Early last week, Aaron Maybin was asked by reporters about today's Jets-Bills game and he said he had circled the date a while back. He was asked Friday if he literally got out the Sharpie and put a ring around Nov. 6 on the calendar hanging from his refrigerator.
"Nah, that's a figure of speech," Maybin replied. "I didn't have to circle the day. I remembered it pretty well."
It all sounds as if "Mayhem" has payback on his mind when he shows up at his first home stadium in his NFL career today and launches himself from a position on the Jets defense toward the Bills, who selected him with the 11th overall pick of the 2009 draft and then, after coaxing one start and no sacks out of him in two seasons, tossed him aside for the Jets to sign as a street free agent in August.
But it seems just a little more complex than revenge this week for the still only 23-year-old linebacker with the chiseled body and relentless motor. No question Maybin wants to do well against the Bills. But he and the Jets want more out of him for the longer term, to help them beat not only the Bills but also the Patriots the next week and the seven more foes on the regular-season schedule after that.
"He's getting the playbook down," head coach Rex Ryan said. "He's made strides in that area, and I think you'll see him play more this week."
"In practice, I've definitely been in on some packages that I didn't start the year off on," Maybin said. "And when they brought me back, at first I wasn't a contributor on some of those defenses. So they have expanded my role a little bit and given me a few more assignments, a few more plays to get out there and do some things for us."
"The Mayhem Thing"
A lot more season remains to be played, but so far there's no denying that Maybin has created more mayhem for Jets opponents than anyone could have expected, including all the Bills coaches, fans and reporters who wrote him off midway through this past training camp.
Since being waived by the Jets and then re-signed on Aug. 28, Maybin has played in four games and has totaled three sacks and forced three fumbles. The first sack of his career and first FF in green came in the Sunday night loss to the Ravens when he roared from out of nowhere to hit Joe Flacco from behind and separate him from the ball. A sack and two forces came two weeks later against the Dolphins in another primetime game. The third sack ended Philip Rivers' and the Chargers' opening drive after three plays two Sundays ago.
Forced fumbles remain an unofficial stat, but it's saying something that Maybin is still tied for the unofficial NFL lead in that category with four other veteran defenders: Minnesota's Jared Allen, Detroit's Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril, and San Francisco's Parys Haralson.
"Great production. We need to get him on the field more," Ryan said after the big San Diego victory that set up the bye week and today's game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. "The Mayhem thing, I love that deal because it fits him. You guys talk to him, you know what I'm talking about. He's beautiful."
"Maybin? This week he's very excited, very loud," said Ellis Lankster, his current Jets and former Bills teammate."
No Distractions, All Preparation
Maybin is as non-stop a talker in the locker room as he has been a playmaker on the field. But it's never boastful or whiny, and very little has been Buff-centric this week. More so it has been him trying to refocus this week's many questions away from the "Revenge on the Bills" theme.
"I haven't really been answering my phone or my emails," he said. "I just want to take this whole week and, other than interviews with the media, I really just want to focus in on Sunday. I don't want none of that extra stuff. I don't want any distractions. I just want to get ready for the game."
"I'm pretty excited about the game coming up. It's been a long time waiting and a long time coming. I'm definitely fired up," he said.
Most of the Jets don't have the extra motivation that Maybin has, but they have plenty of their own. They know they've righted their ship with two straight wins after their three straight losses, but that the vessel will spring more leaks if they don't show they can win on the road this year as they have in the past, against a Bills team they've beaten in four of their last five meetings overall and three of their last four at the Ralph.
Yet the Bills have also gotten their boat afloat again with their 5-2 start, 4-0 at home, the Ryan Fitzpatrick- and Fred Jackson-led offense and their 16-takeaway defense. They no doubt have some scores of their own to settle with the Jets, who have run roughshod over that "D" with a mind-boggling 1,116 rushing yards in their last four meetings.
"They're a tough team to play at their place," Ryan said. "Oh, my goodness, we need to win, there's no question. You're not going anywhere if you can't win on the road."
The Importance of the Game
With so much at stake, could the Jets be tight today? Not if they listen to their confident inner voices. Not if they catch a little riff from Maybin.
"Sometimes when you get too excited, you put a little too much emphasis on every play and every facet of the game that you have no control over sometimes," he said. "That's when you start to play out of character. That's when guys start to play a little bit too anxious, a little bit overaggressive.
"I always want to be fired up, but I never want to be out of control. In order to stay in control, stay centered and stay focused on the task at hand, you have to be able to keep a level head and understand the importance of the game."
Maybin knows as well as anyone in this game that while individuals may have their smaller goals and concerns, the team can't lose sight of the bigger picture.
"This is a division opponent," he said, "and that makes it a big game. This is definitely not anything that's taken lightly."
The Jets need a win to raise their division record to 2-1, to raise their overall record to 5-3, which, if things fall right between New England and Giants not too far away in Foxboro, Mass., could have them tied for first in the AFC East with the Patriots ahead at home. That's why the Green & White need to boogie out of B-lo with a big "W" early this evening.
And if Maybin creates some mayhem in the process, so much the better.