Carl Lawson either has the coldest ice water flowing through his veins or the stoniest face on the planet fit for playing Cincinnati poker.
Either way, if Lawson was a bubbling cauldron of emotions below the surface Thursday, three days before he plays his former team, the Bengals, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, he wasn't showing it.
"Honestly, it's no different," said Lawson, who left Cincinnati for the Jets last year, sat out the season with his Achilles injury, and just now is cranking it back up in time to face his old mates. "It's not another game, all games are important. But no different for me."
But that doesn't mean he's not joyful at getting his first (half-) sack in two seasons late against Jacoby Brissett and the Browns — "It was a blessing, man. All glory to God. I was just thankful and really excited," he told Caroline Hendershot of newyorkjets.com.
And it doesn't mean he doesn't have some thoughtful observations about this year's Bengals and why, as good as their offense is with Joe Burrow dishing to WRs Ja'Marr Chase, RB Joe Mixon and company, they're having such trouble protecting the franchise QB. Burrow, despite leading the AFC champs to Super Bowl LVI in February, also leads the NFL as the most sacked quarterback in 2022 (13 times), 2021-22 (64) and 2020-22 (98).
But Lawson doesn't necessarily see a feeding frenzy ahead, more like a lone wolf or three on the prowl.
"I do see a lot as far as the offensive line," he said, "but I do think there's a lot of factors as far as not everybody being on the same page. If you watch the film and dive deeper into it, you can see some things that aren't strictly on their offensive line. And I think we've got to go out there and compete. Everybody in the NFL, no matter 13 sacks or not, they're probably saying, 'Hey, we need to do a better job of protecting.'
"So I don't really buy into that. I just control what I can control. What I want to control with this D-line is just going out there and trying to hunt."
Lawson even says the hunting isn't any more pressure-packed these days because head coach Robert Saleh and coordinator Jeff Ulbrich say they want to see more production from the Jets' front-four pass rush.
"I think you always want to get home and you always want to improve on what you're doing," he said. "The first two games were against run-heavy teams and we haven't had many two-minutes at all to go rush the passer. But we do expect ourselves to be elite each and every time we go play as a defensive line."
In his book, Lawson said, Cincinnati or some other team, Joe Burrow or Lamar Jackson, run-heavy or pass-heavy, it comes down to two things.
"It's just about finishing our rushes and letting our talents flow," he said. "And I think that will happen."