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There will always be love for Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan in the Ravens' locker room as long as the veterans he helped groom are still in Baltimore.
But like seeing an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend on the street, the Ravens' defense wants to look its best when it heads to New York Monday night.
In NFL terms, the Ravens want to pummel their former defensive coordinator.
"It's like facing a family member," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "That's what's going to make it so great, so intense. Somebody might not be coming out of this game."
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis ripped into Ryan Thursday afternoon, calling him out for his bold Super Bowl predictions. Besides that, Baltimore's players have been extremely complimentary.
They said that the Ryan fans have been introduced to on "Hard Knocks" is the same one that was in Baltimore and it's the same one they're expecting to see at New Meadowlands Stadium.
"Rex is Rex," Johnson said. "He's going to pump those guys up. He's going to make them believe things they didn't even think they can do. That's just the kind of guy he is, the way he coaches his team. It's an awesome thing."
Defensive end Trevor Pryce, whose career Ryan helped rejuvenate when Pryce came to Baltimore in 2006, said Ryan has a knack for letting players do what they do best. Pryce said Ryan made a big deal of any positive thing a player did and defended them to the bitter end when they screwed up.
"He makes you feel like you can beat the world," Pryce said.
Ravens nose tackle Kelly Gregg played for Ryan for 10 years, dating back to college at Oklahoma. He said he still cheers for him, but that will be put on hold for both sides Monday night.
"He's competitive as [expletive]," Gregg said. "I don't care if he's shooting baskets or doing anything, it's going to be a competitive game. That's the way it's going to be. He's entrenched that mentality on them – physical and fast. And that's how we're built."
Ryan was a defensive coach in Baltimore for 10 seasons, including serving as the defensive line coach for the Super Bowl-winning team and as defensive coordinator for four years. During Ryan's era, the Ravens' defense never fell below No. 6 in the NFL and was the league's top unit in 2006.
But when the head coaching job opened up in Baltimore in 2008, the Ravens' front office appointed John Harbaugh instead of Ryan and other candidates. Ryan stayed on as Harbaugh's assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for one final season before departing for New York.
"The fact [that] I spent 10 years there and got passed over for the head coaching job, yeah it might add a little bit more [meaning] to [the game]," Ryan said. "But to be honest with you, it was a great thing for me. … It really doesn't bother me, because I'm where I want to be, and that's right here in New York."
Ryan said his year working with Harbaugh, being a witness to all that goes into being a head coach, gave him a "huge advantage" going into his rookie year with the Jets. Ryan said he "thinks the world" of Harbaugh for letting him do that.
Harbaugh was just as complimentary of Ryan when talking to the New York media Thursday.
"He's a guy I personally have a lot of respect for," Harbaugh said, adding that the two are still friends. "He's proven himself as a great head coach. It's got to be business and we're both going to try to win the game."
Once Monday night's kickoff rolls around, the memories and sentiment for one another will be pushed to the side.
While Ryan turned the NFL's 16th-ranked defense in 2008 into the league-leader last season, Baltimore's defense didn't budge without him.
Despite a bevy of injuries in its secondary, Baltimore ranked No. 3 in the NFL in total defense last season under first-year coordinator Greg Mattison. They allowed an average of 16.3 points per game last year while Ryan's units surrendered 17.6 points per game.
Unfortunately for Ryan, his competitiveness and confidence rubbed off on his former players. He'll face 15 of them Monday night.
"We want to go out and play the style of defense that we've been playing for a long time that he helped build, that he helped install and was a big part of for a long time," Johnson said. "Rex brought in a lot of these guys, including myself, into this place. He put us here, now he's got to deal with us."