Jets wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery will be reunited with his former teammate, Laveranues Coles, when the Bengals come to the Meadowlands on Sunday night.
"It was tough to see him leave. He became a good friend," Cotchery told newyorkjets.com. "It's going to be fun to see him again. I learned a lot from him from the time he was here. I'm grateful for the time that I had to share with him."
Coles was a member of the Jets' 2001, '02 and '06 playoff teams and had his best season in green in 2006 (91 catches, 1,098 yards, 6 TDs). He was a great mentor to J-Co when the North Carolina State product first came into the league in '04.
"He's a natural leader," said Cotchery. "He was always a guy who showed up to work every day. It was fun watching him. Unless the coaches told him to sit out of practice, he wasn't sitting out. It was always fun to watch him come to work."
Coles took the leadership role he had in New York out to Cincinnati.
"He's really brought maturity to our receiver room, a sense of professionalism," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "He's really been a great role model for Chad [Ochocinco] on how to go about doing your thing, doing your job for all the young receivers in the room."
In his 10th NFL season, Coles' numbers have fallen as he has only 40 catches for 495 yards and five TDs with the Stripes. But he is on a Bengals squad that has won the AFC North and is headed to the playoffs regardless of the outcome on Sunday.
"I thought they would give him the rock a little bit more but I know he's happy about going to the playoffs," said Cotchery.
The Jets, on the other hand, know their situation is to win or go home.
"That's all you can ask for," said J-Co. "You set out your goals at the beginning of the year, starting with off-season workouts going into OTAs and training camp, you set out to have a chance at playing for the Super Bowl. A lot of teams really don't even have this shot coming towards the end of the year and we have it."
The Jets passing game has struggled at times, averaging 154.5 net yards a game, but as the veteran WR on the Green & White, J-Co has tried to make the most of his opportunities.
The sixth-year pro has led the Jets in receptions for the past two seasons, and has paced them this year with 52 catches for 782 yards and three TDs, despite missing two games earlier in the season due to a hamstring injury. He's the 13th receiver to record 300 receptions in franchise history, and with 45 yards last week against the Colts, he became the 11th receiver to exceed 4,000 yards in a Jets uniform.
In that game, the Jets performed well in all three facets of the game, which is going to be important come playoff time.
"Anytime you're heading down the stretch you want to be clicking on all cylinders — offense, defense, special teams," he said. "Special teams picked it up last week. Defense is always doing their thing. We made some good steps last week as well. We're just trying to build on that as an offense and make sure that we're putting up points and keeping those chains moving."
Cotchery's last game at the old Meadowlands stadium this Sunday is against the Bengals, the team he matched up against in his first time ever stepping on the Meadowlands turf.
The Jets won that 2004 season opener, 31-24, and although J-Co didn't play, it's his fondest memory of the Meadowlands.
"I remember the National Anthem and those jets flying across the stadium. I knew I was in the NFL that day, that opening Sunday. I will always remember that moment. When those jets flew by, it sent chills up and down my body," he said. "It's kind of crazy. Hopefully we'll have those same fortunes."
And if they do, they'll be playing in the tournament for the first time since 2006, this time without Laveranues and probably against him.