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Ten years later, Jets' Ellis is still here

New York Jets' Shaun Ellis, top, celebrates after

New York Jets' Shaun Ellis, top, celebrates after sacking Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. (December 3, 2009) Credit: AP

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Shaun Ellis was the first of four first-round picks made by the Jets in 2000. The others - John Abraham, Chad Pennington and Anthony Becht - are long gone.

His head coach in his rookie year was Al Groh. Since then, he has played for Herman Edwards, Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan. He's been a 4-3 defensive end, a 3-4 defensive end, a pass-rusher and a run-stopper. And has rolled along through all of the sweeping and subtle changes that a franchise sees in 10 seasons.

"I look back on it," Ellis said Friday. "I've seen a lot. I've seen a lot of people come, a lot of people go. Coaches included."

Through all of those changes in personnel and personality, Ellis has remained the one constant. Well, one of two constants, really. The other is an inability to get beyond the divisional round of the playoffs.

With a decade of NFL snaps behind him, though, Ellis may be in the best position of his career to advance to a conference title game. Maybe even a Super Bowl. That's something he's been waiting for a long time.

"From the first day you step in the league, that's your goal, to win a Super Bowl," Ellis said. "We have a great shot. We have to go out there and play . . . We have to go out and prove that we're capable of doing it. We have a lot of weapons on this team, and our style is built for this part of the season."

That wasn't always the case. Ellis remembers the last time the Jets were in the playoffs, back in 2006 in Mangini's first year in the playoffs. He said the team was "antsy" going into that wild-card game against the Patriots.

This year's team is anything but antsy or hesitant or unsure of itself.

"It feels different," Ellis said. "Rex is an outspoken guy. Coming from Mangini, it's a lot different. Rex comes with an in-your-face attitude. This is how it's going to be. And we went out and we proved it. We got into the playoffs. Our mentality from the get-go was to win the Super Bowl. Guys believe in it. We just have to go out and play."

In that regard, Ellis has set an example for the younger Jets. Linebacker David Harris said he learned from watching "just the way he approaches the game."

"He approaches it as a game but also as a job," Harris said. "This is what we get paid to do, this is our lives, and he approaches it like that every day. Especially this time of year when we're trying to make the drive to the Super Bowl, it's been so focused lately."

Ellis, who'll be 33 at the start of next season, has one year left on his contract, so this might be his last chance to make that drive.

The players aren't thinking about winning one for Shaun, though. And neither is Shaun. In fact, he said he doesn't think much about when his career will end.

"I just try to keep my head down and keep working, don't take anything for granted, keep a steady approach and do what the team wants me to do," he said, adding that he'll play "until I can't no more. You can't get a job like this anywhere."

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