NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – Jets fans aren’t going to like what defensive end Shaun Ellis said on Monday after switching sides in one of the NFL’s most intense rivalries.
The two-time Pro Bowl selection signed with the New England Patriots on Monday after 11 seasons with the Jets.
“It’s the same; I’m just on the other side now,” Ellis told reporters after the Patriots practiced in Foxborough, Mass. “It feels like home. It feels like a place that’s all about winning, like they have been. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
The Jets will travel to Ellis’ “home” for a Week 5 showdown at Gillette Stadium on October 9 — though it’s possible the big defensive lineman won’t be suited up.
According to multiple reports, the Patriots have placed Ellis, who is recovering from a hip issue, on the physically unable to perform list. Ellis will have to sit out New England’s first six games if he’s still on the PUP list when the regular season begins.
Ellis, 34, had become the longest-tenured player on the Jets since he was taken 12th overall with a pick that New York obtained as compensation for letting coach Bill Belichick sign with the Patriots.
The Jets had said that they wanted Ellis back but offered only the veteran minimum of $910,000 and, Ellis said, refused to increase it substantially when he went back to them for a final offer.
“(General manager Mike Tannenbaum) said, ‘We’ve got a couple thousand left, if you want that,’” Ellis said in a conference call with the New York media. “(He) basically told me I was last on the totem pole.”
“These are tough decisions,” Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said in a statement. “Shaun was our longest-tenured Jet. I have the greatest amount of respect for him and I will always appreciate his contributions to this team.”
The Jets used their first two draft picks to bolster their defensive line, taking Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson in the first round and Hampton nose tackle Kenrick Ellis two rounds later.
“It’s the nature of this sport. I accepted it and found a new home,” Ellis said. “I just wasn’t in their plan. … I’m a Patriot now. I’m part of this plan.”
Jets linebacker Bart Scott said he was sad to see Ellis switch sides.
“I think he deserved the opportunity to retire as a Jet,” Scott said at Jets training camp in Florham Park, N.J. “It’s one of those weird things. When you hear Shaun Ellis, you associate him with the green and white, but I wish him well and everything other than playing against us.”
Jets coach Rex Ryan wouldn’t go that far.
“The fact that he chose them and all that, like I said before, there’s no way I’m going to wish him well,” he said on Sunday. “There’s no chance of that. I wish him to be healthy, but I don’t want him to play that well. I know the way he is, too. He’s going to be revved up, ready to go and our guys will, too. So, it’ll be fun, going against him but, obviously, I’ve got a great deal of respect for Shaun.”
Rex’s zing and Tannenbaum’s low offer “all went hand-in-hand” in his final call to sign elsewhere, Ellis said in the conference call.
Ellis’ decision to sign with New England is an odd twist in the rivalry that was largely spawned by Belichick’s decision — even as he was being promoted in New York — to quit as “H.C. of the N.Y.J” and instead take over the Patriots. The teams eventually settled on a package of draft picks, the best of which turned out to be Ellis.
Things also got spicy when New England was caught videotaping the Jets’ sideline signals; the Jets turned the Patriots in, and they were fined and forced to surrender another first-round draft choice.
More troublesome for the Patriots, though, is the fact that the Jets have beaten them four of the past six times they’ve played.
“Of course you built up a little kind of hatred toward the Patriots over the 11 years,” Ellis said. “I understand what it takes to be champion, and they’ve been doing it. And I have been wanting to feel that feeling for however long. So, hopefully the time has come.”
In their most recent meeting, the Jets beat the Patriots 28-21 in Foxborough in January to advance to the AFC championship game. Ellis had five tackles, and he sacked Tom Brady twice.
“Certainly, Shaun has played a lot of good football against us,” Belichick said. “He’s been a very productive player — he’s durable and very consistent. It seems like every time we play him, he lines up there and we have a hard time with him. The fact that we had an opportunity to add him to our team, we feel fortunate.”
Ellis made the Pro Bowl in 2003 and 2009, with his best seasons in 2003 and 2004 when he had 12½ and then 11 sacks. He has 72½ sacks in his career, trailing only Mark Gastineau’s 107½ and Joe Klecko’s 77½ on the Jets’ all-time list; Ellis also holds the franchise record for most playoff games.
But when Ellis asked for a contract extension last offseason, the Jets cited their policy of having older veterans play out their contracts. Last offseason, he was mentioned as possible trade bait or that he might be cut.
“To say I’m bitter? No. Disappointed? Somewhat,” said Ellis. “But I’m in a great situation. I loved my teammates, had a great time with them. I’ve just got to start over and build on my success here.”
Should the Jets have offered Ellis more? Will the snub burn New York? Sound off in the comments below…
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