FOXBOROUGH --- They may be at opposite ends of the spectrum, as well as the field, as coaches in the AFC East division arch-rivalry between the Patriots and Jets. But Tuesday Rex Ryan rose to the defense of his New England nemesis, Bill Belichick, calling criticism of the Patriots coach "absolutely ridiculous" in the aftermath of Rob Gronkowski's injury in Sunday's 59-24 victory over the Colts.
Belichick had drawn some criticism for playing his star tight end, who made seven catches for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as a blocker on the special teams' PAT unit that converted an extra point in the fourth quarter of a game that was well in hand.
"I mean, he's on an extra point and he's probably done it a zillion times," Ryan said of Gronkowski, who underwent surgery Monday to repair his fractured left forearm suffered on the PAT. "He's probably done it a hundred times this year for the simple fact that's how many points they score. You never see that. Every single team in the league, I mean, we have [starting left tackle] D'Brickashaw Ferguson there. Whoever the player is, you don't play the game that way.
"It's just an unfortunate thing. That's just a freak deal what happened,'' Ryan said. "Unfortunately, it's part of the game. Injuries do happen. I mean, we lost [Darrelle] Revis and [Santonio] Holmes to non-contact injuries.
"It's just one of those things and it's unfortunate, obviously."
Asked for his reaction to Ryan's comments, Belichick said, "I feel like I've got a good relationship with Rex. We want to beat each other and we're in the same division, but that's just competitiveness. I see Rex from time to time during the year, I had his brother [Rob] here on staff for four years and I've known his father [Buddy] for 30 years or so, a long time.
"He's the son of a coach, he's been around football his whole life, and I have, too, so there's a lot of things we have in common,'' Belichick said. "But this week it's about two teams trying to compete against each other. It's all it is."