|Newcomers Randy Moss and Thomas Jones hoping to add to Patriots-Jets rivalry|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 06 September 2007 13:51|
``I really want to be a part of it, so I'm just as anxious as they are,'' said Moss, who returned to practice for New England earlier in the week after missing most of the preseason with a hamstring injury. ``The only thing I can say is, when I get out there, I will be out there ready to play.''
New England is hoping that comes this Sunday, when the Patriots are at the Meadowlands for the season opener.
``We will follow the rules of the NFL injury report, like we always do,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick said when asked of Moss' availability. Moss was listed on the injury report as limited in practice Thursday.
New England and New York open the season with their fourth meeting since last September, including January's playoff game won by the Patriots. The teams split their regular-season games, with each winning on the other's home turf. While New England has won six straight on the road against New York, the all-time series is close: New York holds a 48-46-1 edge.
``It's a great rivalry,'' said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who sat out part of Thursday's practice because of a chronic shoulder problem that never has sidelined him. ``Obviously, the Boston-New York thing is not just a baseball thing anymore. We're excited about being a part of it. I think for the season opener there is nothing more a player could ask for.''
The Patriots acquired Moss from Oakland during the draft in April, and added him to a stable of new wide receivers that includes Donte' Stallworth, Wes Welker and Kelley Washington. Moss' addition was the most high profile and should give Brady plenty of options to throw to - a dangerous thought for opponents.
``Both teams have prepared for this game for the last eight months,'' Brady said. ``There are going to be plenty of new things out there to see and adjust to.''
For the Jets, that means having Jones in the lineup to bolster their running game. After using a failed four-back rotation last year, Jones is expected to shoulder the load for New York. That is, as long as the strained right calf that sidelined him since Aug. 12 is healed.
The star running back, acquired from Chicago in March after helping the Bears to the Super Bowl, said earlier in the week that he was feeling ``a lot better'' and planned to practice the rest of the week and see how it goes for the game. Despite missing lots of practice time, Jones thinks he and Moss should have no problem getting back up to speed.
``We both played a lot of football in our careers, so we pretty much know what it is once gametime comes,'' Jones said.
An already strong rivalry became even more intense last season after Eric Mangini left Belichick's staff to become the head coach of the Jets. There was obvious tension between the two, who exchanged fleeting handshakes after the first two meetings before apparently mending things with a big hug after the Patriots' 37-16 win in the playoffs.
``You know, I haven't reviewed the tape of the handshake,'' Mangini said with a smile. ``I don't have that much free time right now, but I'm comfortable with where my handshake was. I'm more focusing on the actual game.''
As are the players, of course. There's no easing into the season for either team.
``I'm sure it's exciting for the fans on both sides. It's exciting for the league,'' Jets quarterback Chad Pennington said. ``For us, it's one of 16 games and it's important for us because it's the first game and it's also a division game. We're excited to have this opportunity.''
And maybe a little more than usual, considering that New England will be without star defensive end Richard Seymour, on the physically unable to perform list with an undisclosed injury, and hard-hitting safety Rodney Harrison, suspended four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
``Their system, you can plug anyone in pretty much, and they've been doing that for a while now,'' Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. ``They have guys that come in and make plays, so I don't think it'll be a problem at all.''
The Patriots have cornerback Asante Samuel back after a long training camp holdout, but his status for the game was also uncertain. He tied for the NFL lead with 10 interceptions last season, and returned one for a touchdown against the Jets in the playoffs.
New England still has Brady, though, and that's the most important piece for the Patriots. He's 6-0 against the Jets at Giants Stadium, and 10-2 overall as a starter against them in his career. Brady has thrown 14 touchdown passes and only five interceptions in his 13 appearances against New York.
``My three years playing against him, he's always been on point and he's always done a great job against us,'' linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. ``I know he's going to come prepared.''