In March, Larry Izzo physically put aside his New England uniform. Shortly thereafter, he packed away the red, white and blue threads in his mind.
"I'm just wanting to go out there and get a win," Izzo, the 14th-year pro, eight-year Patriot and first-year Jet, said Monday, the day after he contributed to the Jets' season-opening victory at Houston. "You get past the whole adjustment to a new team a long time ago. This is my team here and I'm looking forward to going out there and getting a win on Sunday."
But as easy as being green is for Izzo now, and as close as the Patriots' 25-24 Monday night win over Buffalo turned out to be, he's not oblivious to the danger of the opponent in the Jets' home opener five days from now. He also wasn't sugarcoating the way the Pats viewed the Jets during his time in Foxboro, and especially the previous three seasons.
"It wasn't so much a team-wide hatred," Izzo said. "It wasn't so much like a big high school rivalry week, a crosstown-rivals type of thing where you just want to bang your head on a locker or something. Obviously New York and Boston have a lot of rivalries outside of football, and a lot of it was built up. But I'm not gonna lie. There was some tension just related to the Mangini situation."
But Eric Mangini left in January for the Cleveland Browns, and now the defense Izzo plays for is designed by Rex Ryan and coordinator Mike Pettine, while the special teams are coordinated by Mike Westhoff.
Izzo made his first regular-season contributions to both units in the 24-7 vanquishing of the Texans. It could even be said that the first 10 hidden yards of the Ryan regime came courtesy of Izzo, who was held by Chaun Thompson on the opening kickoff, setting the home team back on its 20 to open the game.
Then in the second quarter, when Bart Scott took a Steve Slaton shoe to his helmet and had to leave for a play, the man who replaced him at Will 'backer for one play was Izzo, who blitzed on the play and helped force QB Matt Schaub to tuck and run, before the Madbacker returned.
Izzo likes it here in the New York market, and not just because he's got lots of Jets fans in his family and spent some of his formative years growing up on Long Island. He likes the defensive scheme, which he said back in April that he admired watching from Massachusetts when Ryan and Pettine were running it in Baltimore.
"That was one of the best defenses year in and year out, a fun defense to watch, so I'm excited to be a part of that and to play for him," Izzo said. "You can tell already he's a coach who likes to have a good time out there. And winning's fun, too."
But fast-forwarding back to this week, he said he doubts the current Patriots have any trepidations about what they saw the Jets defense unveil for the Texans.
"Teams are going to prepare for us, they're going to see how we play, they're going to respect the style we play and how we go about things, and I think teams will have a healthy respect for that," he said. "I don't know how much fear comes into the equation but that's our goal every week is to win and make teams fear us."
And that goes for Tom Brady, who went 39-for-53 for 378 yards and threw a pair of red zone TD strikes to TE Benjamin Watson in the span of 66 seconds to pull out that prime time affair against the Bills.
"Knowing Tom, I don't think he fears much," Izzo said. "He's a very professional guy who's going to be preparing to go out and execute his job. I know we're going to do our best to handle him and hopefully we will."
One thing Izzo said he's looking forward to this season is being on the right side of the field when the Meadowlands faithful roar their approvals and disapprovals Sunday.
"I'm looking forward to being on the other sideline," he has said, "where that chant that you always hear doesn't quite hurt your ears as much."
Ryan wants the J-E-T-S chant and a high-decibel roar all game long, especially when Brady and the Patriots' offense have the ball. We'll have more on the coach prepping up the Green & White fans for this game as the rest of this week unfolds.