Many Jets on the current roster are getting their first taste of our preseason rivalry with the Giants, which will be renewed again Saturday night at MetLife Stadium when the Green & White and Big Blue tangle for the 45th consecutive season.
Geno Smith, for instance, will have a front row seat, since the rookie quarterback has been named the Jets starter and will be leading the first offense perhaps into the second half in his most extensive action of the summer.
For that reason, Smith, who grew up in Miramar, Fla., with an appreciation not for Jets-Giants but Jets-Dolphins, isn't too worried about what Weeb Ewbank and longtime PR director Frank Ramos always used to call "the battle for braggin' rights."
"I'm extremely excited about this game," Smith said this week, "especially since I didn't get to play last week. So I get an opportunity to go out there and play and try to win the game with my teammates."
Almost all of our rookies and first-year players are in the same boat, experiencing Jets-Giants for the first time. But there is another class of about 13 players on the roster who grew up in the New York/New Jersey metro area. Unlike Smith, they all have a little more experience with, as guard Willie Colon calls it, "the hoopla" at this time of year. Like Smith, they all have related perspectives on the game.
"Who Better to Play Against?"
Rookie free agent WR Ryan Spadola is ready to unleash a good-sized cheering section in the stadium for this Giants home game. He said he was never "truly a diehard fan" of either team growing up in Howell, N.J., near the Jersey shore, although his father used to take him to Jets games more often than not.
"There's a big divide between diehard Jets fans and diehard Giants fans," Spadola said. "This week I've got a bunch of my friends and family coming up, and obviously they'll be rooting for their teams. But they'll all be cheering for me at the same time. For them it's a big game to come and watch, and being a Jersey guy, it's an honor to be a part of that rivalry."
Spadola can be a big part of it. He's got four receptions for 59 yards in the first two preseason games and is on the coaches' radar. "Keep your eye on him," coordinator Marty Mornhinweg advised. "He's had a good camp."
Antonio Garay, who has carved out a spot for himself in the defensive line rotation, is another Jet who knows this rivalry well, since he hails from Rahway, a half-hour hop down the Turnpike from MetLife. He even tips his hat to the Giants en route to talking up his Jets.
"The Giants have such a great history in recent years. That's good, and you can understand why they have so many people who support them. Who does not like a winner?" Garay said. "But there's a lot of guys in this locker room who've come through New York and New Jersey that want to display their talents all year long. Who better to play against in our next game than those guys?"
It's About "Competing Our Tails Off"
Colon is a pivotal newcomer to the Jets, a likely guard starter on the offensive line. Like Garay, he is an eighth-year pro. He perhaps even trumps anyone else on our team in that he grew up in the Bronx and went to Jets training camp practices when he was a student at our former Hofstra University headquarters.
But that didn't sway him in his upbringing in New York sports.
"I was a Giants fan," he said. "When I was coming up, our big rival was the Niners. I was more worried about the Niners than anything else. I never even remember watching the Jets-Giants preseason games."
He'd like to win this year's summer meeting for the green team, but not because it's against the blue team.
"The rivalry doesn't do anything for me. It's another competitor that I have to go out and do my job against," Colon said. "I don't fall into the hoopla of everything that's going on. This team has a purpose, and we have a drive and a mission. And that's to go out there every time we hit the field and compete our tails off. That's what we owe our fans."
"We have so many loyal fans in Jets nation, so many people who want to see us win," Garay said. "The story of this team is only beginning. You have so many guys who want to lead by example, show the people what we're about. And the most important thing is not to let anybody else write our story but ourselves."
|JETS-GIANTS RIVALRY FACTS||Record/Score|
|Preseason Series Record||Jets 23-20-1|
|Last Game||Giants 26-3, 2012|
|Regular-Season Series Record||Giants 8-4|
|Last Game||Giants 29-14, 2011|
|Last Jets Road Game||Giants 35-24, 2007|
|Postseason Series Record||0-0|
|Last Game||Never met|