The scene you seen pictured above represents the intensity of this rivalry in a nutshell.
The last time the New York Jets and New England Patriots met, the Jets shocked the football world, knocking the Super Bowl favorites out of the postseason with an astonishing 28-21 victory in Foxboro.
Shaun Ellis, pictured above harassing Tom Brady in last year’s AFC Divisional Playoff round, had a big game that day. He sacked Brady twice and was disruptive all game long as the Jets defense held the Patriots in check en route to the stunning upset.
But after the Jets declined to give him a contract extension, the veteran defensive lineman made the decision after 11 seasons in New York to cross over to the dark side and sign a free agent deal with the New England Patriots.
“Sometimes, I catch myself saying ‘we’ [about the Jets],” Ellis told the Boston Herald’s Ian Rapoport recently. “It’s like, ‘Oh, did I say that? I ain’t there no more.’”
“When [I’m] talking, [my Patriot teammates] be like, ‘You with us now, you ain’t over there,’ ” Ellis said. “Just got to retrain my whole thinking. I’d been there forever.”
Ellis had been a New York Jet since April 15, 2000, when the Jets made him the 12th overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft. For a veteran football player, 11 seasons is like a lifetime.
But when the Jets drafted rookie defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson with the 30th overall pick of this past April’s draft, Ellis became replaceable in the eyes of coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
So now, after a football lifetime in green, the 34-year-old Ellis will face the Jets for the first time in his career. I mean honestly, how could it feel like just any other game?
“I’ve been thinking about it,” the big man said. “I’d be lying if I say that I haven’t. Just not trying to get overwhelmed by it. Approach it like any other week for me. … It’s definitely going to be fun.”
While his performance so far in New England has been a little up-and-down, you can bet that he will be playing with a little extra fire on Sunday.
Come game time, there’s no reminiscing about the good old days. It’s Jets/Patriots, and that intensity hasn’t changed.
“I miss players that I played with,” Ellis said. “It’ll be good to see them — after we play. But I’m on this side now.”
The Jets and Patriots kick off at Gillette Stadium at 4:15 pm Sunday.