Veteran Minicamp 4/16-4/18/09
It's a little strange, at the Jets' veteran minicamp that concluded today, to see the bearded guy standing on the sidelines in uniform ... in a green and white uniform, not in red, white and blue.
Larry Izzo said if he thought about it, he might find it strange, too. So he doesn't think about being a Jet and not a Patriot these days.
"I was a free agent, and someone once told me the circus doesn't stay in town forever," Izzo said in his first public remarks since he signed with the Jets as an unrestricted free agent last month. "It's time to move on at a certain point in your life, and this was an opportunity to come down to a team I'm familiar with and an area I'm familiar with."
Yes, there are several reasons that Izzo, the linebacker and special teams master entering his 14th NFL season, is not having any vertigo at the moment. And one of those is his knowledge of the lay of the land. After five years with the Dolphins and eight with the Patriots, he's staying in the AFC East.
And he's reeducating his family into cheering for the J-E-T-S.
"I've got a lot of family on Long Island. My dad and mom went to high school out there, and my grandparents still live out there. I actually lived in Greenlawn for part of the third grade," he said of the Long Island town less than a half-hour from the Jets' former Hofstra University home. "A lot of my family used to be Jets fans, so now they're coming back again."
He swears, too, that he enjoyed playing at the Meadowlands, even as a Pat and a 'Fin.
"It's always an intense atmosphere," he remembered. "I'm looking forward to being on the other sideline, where that chant that you always hear doesn't quite hurt your ears as much."
But Izzo also knows a few people on the Jets as well. He's well acquainted with Tony Richardson from their time together at NFL Players Association events, and he's run into a few of the Jets special teamers such as Wallace Wright, Ahmad Carroll, James Dearth and Brad Smith, over the years.
Yet the biggest connection is with one of his new/old coaches. Izzo became known as a specialist first-class at Miami under an ST coach named Mike Westhoff.
"Definitely, Mike played a huge role in my rookie year , giving me an opportunity in Miami," he said. "He found me out of Rice, and I enjoyed the hell out of playing for him for five years. He's the kind of coach who finds ways to take advantage of everyone's strengths. He's a fun coach to play for. I'm enjoying just being back with him."
Which is not to ignore the new sheriff in town, Rex Ryan. Rex's brother, Rob, was a linebackers coach for Izzo's first three seasons at New England. And he admired Rex's Ravens defense along with many other NFL players and fans.
"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."
Izzo has produced mostly on specials at a high level for a long time. He's been a team captain nine times in his career, he's made three Pro Bowls, led the NFL or tied for the lead in ST tackles twice, and has more kick-coverage takedowns than any other player in the league in the past 15 seasons.
And he said he's not done yet.
"I feel good. You train in the off-season to get your body prepared to do all the little things," he said. "Fortunately enough, I've been able to stay healthy. I'm in camp mode now, but it's the time of year where you just try to prepare for the long haul and fill up the tank as much as you can."