Jets coach Rex Ryan defends assistant coach accused of slapping young woman in Morristown

(Associated Press)

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan defended the character of defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman, who was accused of slapping a woman at a New Jersey restaurant.

Ryan opened his news conference Saturday after the second practice of rookie minicamp by talking about Thurman before taking any questions.

"Dennis Thurman, I trust, I respect - I love Dennis Thurman," an impassioned Ryan said. "As a person, it's an honor to know Dennis. He's a great person."

Thurman was accused of striking a woman during a discussion Wednesday at a restaurant in Morristown. Police said Thurman would not be charged, and no further investigation would take place. The Jets issued a statement Friday night saying the team "takes these matters seriously," and they would continue to monitor the situation.

"I know Dennis Thurman," said Ryan, who has been friends with Thurman for 15 years. "And Dennis Thurman, the guy that I know, wouldn't put his hands on anybody, let alone a woman, OK?"

Ryan acknowledged he wasn't at the restaurant with Thurman and never asked Thurman whether he did what he's accused of.

"I don't need to ask," he said. "I just know Dennis, not just on a professional level. I know him on a personal level and I've been around Dennis a long, long time and in a lot of different environments."

Ryan would not discuss whether any disciplinary actions would be taken, but added that he's "confident" people would feel similar about Thurman's character once "all the facts come out about everything."

Thurman and Ryan worked as assistants in Baltimore with the Ravens from 2002-07 and were reunited when Ryan became the Jets' coach in 2009. Thurman was promoted to defensive coordinator before last season when then-coordinator Mike Pettine left to take the same job with the Buffalo Bills.

A 28-year-old woman accused Thurman of slapping her at Pazzo Pazzo Restaurant on Speedwell Avenue in Morristown on Wednesday. She claims she and her friend were approached by Thurman at which point he started flirting with her, when she showed no interest he told her she had an attitude.

Once he got up to leave a short while later, she then claims he got in her face and demanded a kiss, she made an obscene gesture with her finger and that's when he slapped her. She was not injured.

None of the staff saw the incident, but the victim's friend backs up her story. The friend also sold pictures she took of Thurman that night to TMZ sports.

The woman has filed a disorderly persons complaint against Thurman and there will be no further investigation by the Morristown Police Department.

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