David Bowens is performing a difficult balancing act this week.
He knows the thought process required here on the Jets — really, on any NFL team — and so he views Sunday's game against Miami dispassionately.
"It's just a game we have to win," the Jets linebacker said this week. "I'm not going out of my normal preparation. These guys are AFC East opponents, just like New England.
"But," he said, breaking from the Dolphins talking points, "it'll be fun for me. I know a lot of these guys."
Yeah, D-Bo goes way back with the 'Fins. He began his pro career as a fifth-round pick of the Broncos in 1999, then in '01 bounced around from Green Bay to Buffalo to Washington to Miami in a two-month span before finding a home in South Florida.
He was a Dolphin for six seasons — an NFL eternity these days. Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas were there when he arrived, that troika was joined in '05 by linemen Vonnie Holliday and Keith Traylor, and the group formed the foundation of a formidable Dolphins defense that always presented danger for the Jets.
Bowens said he'll even meet up with Taylor and Holliday, who re-upped with the Dolphins in the off-season, for Saturday dinner somewhere in the New York area.
"We'll just kick it a little bit, probably not even talk about football," he said. "Beyoned this game, we'll still be great friends."
Who'll be picking up the tab? "Jason, of course," Bowens said. "Oh, wait, Vonnie. He's got new money."
Bowens has been around the block in this league. He was an important piece to the Dolphins pass-rush puzzle with 18 sacks the previous three seasons (three of them coming vs. the Jets), and he did a lot of charity work in South Florida, much of it through The David Bowens Foundation. But professionally after last season, it was time to pack his bags.
"I was there for a while, that's true, but I moved on," he said. "My home and my family are there. That's about the only ties I have. I'm on a new team now with new loyalties and new goals. I had the possibility of staying there, but after visiting New York, sitting down with the coaches, understanding the personnel, and Miami wanted to go young, all that was fine."
This next phase of his career has gotten off to a slow start. He was in on about 15 plays in the opener against New England, "four or five" last week at Baltimore. But he still has the attitude to become a factor as the Green & White defense starts to get rolling.
"It's early and I'm a competitor," he said. "My thing is that the coaches run this team. Dan Quinn and Jim Herrmann have input, Eric [Mangini] has the final decision. I want to be in the game and do things, but I'll know my role.
"I'm not going to put any more pressure on myself. I didn't play a lot last week. I'll just be ready. I've been working my tail off, giving the coaches the mindset that I'll be ready. I'm just one of those guys who goes in and works hard. And playing those guys, there's extra incentive."
Bowens isn't sure how many of the Dolphins feel the extra juice in this rivalry.
"I don't know how it's going to be. They have a bunch of new guys," he said. "I was there six years. We had a bunch of guys there a long time. It kind of played out like Ohio State-Michigan. Now you have to try to get them to understand the rivalry these teams have."
But Bowens, even though he changed his colors only fairly recently from Aqua & Coral to Green & White, knows what it's all about.
"I do," he said. "Just playing in this game so many times, I understand it."