As a member of the Buffalo Bills from 2010-12, WR David Nelson faced the Jets four times, and four times he was on the losing end of the matchup.
"You know what they say," he told reporters following his first practice for the Green & White today. "If you can't beat them, join them. So here I am."
Nelson might still be with Buffalo if not for a game against the Jets last year. Trying to get open against CB Kyle Wilson in the fourth quarter of the 2012 season opener at MetLife Stadium, Nelson ended up tearing his ACL and was later placed on Injured Reserve, out for the remaining 15 games.
Although it's been 13 months since the incident, he remembers it like it was yesterday.
"It was a 10-yard out route," he recalled. "I was planting off my right foot to go left at a 90-degree angle, [Wilson] was falling down and he had me a little bit and I was planning to go out. My foot got caught in the turf and I was getting pulled a little bit and pushed off. I was pushing this way, he was falling that way, and it just popped."
Nelson ended up signing with the Cleveland Browns this offseason, but he didn't make the team's 53-man roster. Throughout training camp, he said, he would think about his injury while running routes, but now "it's not even a factor."
"I didn't even think about it until you mentioned it just now," he told me after today's practice. "That's very comforting to me to know that it's not an issue anymore. I don't have to worry about it. I can just go out there and worry about the plays and worry about the game."
In 28 career games, Nelson has hauled in 94 catches for 1,042 yards and eight touchdowns. Two of those scores, as he made sure to point out to Wilson today, came against No. 20 and the Jets in the 2011 season.
With the status of Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and Stephen Hill (concussion) unknown for Monday Night's game in Atlanta, Nelson could receive significant playing time right away. He's excited to have the chance to "make a mark early" in his first-ever primetime game in the NFL.
Asked about the new receiver's ability to be available for the Falcons, head coach Rex Ryan said, "I would think so. He's a veteran guy. I mean, you've got to get him up to speed in a hurry. I have no idea how much he knows of this system or anything else right now. But I know we had to defend against him. He's a very capable receiver."
"I feel like I already have a solid grasp as far as day one goes of the offense," Nelson said, "so it's just making sure [Geno Smith] trusts where I'm going to be."
It shouldn't be too hard for the rookie QB to find his new 6'5", 215-pound target, but the two will spend extra time after practices this week running routes and dissecting video to get on the same page and build a level of comfort and chemistry.
While David Nelson's never been involved in a West Coast system like the one that OC Marty Mornhinweg runs, "I feel like this offense fits my style of play really well," he said. The routes are the same as those he ran in Buffalo, for the most part, so the biggest challenge will be just figuring out what routes go with what concepts.
Playing on Monday night instead of Sunday afternoon is both exciting ("I've been dreaming about playing Monday Night Football since I was 4 years old") and advantageous.
"I'm pretty much a day and a half ahead of schedule and we haven't even really started getting into the game prep yet," he said, "so that day and a half is crucial for me and it will pay dividends come Monday."