|ESPN.com: NFL Playoffs 2011||[Print without images]|
INDIANAPOLIS -- After 11 seasons of trying to beat 'em, Shaun Ellis decided to join 'em -- and he ended up in the Super Bowl with the team he used to hate.
The former New York Jets defensive end is on Cloud XLVI, enjoying life as a member of the New England Patriots, but he still harbors some bitterness toward his former team. Ellis, recalling his divorce from the Jets, said Tuesday he found their contract offer insulting -- a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum, $910,000.
"Yeah, I did. No loyalty," Ellis said at media day. "They preached that the whole time -- loyalty, loyalty, blah, blah, blah."
Ellis, 34, the longest-tenured defensive lineman in Jets history, was an unrestricted free agent last offseason after starting 15 games for them in 2010. But once they used their first-round pick on defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, Ellis felt like he was cast aside.
Not only was he upset with their offer, but Ellis said "it was how they made it" that really peeved him. He suggested general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan weren't upfront with him.
"They called and said, 'We're going to let Rex speak with you,' " Ellis said. "He said, 'We want you to come back, but we're not going to start you.' I'm like, OK. Tannenbaum said, 'We've got other guys in front of you, we're offering you the minimum. We'll get back to you.'
"It's all how it went about. Just be stand-up, straight up. Just tell me the truth from the start. I'm a big boy, I can handle it. I just felt like there was a lot of sugar coating."
Soon after the lockout was settled, Ellis signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Patriots, the Jets' longtime nemesis. You could argue that loyalty is a two-way street, and that Ellis was a sell out, but he insisted that wasn't the case.
"I didn't. They didn't want me," said Ellis, revealing that he will consider retirement after the Super Bowl. "That was obvious by what they offered me. ... It was a no-brainer. I gave them an opportunity and they said, 'Nope.' "
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, looking for an experienced defensive lineman with the versatility to line up in 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, jumped at the chance to sign Ellis. Belichick, a former Jets assistant, has signed many ex-Jets over the years. Even though the so-called Border War is intense, he has no problem reaching across the rivalry to grab a player.
"He has brought a level of maturity and professionalism that has been very well-received by our players and the entire organization," Belichick said.
Ellis hasn't produced big numbers (14 tackles and one sack), and he appeared in only three plays in the AFC Championship Game, but he's okay with that. He's in the Super Bowl. He came tantalizingly close with the Jets, reaching the AFC title game in 2009 and 2010.
"It's been a huge ride for me, being on the other side for so long, watching them go to Super Bowls and losing to them," he said. "Then I come on their side, and it all happens again, they make the Super Bowl. It's amazing."
Ellis said several former teammates have reached out to him, wishing him luck on Sunday against the New York Giants. He said he didn't pay too much attention to the Jets' locker-room turmoil, but he was taken aback when he saw LaDainian Tomlinson -- in a recent TV interview -- describing the discord.
"He's definitely one of the most respected guys in the league and for him to say something of that magnitude, you know it's a serious problem," he said.
Describing the difference in styles between the Patriots and Jets, Ellis said players are required by Belichick to check their ego at the door. Under Ryan?
"They can go through the door," he said, laughing. "At the Patriots, everybody is treated the same, even (Tom) Brady. He gets yelled at, too."
After years of trying to beat them in the AFC East, Ellis said he now realizes why the Patriots have been so successful.
"They just outwork everybody," he said.Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.