- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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He attended the United Way gridiron gala at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, where teammate Muhammad Wilkerson and Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz were honored. Several current and former players from both teams showed up in support. Nelson's radar detected something wasn't quite right in the big, fancy room.
"There was a weird vibe at the gala," he said. "It was like, the Jets were over here, the Giants were over there. Even with the alumni, there was a weird vibe. I mean, guys were friendly, but usually when you get a bunch of football players together, you're hanging out, having a good time. There was a different vibe that night."
Welcome to the most overhyped rivalry in sports.
Sure, there will be a little extra juice at MetLife Stadium, where the two teams will play for something called the Snoopy Trophy (LOL), but Jets-Giants isn't a true rivalry. It can't be a blood rivalry when you play a real game once every four years.
A little perspective, please: This is a preseason game. It doesn't count. Most of the players won't remember the score by next week. Be honest: If it weren't for Mark Sanchez's shoulder injury, the result of Rex Ryan's misguided desire to win at all costs, how many would remember the Jets won last year's game, 24-21, in overtime?
The Jets are approaching this game like it matters, but I don't think it's because there is genuine dislike for the Giants. I think it's because Ryan, master motivator, has manufactured a cause for his players, just like he did last week. Ryan wants the Jets to be the bully of the NFL, a team that intimidates. Giants rookie Andre Williams provided fodder for Ryan by saying the Giants are "the real New York team" -- a remark that has resonated in the Jets' locker room.
"All week long, guys have been talking about it," Nelson said. "This is a preseason game, but there's definitely a different feel. It's not just the third preseason game, it's the Giants. Rex and a couple of coaches have made it known this is a big game for us. Even though it doesn't count for anything, it's still for bragging rights. To have that trophy, or whatever you want to call it, guys play for stuff like that. It adds a little extra motivation."
Presumably, Ryan learned a lesson last year and won't put Geno Smith behind a backup line in garbage time. The goals for this game should be clear: Stay healthy, build some cohesion on both sides of the ball and evaluate "bubble" players.
If you happen to walk away the victor ... well, good for you. But, remember, the goal is the Lombardi, not the Snoopy.
3dField Yates and Rich Cimini