We've had the handshake fiasco, Spygate, the Bill Parcells connection and just about everything else in between. Now it's time for Ty Law's umpteenth homecoming at Gillette Stadium.
Law signed with the New York Jets on Monday night, just in time for Thursday's pivotal showdown at New England with sole possession of first place in the AFC East up for grabs.
While the Jets didn't sign Law simply to tweak the Patriots (Law spent 10 years in New England from 1995 to 2004 before signing with New York in '05), the timing is impeccable and the acquisition adds another chapter to this already-heated rivalry.
The Jets did this in an attempt to improve their struggling secondary. They've yet to settle on a consistent starter opposite Darrelle Revis and head coach Eric Mangini is beginning to lose faith in rookie Dwight Lowery. Third-year pro Drew Coleman is in the doghouse as well and Justin Miller is now in the unemployment line after getting released Tuesday. Eric Smith will miss his third consecutive game this week and is likely headed to injured reserve.
Law practiced Tuesday and already told the NFL Network he'll play Thursday night, so the Patriots are expecting to reacquaint themselves with an old friend when the Jets come to town for a pivotal AFC East showdown between two first-place teams.
"It's going to be a little weird," said defensive end Ty Warren before comparing Law to former Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez. "Ty is Ty. Like Manny is Manny.
"I know Ty has a good work ethic. I remember as a young player driving in at 6 in the morning and seeing him running five miles up and down Route 1 before the day had even begun. I'm sure he's been in shape and he's probably been talking to them the last couple of weeks knowing this could come."
Added running back Kevin Faulk: "I'm happy for him that he's back in the game. At the same time, we're playing against him, so you can't be that happy."
Squeezing his index finger and thumb just centimeters apart, Law told the New York media Tuesday he was "that close" to signing with the Patriots, who also reportedly expressed interest in reacquiring the five-time Pro Bowler earlier in the season, though head coach Bill Belichick said he hasn't talked to Law in "probably a couple of months."
Law won't start -- that spot will likely go to Lowery -- but he will serve as a situational defensive back capable of playing safety or corner on passing downs. The former first-round draft pick, who spent 10 seasons in New England from 1995 to 2004, turned 34 in February and hasn't played since last year's season finale.
"It doesn't surprise me he signed with somebody," Belichick said. "We all know what Ty's skills are. Where they put him or what they do with him, you never know that until the game starts."
"I just know he's been a great player for a long time," added wide receiver Wes Welker. "We have to be ready for whoever's out there."
Player Quick Hits
--Rookie RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis continues to impress. He rushed for 105 yards against the Bills last weekend and maintains a humble attitude as the team moves forward.
"I just try to go out there every day and work hard," Green-Ellis said. "I try to learn every day from the other guys on the team and do the best I can. I just take it one day at a time."
His performance in an emergency role may make him a viable option down the stretch.
"He's done a great job just understanding what's at stake and understanding how to play the game the way the coaching staff wants him to," veteran Kevin Faulk said.
--WR Randy Moss moved up three spots on the NFL's all-time receptions list Sunday, taking sole possession of 17th place in league history after entering the day in the 20th spot.
His fourth catch of the day, a 9-yard catch in the second quarter, was the 816th of his career and moved him past Sharpe into sole possession of 17th place. Moss ended the day with five receptions, bringing his career total to 817. Steve Largent ranks 16th in league history with 819 career receptions.
--The Patriots haven't made any bold moves yet, though there is almost a definite certainty linebacker Adalius Thomas will be placed on injured reserve with a broken arm, opening up the possibility for another roster move later in the week.
Thomas' presence will be missed. Without him at outside linebacker, the Patriots will rely on Pierre Woods to fill the void. The third-year pro has risen from the ranks as an undrafted rookie and paid his dues on special teams before emerging as a key contributor in training camp this summer.
Woods has gotten significant playing time this season on sub-defense packages, though it remains to be seen what his role will be going forward. The Patriots might not ask him to play every down like Thomas did, perhaps leaving the door open for some shifting of personnel in the near future. The Patriots aren't particularly deep at linebacker, but they do have options. One possibility is activating rookie Vince Redd from the practice squad and using him as a situational pass rusher.
--RB Sammy Morris appeared during the start of Tuesday's walkthrough and is listed as having limited participation during that session, perhaps signaling he is closer to returning to the everyday lineup after suffering a knee injury against Denver.
--The news is not as good for RB LaMont Jordan as he missed Tuesday's walkthrough with a calf injury and appears to have suffered a setback in his recovery. Sammy Morris is now the likely candidate to return first, which seemed almost impossible two weeks ago.
--CB Lewis Sanders continues to miss time with a hamstring injury and will likely sit out Thursday's game against the Jets. His recovery has been slow, but the Patriots compensated by signing Jason Webster last week to fill the void in their nickel coverage.
--DE Ty Warren participated sparingly in Tuesday's walkthrough with a groin injury. His status for Thursday is unknown at the time, though he spoke with reporters before practice, so the injury does not appear to be serious.
--CB Terrence Wheatley, who injured his left wrist against Indianapolis, did not participate in Tuesday's walkthrough and is a long-shot to play Thursday night. Wheatley is one of several defensive backs nursing injuries for the Patriots.
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