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Ryan is not tight-lipped on tight end Gronkowski

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / November 10, 2011

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JETS NOTEBOOK

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - There are so many things for Jets coach Rex Ryan to like about that Gronkowski kid the Patriots have been lining up at tight end.

Tom Brady seems to have so much confidence in him, Ryan said.

He doesn’t have to run by defenders, Ryan said, he just uses his body.

He’s a complete tight end.

“He’s been fantastic,’’ Ryan gushed.

Wait. What’s that?

“We’re talking about Dan, right? Not Rob?’’ Ryan said.

Rob Gronkowski is the one who has caught 44 passes for 596 yards and six touchdowns, becoming one of Brady’s top targets.

Dan Gronkowski, Rob’s older brother, played two games for the Patriots before being released Tuesday.

Though the Gronkowski he was raving about was taken, Ryan said maybe the Jets could find a spot for Dan ahead of Sunday night’s matchup with the Patriots.

“We’ll pick his brain,’’ Ryan said.

The last time the teams met, the Jets were reeling, suffering their third straight loss. But after three straight wins, they’re 5-3, tied for first in the AFC East with the Patriots and Bills.

“You want to win your division - that’s your goal,’’ Ryan said. “We’re approaching it like we have to win this game.’’

Maybin shocked

Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin, who played at Penn State before being drafted by the Bills in 2009, was saddened and shocked by the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the school and cast a pall over the legacy of longtime coach Joe Paterno.

Maybin said he heard “no rumors, no inkling’’ of improprieties during his time with the Nittany Lions.

“Really sad. Really shocked,’’ Maybin said. “Obviously, this is something that is really unfortunate.’’

Paterno announced yesterday his retirement effective at season’s end, but was instead ousted last night by the university.

“For somebody like Joe to be stepping down after so long, honestly, I don’t even know what to make of it,’’ Maybin said. “As long as I’ve been alive and playing football, Joe Paterno has been Penn State. So obviously, that’s going to be a major transition for them and something they’re going to have to work their way through in their own time.’’

Maybin said he hasn’t reached out to Paterno.

“That’s not what he needs,’’ said Maybin. “He doesn’t need somebody else blowing his phone up. Everybody that’s played for Joe, he knows that he’s got guys in his corner supporting him. This just is not the time.’’

Maybin didn’t want to consider how the scandal might affect Paterno’s legacy.

“The only thing that I know right now is there are eight families that are really struggling right now,’’ Maybin said. “And on top of that, Penn State is definitely going to have to fight its way out of this situation.’’

Anchor man

After missing two games because of a high ankle sprain, center Nick Mangold made his return Oct. 9 when the Jets first faced the Patriots. The Jets, who struggled while he was out, never took for granted his impact.

“We never make excuses,’’ Ryan said, “but I wanted to.’’

Quarterback Mark Sanchez acknowledged how much more comfortable he is with Mangold in the lineup.

“Talking to him at the line of scrimmage, it’s not the same as it used to be where I was just terrified to ask. Like, ‘Man, I don’t know what’s going on. Nick, help,’ ’’ said Sanchez.

“Now it’s more of a discussion, and I think the other guys see that. They see how comfortable I am. And he’s so calm. Whether we’re up by 40, down by 40, he’s always just smiling and happy and having fun. He’s just a good leader.’’

Missing out

Receiver Plaxico Burress (back), running back Joe McKnight (toe), and safety Brodney Pool (knee) missed practice, but with the exception of Pool, Ryan expects his team to be healthy come Sunday. Defensive lineman Marcus Dixon (shoulder) and linebacker Josh Mauga (back) were limited.

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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