On Sunday night, S Jim Leonhard, LB Bart Scott, and WR Derrick Mason will take the field at M&T Bank Stadium as they have several times during their career. However, it will be the first time they will do so while wearing enemy colors.
The three Jets spent a combined 14 seasons playing for the Baltimore Ravens, and although they now don green and white, in some ways it will still feel like a homecoming.
"We'll go down there as a team, and it will be bittersweet in a sense," said Mason. "But when that coin is tossed and that ball is kicked off, I know I've got a job to do."
Mason, in his 15th NFL season, spent six of his most productive years in Baltimore, cementing his reputation as one of the steadiest receivers of his generation. From 2005-10 he caught 471 passes for 5,777 yards and 29 TDs.
Baltimore no longer serves as his stomping ground, but Mason holds no distaste for his former club.
"That was family to me," he said. "But they made a business decision, and I had to make a business decision. I had to make the decision that was best for me career-wise. At the time, it was coming here to the Jets, and I still feel the same way."
Ray Lewis, one of the most feared linebackers in the game, said today of Mason, "He's a veteran presence from the receiver position, a guy that has been consistent for so many years. Mason is a heck of a teammate, somebody that you know you can rely on. But now he's on the other side. Now we have to get ready to defend him."
While Lewis leads the Ravens' corps of linebackers, their secondary is patrolled by S Ed Reed. Now in his 10th season, Reed is compiling a Hall of Fame career, having intercepted 56 passes and returned six of those for touchdowns.
According to Mason, it wouldn't be fair to judge Reed based solely on his numbers.
"The guy is phenomenal," said the Jets wideout. "He's the best safety that I've ever seen play the game. It's almost freakish, the things that he can do out on the field. I have mad respect for Ed and what he's able to do. You have to be aware of where that guy is every time you step underneath center."
Lewis and Reed are the anchors of the Ravens' defense, which has ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in total defense nine of the last 10 seasons.
"They're a very good defense," said Mason. "It's going to be a challenge going down there, playing in front of that crowd. We just have to take advantage of our opportunities as an offense. I have faith in our defense. They'll be OK."
The defense that Mason speaks about will look to atone for its Week 3 showing, when they surrendered 34 points and 234 rushing yards to the Oakland Raiders. It's the same defense head coach Rex Ryan is supremely confident in, and the same defense that Lewis believes is not quite as good as his.
"I think for years when we talked about being the best defense, we always kind of let the numbers speak for themselves," he said.
Sunday's game will help prove who is the better team and who is the better defense. Last year, the teams met on opening night in the Jets' new home stadium, with the Ravens victorious in a 10-9 battle of field position.
Mason was wearing purple that night, but will now stand across the field from his former teammates for the first time.
"I knew deep down in my heart that I gave them all I had," he said. "The way I played, no one could question whether I gave 100 percent or not. When I left that building, I was OK because I knew I still had a lot of football in me. Luckily, Rex wanted me, and I was more than happy to come here."