Commentary

Patriots and Jets play nice

Preparing for Sunday's showdown, foes avoid the usual war of words

Updated: October 6, 2011, 9:52 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The largest midweek media contingent of the season descended upon Gillette Stadium on Wednesday morning, some arriving with Empire State license plates. All wielded microphones and cameras, eager for the annual tradition of capturing the first inflammatory statements before the New England Patriots and New York Jets renew their rivalry here Sunday.

If we were looking for fireworks, we hardly got sparklers. On their way into the stadium, the Patriots had clearly been reminded of the four commandments that typically greet them on the way out ("Don't fuel the hype" and "Ignore the noise," among them). And things weren't much livelier in Florham Park, N.J., where the Jets subscribed to the same kill-them-with-love philosophy at their practice facility. There wasn't a single bulletin-board comment to be found and only good-natured fun with Rex Ryan showing up to his afternoon press conference in a "Hall of Fame" blazer.

The lack of sizzle in Foxborough wasn't for a lack of effort.

With Bill Belichick and Tom Brady holding press conferences in Gillette's workroom below, a mass of reporters crowded into the office of a media-relations worker to see what Jets coach Rex Ryan would say in his teleconference with the New England media.

[+] EnlargeBill Belichick
AP Photo/Charles Krupa"We talk about what we need to do to beat the Jets on Sunday, that's what we talk about," Bill Belichick said of the Pats' preparations this week.

After enduring back-to-back losses, including a particularly thorough beatdown from the Ravens last week, Ryan was affable but lacked the typical bravado. He heaped praise on Belichick, Brady, and especially Wes Welker for his impressive production through four games. Ryan even lamented his own team's struggles and pined for the return of center Nick Mangold. About the only gamesmanship he displayed was an unwillingness to reveal if cornerback Darrelle Revis will be the one in charge of defending Welker on Sunday.

No Super Bowl proclamations. No comments about kissing rings. Just bland quotes about the challenge ahead. Boooooring.

Back in the media workroom, Brady was being reminded of Antonio Cromartie's comments from January about hating him -- something that Cromartie didn't back down from this week while trying to light the fuse on the hype. Clearly it sputtered.

"I don't care what he says about me -- I really don't," said Brady, who repeated the same sentiment when he was asked a similar question later in his press conference.

Undeterred, the media invaded the Patriots' locker room. Shaun Ellis' stall, which is the first you encounter on your way in, was soon surrounded by such a tremendous horde that you could barely squeeze through the door to get in.

After spending the first 11 years of his NFL career with the Jets, only to be shown a different sort of door this offseason, Ellis could have sounded off against his old team. And while he acknowledged the potential for emotions going up against his former squad, Ellis kept the focus on the gridiron and even noted he wasn't going to call any of his old teammates this week.

"I just have to go out, play what the defense calls for, and not try to get out of my element," he said. "Just play my game."

At the other end of the room, reporters flocked to talk with safety James Ihedigbo. The fact that his biggest contributions come on special teams didn't matter, Ihedigbo used to play for the Jets, including during last year's playoff win over the Patriots.

So what did New York do defensively to take New England out of its game that day?

"I don't know," Ihedigbo said. "I can't think that far back."

That far back? It hasn't even been nine months. There were babies conceived that day (probably more in New York than Boston) that haven't even been birthed yet. But Ihedigbo wasn't the only one with selective amnesia.

Those returning members of the Patriots that watched a 14-2 regular season get dashed in a 28-21 loss to the Jets also offered shrugs when asked if that game could provide additional motivation this week.

"That was a long time ago," said Brady. "So that game doesn't have much bearing on this week. We're a different team."

Echoed safety Patrick Chung: "That was last year. We're not worried about that. This is a new team, a new season."

Forgive us if we don't quite believe you. Maybe Logan Mankins put it best, acknowledging both the pain of that loss and the hype that exists this week while being discreet about them both.

"I don't think we need to fuel anything, we know it's a big week," he said. "We don't need to look to that [playoff loss] for motivation."

[+] EnlargeShaun Ellis
AP Photo/Charles KrupaShaun Ellis seems determined not to get caught up in the emotions of facing his former team.

If not for an ankle injury that kept him out of sight Wednesday, Danny Woodhead probably would have been hounded as well, given his former ties with the Jets. Alas, Belichick was quick to note Wednesday that information gleaned from those that have jumped to the other side of the rivalry is "vastly overrated."

Yep, Wednesday turned out to simply be a big ol' lovefest. Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress dubbed the Patriots the "best team in football right now" and about the only thing inflammatory he said rehashed his Super Bowl XLII heroics with the Giants.

It's enough to make you wonder if both Ryan and Belichick specifically reminded their team to avoid getting into a (border) war of words this week.

"We talk about what we need to do to beat the Jets on Sunday, that's what we talk about," said Belichick.

Pressed on the issue, he added: "We try to focus on what we need to do to beat the Jets. That's what we're here for. I mean, what else is there to talk about?"

On this day? Not a darn thing.

Chris Forsberg covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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