His name's not Marty McFly, but Tyjuan Law — you can call him Ty — has gone back to the future with the Jets.
"Just watching the Jets play made me say, 'You know what? I need to be out there playing football.' Know what I mean?" said Law, the irrepressible professional defensive back who agreed in principle to a contract today to conduct his second tour of duty in the Green & White secondary.
"I was straddling the fence for a while and saying, 'Well, am I going to play? Am I not going to play?' To see the guys out there having fun, to see Brett Favre still out there — people call me old. If Bernard Hopkins can knock somebody out at 43, I sure can cover somebody at 34."
Age was a part of the patter this morning as Law, slowly upgrading his wardrobe from shower towel to Jets practice uniform as he talked, worked the growing media crowd in front of his locker before heading outside. It is true that Law is three years older now than when he left the Jets following his NFL-leading 10-interception 2005 season.
There are other differences, too. He won't be wearing his trademark No. 24 jersey, that number having been claimed and being made famous all over again by his "hometown buddy," Darrelle Revis.
But even that didn't faze Law as he lifted his new green jersey from his locker and slapped it.
"I'm not getting older, I'm getting younger," he said. "I went back to my No. 22 in college."
Law even looks different — not facially, where he still looks 24 instead of 34, but better, trimmer than he was at the end of that '05 season, before he left with Herm Edwards for two seasons in Kansas City.
"Every Sunday I'd be out there playing," he explained of his last few months out of the game. "I worked with a trainer during the week, and on Sunday I'd go out and try and simulate playing in a football game by myself. Then I'd go in and watch the games on TV. I'm in shape physically and mentally. I just have to go out there and physically hit somebody."
It Came Down to Pats, Browns ... and Jets
Law said he talked with Cleveland and New England in the off-season about coming back for his "final years" — asked how close he had come to re-signing with the Patriots, he held his thumb and forefinger a quarter of an inch apart.
But those arrangements never worked out, so Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Eric Mangini accommodated Law this week, putting him in that No. 22 uni and putting him through his paces today. The plan is to have Law play a role in the secondary, and to have him play that role as soon as Thursday night's national stage when the Jets go up against (how sweet it is) the Patriots.
Mangini, of course, was Law's secondary coach on the 2000-04 Pats. The coach said he likes Law's condition, and he's quite familiar with the player's outgoing nature: "This morning he went in there like he was running for mayor."
But Law's second stretch in green and white won't be judged by his electability or his Men's Fitness looks. Mangini wants the guy with the same drive to excel that he saw in the fall mornings during the first years of the new millennium.
"One of things I always liked about Ty," he said, "was on the days I'd be heading in early, he'd be heading out to do five miles of roadwork. When I was getting on the treadmill back in the day, he and Otis [Smith] would be on the treadmills running, not at the speed I'd be running at — they'd be rolling. At practice, he'd run in between reps across the field. Fridays he'd be in the film room watching a lot of tape.
"I don't think people often see that other side of him. I've seen it for such a long time."
People may not see the side of Law that they were used to when he was starring for the Pats or picking off passes for the Jets. Mangini said that while "there's definitely a chance" that Law will play Thursday night, his job will not be as a starter but coming off the bench to play different corner spots — base, "star," "money" — or even at safety, helping to increase the versatility that the Jets backfield already has to some degree with Hank Poteat and David Barrett.
And this is OK, too, by Law, to a degree.
"I'm excited about it," he said of this new phase of his NFL career, now formally entering its 14th year. "It's harder to come in when you sign, you get to practice today and the next thing you know you're starting. Guys that have been here, they've built relationships with each other, they know what each other's going to do because they've played with each other.
"I've just got to get in where I fit in right now and I will play and eventually I'll probably be even more than just a role player. As a competitor, you always want to go out there and be one of the main guys, and that's the goal as well."
If not, said Law with a smile and a shrug, "I just want to help out as much as I can."
Picking Law's Brain
Perhaps he already started helping out his old team and new teammates before his first practice. Take his new locker in the Atlantic Health Training Center. Picture a clock face elongated at the 3 and the 9, with the entrance to the room at 6 o'clock. Law's position is at 2, in the locker formerly occupied by DL Kareem Brown, in between two young Jets — CB Dwight Lowery to the left, WR Chansi Stuckey to the right.
Lowery is the Jet perhaps most affected by Law's arrival, since the fourth-round rookie has scuffled lately. Despite having started all nine games at right corner, he has been replaced at times by Barrett the past two games. But he sees a huge upside to having a new next-door neighbor and position mate.
"Ty's played in the league for a long time," Lowery said. "Anytime you bring in a guy of that caliber, it can be nothing but a positive for the team. I'm a young guy and I just take it as something to learn from. I honestly feel this situation couldn't be any better for me and the Jets."
Stuckey feels the same way, and it has nothing to do with the second-year wide receiver getting a look at corner during training camp and in some preseason games.
"I definitely watched him and saw him play before. He's a very, very good corner. Obviously I'll get to see it up close now," he said. "I'll probably wait a couple of days until he's seen me practicing and then ask him a couple of questions.
"I'm going to pick his brain."
Law, with five Pro Bowl berths and 52 regular-season interceptions already under his belt, seems happy to have his brain picked. But it sounds as if the crafty codger will be happy to bait the Patriots into trying to pick his pocket in two nights.
"They call me old man — hell, throw at me. That's what any smart coach would do," he said. "I relish the opportunity and look forward to the challenge."