Shaun Ellis is becoming the old gray head of the Jets defense.
His ninth season doesn't quite rise up into the AARP stratosphere like Brett Favre (18th), FB Tony Richardson (14th) and Alan Faneca (11th). But unlike those three offensive stalwarts, Ellis has spent all eight of his previous NFL seasons as a Jet.
He's the longest-tenured member of the Jets. And the only active player in Saturday's Jets-Giants games to have made more starts for what Weeb Ewbank always called "braggin' rights" is Big Blue WR Amani Toomer.
"I've been in a whole lot of them," Ellis said today in the Jets' locker room. "It's a game that's big for the fans. I guess it's for a little braggin'— well, they have the ultimate braggin' rights. They won the Super Bowl."
Yes, that is a little wrinkle in this year's 40th consecutive summer meeting between the New York market's NFL teams. The Giants are the defending champs after their storybook 17-14 defeat of the Patriots in Arizona a short six-plus months ago.
But Ellis, who may or may not make his 11th Jets-Giants start (pre- and regular-season combined) due to a hand injury, doesn't begrudge the Green & White's stadium cotenants anything.
"I was happy for 'em, proud of 'em," Ellis said. "They accomplished something that a lot of teams weren't able to do. They played a great team that had a lot at stake also. To see them actually be the underdogs they were and go out and perform they way they performed was eye-opening. I was amazed by how they played."
And enthralled as a fan of metro area football watching the Giants' parade back home a few days later.
"I watched all of that. They achieved something that every player wants," Ellis said. "To be able to watch it, not be a part of it but be a witness of it, that was a good thing."
Another difference between this season's meeting and last year's two matchups — the Jets won in the preseason, 20-12, but the Giants got payback and then some by 35-24 in the RS — is that both those games were Big Blue home games. Saturday's game is a Meadowlands home game for the Green & White.
Ellis talked earlier in camp about his team's fan support. He knows the Jets have to win to bring out the best in their followers, and he said he doesn't mind hearing afterwards from the tough fans, whom he loves, about what he and his teammates did wrong. But not during the game.
However, that's suddenly not an urgent problem. The Giants may have the Lombardi Trophy but the Jets now have the QB heir apparent to Bart Starr.
"Brett Favre brings an added dimension of his own as far as his notoriety and his fame — he has a lot of fans," Ellis marveled. "So this game will be big. It'll be a good lead-up game to the start of the regular season."
No, the Big Katt hasn't lost count of the preseason games. But whereas the summer finale at Philadelphia next week will probably feature non-starters from start to finish for both teams, preseason games don't get much bigger than Saturday night's Jets-Giants.
It's the third preseason game for both teams, the game in which the starters play all first half and often into the third quarter (Jets head coach Eric Mangini didn't know today if he would let Favre and the first units venture into the second half). It's Jets-Giants. And it's Favre's longest exposure yet in Green & White instead of Green & Gold.
"They got us last year in the regular season pretty good," Ellis said. "We jumped out on them pretty quick and they came back on us. It was a difference from preseason to regular season.
"But they're real humble," he said when asked if the Giants have started any early trash-talking. "They have great players out there, they're a great team. Now they're just like every other [Super Bowl-winning] team, trying to get it again this year, trying to repeat. But I don't see any cockiness on their side."
And Ellis wouldn't mind trying on the Giants' post-SB mindset on, the one he witnessed from his TV in February.
"Some day, yeah. That was in the back of my mind," he said. "Just to see what it's like, feel that excitement and that buzz."