Rex Ryan comes with praise for Tamba Hali

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Those of us in these parts don’t need any encouragement to appreciate Tamba Hali. Beyond the sack numbers -- he’s third on the Kansas City Chiefs’ all-time list behind Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith -- his blue-collar approach to things makes his style of play easy to like.

That encouragement came Wednesday nonetheless from, of all places, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan in an interview with Kansas City-area media. The Jets play against the Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium and it’s not unusual for a coach to go overboard with the praise of an upcoming opponent.

But Ryan’s adoration for Hali came unsolicited and in response to a question about Justin Houston. He leads the NFL with 10 sacks, six more than Hali.

Ryan had the love for Hali instead.

“For my money, I like Tamba Hali the best,’’ Ryan said.

“It starts with his motor. I love the way he plays. Physical. Every snap he goes. Great use of hands. You’ve got to block him every snap. Just a relentless player. Physical, smart, obviously loves to play. I just appreciate players like that.’’

Ryan went on to praise Houston as well. By that point, though, it almost sounded like a backhanded compliment.

“I recognize Houston is leading the league and he’s got the 10 sacks and all that,’’ Ryan said. “And he is an outstanding pass rusher. He’s a finisher but both those guys are. Houston is obviously a good player also. They’re both outstanding.’’