FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The stampede was fast and furious as cameramen jockeyed for prime position before Geno Smith even entered the locker room Wednesday. Reporters rushed to get just the right angle to capture, dissect and analyze every last one of Smith's words.
All defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson could do was mutter one word under his breath as he walked by: "Vultures.''
Richardson, whose locker is a few stalls away from Smith's, has had a front-row seat to the overflow of reporters who surround his quarterback each week. On Thursday, Richardson explained his frustration with the constant scrutiny.
"Every time I see my guy [Smith] in the media, every time they talk about us in the media, it's something negative,'' Richardson told Newsday after practice. "I know we're 1-4, but even when we won one [against the Raiders in Week 1], it was all negative.
"It was 'Geno barely did this' or 'the team barely did that,' 'they blew this lead.' It was never just about the win. It was about how we did something wrong. So yeah, you feel a lot of negative media attention. But we brought it on ourselves, too.''
The Jets, losers of four straight, are on the precipice of a free fall with two tough opponents coming up. They host Peyton Manning and the defending AFC champion Broncos on Sunday before visiting Tom Brady and the Patriots four days later. But despite the 1-4 record and a rash of injuries, Richardson remains upbeat.
"For me, the best feeling about turning this around is [getting the chance] to laugh in everybody's face who's talking bad about us right now. That's my motivation,'' the 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year said, smiling.
"We're not out of it. We're two games out in our own division, so it's not like the world is over. And I'm pretty sure everybody [on the team] understands that right now. We're not down on ourselves, but guys are not happy with where we are right now.''
On Wednesday, Rex Ryan admitted the Jets were still "licking our wounds'' from the 31-0 loss in San Diego. Then receiver Jeremy Kerley told Newsday the energy is "lost a little bit'' among players after four straight losses. But Thursday, all seemed right with the world after "a great practice,'' according to Ryan.
But production on the practice field won't mean anything if the Jets can't score against a 3-1 Denver team that is third overall in passing yards (317) and fourth in points (29) per game. It'll be up to Smith to lead his offense into the end zone.
In the four losses, Smith completed 63 of 120 passes (52.5 percent) with three touchdowns and five interceptions. He was benched at halftime Sunday against the Chargers with a 7.6 quarterback rating a day after missing a team meeting. But Richardson believes Smith will rebound. Why?
"He has no choice,'' he said, laughing. "He's got to be OK. He's got to keep his cool, he's got to stay positive and he's got to make plays. He knows that.''
Another loss would mean a 1-5 record heading to Foxborough next week. But when asked about the tough turnaround of facing Manning and Brady, Richardson said of the Patriots: "I'm not really too concerned about those guys.''
But what about facing Brady?
"I . . . don't . . . care,'' he said, enunciating every word.
Asked if he was implying the Patriots (3-2) aren't any good, Richardson smiled again, acknowledging the undercurrent of contempt for the Jets' AFC East archrivals.
"We'll see,'' he said. "We'll see. I don't have nothing good to say about them. I don't have anything bad to say about them.''