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Rex Ryan once pumped up his team by telling them he was going to punch Bill Belichick in the face

Frank Schwab
Shutdown Corner

There's a great story about legendary Bears coach George Halas. Only 10 minutes before a game against the Packers, Halas knocked on the locker room door and asked to see Vince Lombardi. He said it was very important. Lombardi arrived, and Halas told him, "Vince, I just want to tell you one thing. You better have your team ready because we're going to kick your ass."

That's an incredible story (told in Gary D'Amato and Cliff Christl's book "Mudbaths and Bloodbaths" about the Packers-Bears rivalry). LaDainian Tomlinson shared one about Rex Ryan that was about as good, concerning a modern-day rivalry.

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Before a Jets-Patriots game when Tomlinson was with the Jets, Rex Ryan knew what would get his team amped up.

"We were playing the Patriots one time – and as I mentioned, Rex is a master motivator – it was going to be a big game, heated rivalry game, and Rex got in front of us and he said 'Hey, I'm going to set the tempo today, guys,'" Tomlinson said on NFL Network. "He said, 'I'm going to set the tempo when I meet Bill Belichick in the center of the field, I'm going to start it off and punch him in the face.'"

That's hilarious. And, as Tomlinson said, it worked. He said the Jets won that game.

"I loved that," Tomlinson said. "He was motivating his guys, and he wanted to jump it off."

People like to rip Ryan because he's willing to say anything, but I'd much rather have him in the NFL than another robot coach who tries his best to make the league boring.

And no, Ryan didn't punch Belichick, nor was he going to. But it got his team fired up. And, years later, it's a tremendous and funny story.

"Rex really knew how to pump up his teams and get them ready to play, and that's one of the things I really enjoyed about Rex," Tomlinson said. "When I stepped in that meeting room the night before the game, I knew I was going to be ready to play."

[Related: Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson guarantees victory over Patriots]

Ryan got notoriety early on for predicting wins and championships (never understand why people get upset about that, like he's supposed to say he'd be happy to go 8-8 and watch someone else in the Super Bowl?), and Tomlinson said that while the players didn't always appreciate having the coach predicting titles for them, it forced the team to raise its play.

"There were times we had to back up what Rex Ryan said," Tomlinson said. "A couple of times he said we were going to win the championship. We didn't really like that, but as players we had to back it up."

Hopefully for the Jets, Ryan has a good pregame speech saved up for this week. New York is 12-point underdogs at New England on Thursday night.

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