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If Ellis can't go, DeVito - his longtime admirer - will help out

New York Jets defensive end Mike Devito (70)

New York Jets defensive end Mike Devito (70) celebrates after the Cincinnati Bengals missed a field goal during the fourth quarter. (January 9, 2010) Credit: AP

Shaun Ellis doesn't know it, but he was one of the players Mike DeVito admired the most while growing up in a family of Jets fans. In three years as teammates, DeVito never has mentioned it to Ellis, but if the veteran defensive lineman has trouble playing with a broken left hand, he might find himself cheering DeVito on in his place.

"We talk all the time,'' Ellis said of DeVito on Friday. "We've got a game plan.''

The plan calls for Ellis to start in his usual left end spot wearing a soft cast on the left hand he broke last week in San Diego. Ellis did not participate in practice Friday as a precaution, but he is listed as probable for Sunday. How much he plays depends on how well he handles the pain and whether he has any problems tackling. Describing the pain, he said, "It's a lot, but a lot of players play with injuries.''

Ordinarily, DeVito rotates more with Ellis in the second half when the Jets try to save him for pass-rush situations. But when Ellis was injured against the Chargers, DeVito's playing time increased.

As it turned out, DeVito's first solo sack of his NFL career came against Philip Rivers on a rush from defensive tackle. "The ends had gotten great pressure all day,'' he said. "They forced Rivers to step up; I bull-rushed the guy in front of me, and [Rivers] stepped up right into my arms. It was just a team effort.''

Peyton Manning has been sacked only 12 times - twice last week. But DeVito said the Jets "are confident . . . I don't think there's any doubt we can win this game.''

When DeVito was a free agent coming out of Maine, there was no question he would sign with the Jets once they made an offer.

"I grew up a Jets fan, so it was a dream to be here,'' said DeVito, 25. "My entire family is Jets fans. I have family in Babylon, St. James, all the way out in Wading River and then right up into Brooklyn. I just remember watching Keyshawn Johnson and Vinny Testaverde, even Shaun. He was somebody I looked up to growing up.''

In 10 years with the Jets, this is the first chance Ellis, 32, has had to play for a championship. That's why he's willing to try even though he must have hand surgery to implant some screws shortly after the game.

"I'm not going to go out there and be a handicap to the team,'' Ellis said. "If I feel like something is not going right for me, I'll come out. I'm not going to be that selfish.''

There's no need when he has a backup who has supported him longer than Ellis realizes.

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