Shaun Ellis admitted it was a bit uncomfortable walking into the Patriots locker room for the first time Monday. But the defensive end said he isn’t “bitter” about being unable to come to terms on a new deal with the Jets.
“I’m not bitter,” Ellis said in a conference call with the New York media Monday. “At first I was a little bit emotional about it. But once I wrapped my head around it I took it for what it was. … I understand I just wasn’t part of their plans.”
The 34-year-old Ellis signed a one-year deal with rival New England on Sunday, abruptly severing an 11-year relationship with the Jets, who were unable to agree on a new contract. According to Ellis and his agent, Mitch Frankel, the Jets weren’t willing to offer much more than a veteran-minimum contract of $910,000.
Ellis signed a one-year deal worth between $4 milion to $5 million, a source confirmed to Newsday. Ellis did say he went back to the Jets to inform them he had an offer from the Patriots on the table but the Jets would only increase their offer by “a couple thousand.”
“I felt like I wanted to give them another chance,” he said. “I wanted to give them the ability to change their mind.”
So now Ellis will be suiting up in blue-and-silver — an admittedly strange circumstance for a player long associated with Gang Green. He said when he walked into Patriots’ camp for the first time, it seemed somewhat surreal.
“It was a weird feeling,” Ellis said.
Ironically, Ellis’s career with the Jets began thanks to the Patriots — he was drafted in the first round in 2000 with one of the picks the Jets acquired after head coach Bill Belichick left for New England. Last year in the AFC divisional round game, Ellis sacked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady twice in New York’s 28-21 win.
But this year, the Jets seemed content to move on without the two-time Pro Bowler. The team drafted two defensive linemen with its first two picks of the draft, Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis, and Ellis acknowledged that the team seemed intent on getting younger in that area.
Jets coach Rex Ryan has been highly supportive of both Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis throughout camp, and last week, when asked about Ellis’s visit with the Patriots, he referred to the Jets’ ability to replace him.
“That’s the business,” Ryan said. “You get to make your decision, so we’ll see what happens. But I’ll tell you this, our young guys are going to be ready.”
Now the Jets’ offensive line will have to be ready to stop him.
Ellis didn’t say he harbors resentment toward the organization — in fact, he went out of his way to thank Jets’ owner Woody Johnson. But certainly in his first game against his former team, on Oct. 9, Ellis might understandably have a little extra motivation.
“I love my teammates,” Ellis said. “I had a great time with them. A lot of memories. Now I just got to start over and build on my success.”