FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Ryan Clady is a man on a mission, and one with a sizable chip on his shoulder.
Just two days after visiting President Barack Obama at the White House with his old team — the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos — Clady is focused on solidifying his future with the Jets.
And filling the shoes of another soft-spoken big man.
“It stings a little bit,” the team’s new left tackle said Wednesday in his first interview since being traded from Denver in April. ”There’s a chip on my shoulder. I feel like I have something to prove. I’m ready for the challenge.”
At 6-6, 315 pounds, Clady is an imposing figure. And he’s just as reserved as the man he’s set to replace: Freeport native D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
Ferguson, 32, retired after 10 seasons in the NFL, all of them with the Jets.
He was an ironman personified, the standard of durability having never missed a play because of injury. Meanwhile, Clady is seeking to shed his injury-prone label after missing all of 2015 with a torn ACL and 14 games in 2013 with a fractured foot.
Last week, Jets coach Todd Bowles said Clady was “a little rusty” after not having played “in a while.” But the former Bronco has “been looking fine ever since then,” the coach said on Wednesday.
Clady said he knew his time in Denver was coming to a close because of his contract situation (he carried a $10.1-million cap hit for this season) and the arrival of former Seahawk Russell Okung. And he was right.
Denver signed Okung in mid-March and later saved $8.9 million in salary cap space by trading Clady and a seventh-round pick to the Jets in exchange for a fifth-round selection.
“They felt they needed to move on,” said Clady, who turns 30 in September. “And I think there’s a good chance for me [here with the Jets], as well.”
On April 10, a day after Ferguson made his retirement official in a heartfelt letter to Jets fans, the Jets officially announced the trade.
The comparisons have already been drawn between Ferguson, the blindside protector of Jets quarterbacks dating to 2006, and Clady, the new kid on the block. And receiver Brandon Marshall, who spent two years in Denver with Clady, sees striking similarities.
“It’s like having Brick. Same guy. Same exact guy. They don’t say much,” Marshall said, before playfully tweaking his good friend Clady. “Over the years, we’re always taking trips together and going on double-dates and he just sits there. Doesn’t say much. He’s a really boring date.”
The two left tackles look the same on the field too, he said.
“Yes. Just technicians, man. They’re always in the right place, know exactly what they’re doing,” Marshall said. “You can count on them, they’re dependable. So hopefully he bounces back well. He’s been out a while, so knocking that rust off and being able to play at an All-Pro level like he is.”