It's not exactly Brett Favre at Lambeau Field in Vikings purple, but when Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards returns to Cleveland to face the Browns on Sunday, there will be a wide array of feelings going through his head.
Edwards has been intense and focused all week as he hopes to have one of his best games of the year against his former team. Last week he returned home to his native Detroit and responded by making a 74-yard touchdown grab, which was good practice for another emotional matchup.
"Being from Detroit, born and raised, I had a lot of people at the game," he said this afternoon at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. "That was a good test going into Cleveland to see how I could handle my emotions and I think I did a good job. I think it'll be the same. I have good teammates around me to help keep me focused."
The 6'5" Michigan standout was the fourth overall selection in the 2005 NFL Draft and had a solid rookie campaign of 32 receptions for 512 yards and three touchdowns. Just two seasons later in 2007, he had a Pro Bowl year when he caught 80 passes for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns and seemed destined for greatness.
Then in 2008, Edwards caught balls from half a dozen quarterbacks and his production dropped to 55 receptions for 873 yards and three touchdowns. In Week 4 of 2009, he was traded to the Jets after his relationship with the Browns' organization, their city and their fans had been strained.
"We could sit up here and talk about my relationship with Cleveland but that's better suited for a book," Edwards said. "There's definitely a lot of things that eventually one day I'll put in writing and put out there and we can sit here and talk about all the ins and outs from top to bottom. Like I said, this isn't about me and my personal relationship with the Cleveland Browns and their organization, this is more so about the Jets going in and trying to get Win No. 7."
So far, the sixth-year wideout has been doing his fair share during the Green & White's 6-2 start. He's already amassed 25 receptions for 453 yards and five touchdowns while making key blocks in the running game. There's a feeling of relief and ease with which he takes the field each day at practice that he intimates was not there in Cleveland.
"I'm in a happier environment," Edwards said. "The environment is better suited towards winning here. I think that everything is different. The way the organization is run here, it seems different. I'm happier and the best part about when you play football is being happy and waking up in the morning being happy to go to work and being happy to play the game."
Describing it down to the last detail, Edwards explained what happened on the day that Eric Mangini, Cleveland's head coach and the former Jets head coach, told him he had been traded to the Jets.
"At that point, I thought it was best for everybody to move forward," Mangini said on a conference call with Jets reporters this morning. "I sat down with Braylon when we made the trade. The thing I wanted to convey to him was he was going to have a new start and a new situation, a great situation. I wanted him to go and take advantage of it and make the best of it.
"Sometimes with a fresh start, it really rejuvenates a guy."
The Browns are 3-5 but have been shuffling through quarterbacks in the first half. With rookie QB Colt McCoy and RB Peyton Hillis leading the offense, they have managed to defeat both the Saints and the Patriots — and their Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks — by scores of 30-17 and 34-14 respectively. Edwards knows that the focus should not be on his Cleveland past but with the foe that faces them once they touch down in Northeast Ohio.
"One of the big things for us, if not the key thing for this game," he said, "is getting out to an early start and putting points on the board. I'm talking about touchdowns, not field goals. I'm not talking about long drives that get stalled. I'm talking about putting points on the board early because the style of offense they run, they milk the clock."