ll tell you what, let’s play in the playoffs. That would be a great scenario. I care dearly for that organization, but not half as much as I do for this one.
"I throw it out there because I’m just being real. Of course, I always think it’s BS. I always thought I was the right guy for the job. … Hey, I want them to know my guys are playing like Jets. We’re to be taken seriously. I respect John. But I respect my brother too and I want to kick his (butt)."
Ryan also thanked Harbaugh for promoting him to assistant head coach last season.
"I got a chance to work with John, as he would say, shoulder to shoulder with him," Ryan said. "We’d have some conversations, and sometimes I’d give him a different point of view. They weren’t arguments, but they were conversations. I learned a lot. ..
"At the end of the day, when I heard who they wanted to consider, and it was clear I wasn’t going to get the job and wasn’t in their plans, I recommended John. They did the best thing. If they weren’t going to hire me, they did the best thing."
Usually loquacious former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott, who signed a $48 million contract this offseason to join the Jets, didn’t fuel the fire as he downplayed the importance of the preseason game.
"It’s a preseason game," Scott said. "It’s important for us to take the next step. It’s about us trying to get better to be ready for the opening."
INJURY UPDATES: Several players didn’t practice, including linebackers Terrell Suggs (strained left heel, Achilles’ tendon) and Dannell Ellerbe (knee sprain), cornerbacks Samari Rolle (neck) and Chris Carr (back spasms), wide receivers Mark Clayton (strained left hamstring), Yamon Figurs (foot) and Biren Ealy (groin) and offensive tackle Stefan Rodgers (leg, foot).
Rolle remains on the physically unable to perform list.
Wide receiver Demetrius Williams (right hamstring) was limited to individual drills.
Because the Ravens were shorthanded at wide receiver, Kelley Washington, Justin Harper and diminutive Jayson Foster saw action with the first-team offense.
Quarterback John Beck (sprained right shoulder) and linebacker Jarret Johnson (back spasms) returned to practice.
Linebacker Prescott Burgess (leg) sat out the afternoon practice.
Beck threw roughly 60 passes Monday and said he’s feeling much better. He participated in a drill where coaches whacked him with a blocking pad while he dropped back to pass, but they were careful not to hit him in his injured shoulder.
"I would say a shoulder sprain is the best way to put it," Beck said of his injury. "From where I thought it was going to be now after last weekend, it’s progressed a lot."
Plus, veterans ages 30-and-over were granted the day off.
That included middle linebacker Ray Lewis, defensive linemen Kelly Gregg, Trevor Pryce and Justin Bannan, free safety Ed Reed and wide receiver Derrick Mason.
JUST IN CASE: Punter Sam Koch tried a few field goals toward the end of practice, but competing kickers Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano have nothing to worry about.
"That’s emergency," Harbaugh said. "You always have to have a punter who can kick field goals just in case. You always have to have a backup plan."
GIVING BACK: Running back Willis McGahee presented a $2,500 check to the Prepare for Success program, which provides school supplies to disadvantaged children. McGahee also donated 350 calculators.
The program benefits children through the Community Action Council of Howard County.
"It always feels good to give something back," McGahee said. "You can always give more, and it’s not just money. It can be your presence, just talking to them. You can show them that you live life, too, and are one of them. You’re a regular guy."
QUICK HITS: Harbaugh was complimentary of offensive tackle Oniel Cousins despite his tendency to commit holding penalties. "He’s done a great job," Harbaugh said. "Oniel has steadily improved. I thought he took a big jump in this last game. He lined up at left tackle against a top-10 pick [Brian Orakpo]. He did a nice job." … Harbaugh visited with a family he met during his days with the Philadelphia Eagles, bringing them onto the field after practice. "We had a chance to get to know the whole family way back when," Harbaugh said. "They’ve been following us ever since. It’s kind of neat." … During the afternoon practice, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata played fullback and bulled his way into the end zone. … Foster took some snaps as a Wildcat quarterback, which he’s familiar with from his versatile role at Georgia Southern. … Washington caught a long touchdown pass from Joe Flacco.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.