FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — David Nelson has been annoyed at the Buffalo Bills for months.
Since Feb. 24, to be exact.
That’s when the wide receiver, now with the New York Jets, heard that the Bills elected not to tender him a contract offer as a restricted free agent. His three-year career with Buffalo was over, and it was the way he got the news that riled him up.
“I found out through Twitter,” Nelson recalled, “like a lot of other things in life.”
He was at a Chicago Blackhawks game when he started getting text messages and seeing tweets — before he got a call from the team.
“Because of the way it kind of ended, it’s still kind of a little difficult for me to swallow,” Nelson said despite insisting that he’s not bitter. “But at the same time, I’m glad to be here.”
Nelson, whose season ended last year in the opener against the Jets with a torn right knee ligament, signed with Cleveland in April and was among the Browns’ final cuts in August. He went a month without a job, going for workouts and hoping for an opportunity. The injury-plagued Jets, desperate for receiving help, signed Nelson on Oct. 2, and he has quickly become a key target for rookie Geno Smith.
On Sunday, Nelson will mark his sixth game with the Jets by playing against the Bills at Buffalo.
“Anybody who tells you when they play an old team or a team that cut them or something like that, they tell you that it’s just another game, is lying to you,” Nelson said. “This is definitely more than just another game for me. It’s going to be an emotional game. It’s going to be a fun game. This game holds a little more in my heart than most others.”
He had 94 catches for 1,042 yards and eight touchdowns for the Bills, with some of his best games at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium. Now, Nelson is coming back as the enemy.
“I’m out to prove this week,” Nelson said, “that they made a mistake.”
Nelson, who turned 27 last week, spoke fondly of his time with the Bills and the great relationships he had with his teammates and Buffalo fans. And he can’t think of anything better than sending them home disappointed.
“It’s going to be personal,” Nelson said. “And I think you’ll see that on Sunday.”
The Jets certainly like what they’ve seen from Nelson since he joined them, a move that seemed minor at the time. He has been much more, providing a reliable pair of hands as well as a physical presence. Nelson has 16 catches for 199 yards, with 12 of those receptions coming in his last two games.
He has helped make up for the losses of Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley and Jeff Cumberland to injuries in recent weeks, spending extra time with wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal while getting up to speed with Marty Mornhinweg’s offense quicker than even Rex Ryan could have hoped.
“It tells you about the person,” Ryan said. “Like he put it upon himself to really learn it and I think that’s really, really impressive.
“I know he gained all the respect in the world from all his teammates.”
His playing style might have also helped with that. Nelson isn’t afraid to throw a block on defensive backs, and he angered Cincinnati’s Adam “Pacman” Jones a few weeks ago to the point that the Bengals cornerback threatened to “find out where you live and come get you.“
That was prompted by a low hit by Nelson that drew a penalty and later a $7,875 fine from the NFL. Nelson appealed the fine, though, saying it was a legal hit. He revealed Monday that the league agreed with him and rescinded the fine.
“I like him,” Ryan said. “He competes his tail off.”
Ryan’s also glad Nelson is on his side these days. In four games against the Jets, Nelson had 15 receptions for 189 yards and two TDs.
“I’ve been extremely blessed to be a part of these guys,” he said. “I’m hoping to pay them back with my play on Sunday.”
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