Chad Pennington and Brooks Bollinger are reunited before the Jets played the Vikes last season.
For the first time in his NFL career, Brooks Bollinger will walk into the Meadowlands this evening as a visitor.
Bollinger, who spent his first three seasons with the Jets, has entered his second season with the Vikings. The teams meet tonight in a nationally televised Preseason Week Two matchup.
"It's just kind of like when you're younger, when you're playing your good friend or brother or whatever. It's great to see them but you want to win pretty bad, too," Bollinger said in a recent telephone interview with newyorkjets.com. "I just want to go out there, compete and do well. It's going to be exciting for me to be back there and see all the guys and also be back in that stadium. I think it's a great place for football."
After participating in a four-way quarterback derby last year with the Jets, Bollinger feels well-equipped for his two-way duel with Tarvaris Jackson.
"There is not a better place to get trained for it [a QB competition] than New York," he said. "I don't know if it was a similar situation to what it is this year, but you're still out there with the ones. Everything is highly scrutinized and I think that helped me a lot as a player just having gone through it."
Prior to the final preseason game last year, the Jets sent Bollinger to Minnesota in exchange for DT C.J. Mosley and a draft choice. Chad Pennington, who would go on to be named AP Comeback Player of the Year, clearly distanced himself from the competition in the summer. But the gutsy Bollinger didn't depart before earning the respect of the Jets' new head coach.
"Brooks' toughness, leadership and competitive nature are evident in the classroom, the locker room and on the field," said Eric Mangini. "We wish Brooks and his family the best of luck as he pursues a new chapter in his career."
With the Green & White, Bollinger played in 12 games and made nine starts. In 2005, he stepped in and started the club's final eight games, throwing for 1,558 yards on 56 percent passing. He also rushed for 137 yards on 36 attempts.
"We kind of found our niche living out there, and you sensed last year that they were going to do good things with Coach Mangini and you were kind of excited to be a part of it," Bollinger said. "On one side, you were like 'I worked hard in the offense all off-season and through training camp' and then you're just kind of gone. You left one day thinking you'd be back the next day, and you don't really get to say bye to anyone. You're walking into a new locker room where everybody is kind of like, 'Who's this guy?' "
But there were a number of people who knew the new guy. Bollinger, who had a 30-12 record as a starter at Wisconsin, had a new boss in Brad Childress who served as a Badgers assistant coach from 1991-98. And offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell also played quarterback at Wisconsin, having led the Badgers to their first Big Ten title and Rose Bowl in 31 years.
"I've known Brooks back to his University of Wisconsin days," said Childress after the Vikings acquisition. "He was our redshirt freshman quarterback when we went to the Rose Bowl in 1993. He's a coach's son, he has very good skills and athletic ability, and he has a great mind."
There were other pluses, too. The Vikings ran a West Coast system and Bollinger had operated in the system as a rookie.
"What helped me as much as anything has been having been in this offense before under Paul Hackett in New York," he said. "I was also able to be under a guy like Chad who had been through it and was able to run it so well and see how he learned it and how he studied it.
"It's a little different," he said of the Vikings. "We do some different things and there is a little different terminology and all that stuff, but I'm able to fall back on the way I was trained in this offense. It took a little bit of time because I had two systems in between, but it really helped me. Once I got going, it was like second nature."
Only days after the trade, Bollinger signed a contract extension.
"There were so many positives," he said. "First of all, there were four guys in a three-man race and just to go to a place where they wanted me and I could have a little job security and have a home, that was the first thing that was a positive.
"Secondly, on a personal level, it was great to be coming back close to my family. I had a young son, my wife's family is from St. Paul, my family lives in Minnesota now, so you couldn't ask for a better fit and that made the transition a lot easier."
In his first season with the Vikes, Bollinger appeared in two games as Brad Johnson's backup. But he hurt his left shoulder in a December game against the Bears and didn't play again. Jackson started the final two games for the Vikings last season, but Bollinger has now had almost an entire calendar year in Minnesota.
"Camp has been good. It really helped me this year. Last year was tough coming in and I had to pick up the offense on the fly," he said. "I didn't have training camp and the off-season to learn from the bottom up and feel comfortable with the guys and all that stuff. It's been really helpful to me. I've had the off-season, I'm coming in here with a strong understanding of what's going on, and I feel comfortable when I step in the huddle."
When the Jets visited the Metrodome last December, Bollinger watched from the sideline as Brad Johnson and then Jackson struggled mightily in the 26-13 loss to the Jets. Bollinger will get his chance to play some of his former mates tonight and he's not going to let the preseason tag diminish its meaning.