Jets in rear-view, Ellis ready to make impact

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Jets in rear-view, Ellis ready to make impact

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn

FOXBORO Shaun Ellis had every reason in the world to believe that this day would never come.

A first-round pick of the New York Jets in 2000, Ellis has spent his entire career in New York, most of which was spent trying to knock Tom Brady and anyone donning a Patriots jersey, on their keister.

Beat the Patriots.

Every year, that was the goal.

Now he's one of them.

Ellis, who signed a one-year deal with New England reportedly worth 4-5million, was among the new faces at practice on Monday who have taken their talents to Foxboro.

With the Jets offering just a fraction of the the Pats were willing to pony up, money was clearly a factor in Ellis' decision.

But when you listen to him speak, it's clear that a fat payday wasn't the only reason he decided to join up with a franchise that for years has been an arch enemy.

"The first thing that comes to mind is winning, you know, championships," Ellis said. "I don't have one and I want to get one before it's all said and done. This is the best opportunity for me to do it and I joined and I'm ready to get in line with the rest of the guys and play my role."

That role has yet to be determined, but make no mistake - the Patriots expect Ellis to be an impact player.

When you look at his size (6-foot-5, 290), his track record (two Pro Bowls and three seasons with double-digit sack totals) and experience, it makes sense that he'll be counted on as a significant contributor in a defensive line that's loaded with talent.

"Shaun's played a lot of good football against us," said Pats coach Bill Belichick. "Very durable player, and very consistent. It seems like every time we play them, he lines up there and we have a hard time with him."

In New York's 28-21 playoff win over New England last season, Ellis was among the Jets players who contributed to New York's upset win.

His ability to sack Brady twice in the game's early moments set a tone defensively for New York.

The Patriots wouldn't mind seeing a similar impact from Ellis this season.

When asked about what kind of impact could he make immediately, Ellis said, "Just come in, my presence, be able to push the pocket as well with Albert (Haynesworth) and Vince (Wolfork) and a couple guys on defense and just see what happens."

Ellis did not practice on Monday, adding that he had yet to take the team's conditioning test.

Once he takes it and passes it, he'll be on the practice field as the Patriots slowly but surely inch closer toward the start of the regular season.

And while Ellis repeatedly talked about him joining the Patriots after so many years with the Jets is "just business," truth be told, he knows it'll be more than "just business" when New England plays his former team on Oct. 9 and at New York on Nov. 13.

"They have a choice of going after the guys they feel like they need or want to surround their team around and I just wasn't in their plan," Ellis said. "Like I said, 'I'm a Patriot now; I'm part of this plan and I'm going to go out there and play my best."

Still, the intensity will be amped up just a little bit more than usual when he sees his former team for the first time.

"The extra motivation comes when you play any team," Ellis said. "Each win is hard to come by, so as many wins as you can rack up, the better. Against the Jets, yeah that puts a little bit of icing on the cake, it does."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Curran: Ravens are the Patriots' most bitter rival

Curran: Ravens are the Patriots' most bitter rival

Who has been the Patriots' greatest rival of the Belichick-Brady Era?

There are a few candidates: There's no franchise the team hates more thoroughly than the Jets. The Steelers, just because of franchise tradition, are in the mix but the Patriots have had their way in most of the big games with Pittsburgh. The Colts? It's kind of a big brother-little brother thing. The Broncos? Definitely. But no opponent has provided the gripping games and the mix of animosity and respect that the Ravens have over the past decade. 

The first truly memorable Ravens-Patriots game came in 2007. Brian Billick was in his final season as Ravens head coach and Baltimore -- with Kyle Boller at quarterback -- was on its way to a 5-11 season. But that Monday night epic against the unbeaten Patriots was one of the most gripping games of the Belichick era with the Patriots erasing a 24-17 deficit in the final eight minutes thanks to a Ravens meltdown that included defensive coordinator Rex Ryan calling costly timeouts and Ravens players throwing penalty flags. The Patriots won, 27-24, on a touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney with 44 seconds left. It was probably the hardest the Patriots were pushed en route to 16-0.

Since then, there was the never-to-be-forgotten 33-14 2009 playoff rout at Gillette, which was probably the low point of the Belichick Era. That was followed by a pair of 23-20 Patriots wins before -- the second of those being a stirring AFC Championship win in the 2011 playoffs when Sterling Moore’s pass breakup and a hooked field goal attempt sent the Ravens home whining. But the Ravens broke Gronk in that game and -- with him hobbling around in the Super Bowl against the Giants -- they came up short, 21-17.

Early in 2012, again in prime time, the Patriots let leads of 13-0 and 30-21 slip away as the Ravens won 31-30 on a 27-yard Justin Tucker field goal at the buzzer. It was the Replacement Ref Game, the nadir of the horrific stretch of time in which we got an eyeful of how bad officiating can really be (thanks, Rog!).

The two teams saw each other again in the 2012 AFC Championship and the Patriots saw a 13-7 halftime lead evaporate in a hail of Joe Flacco throws to Anquan Boldin as the Patriots got out-toughed in a 28-13 loss. Late in 2013, the Patriots gave the Ravens a tremendous 41-7 beating in Baltimore to usher the Ravens out of playoff contention. It was the best win of the year for New England.

And the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff win for New England was one of the best playoff wins of Belichick Era. The Patriots twice erased 14-point deficits to win 35-31 at Gillette. The Ravens made a public show of complaining about the Patriots formation trickery and saying they’d take it up with the league. Tom Brady chastised the Ravens for not knowing the rules and Ravens coach John Harbaugh -- who’s got a haughty streak in him to say the least -- made sure the rule got changed then spent 2015 running trick formation plays recreationally.

More damaging was the private maneuvering of the Ravens.

Their coaching staff -- specifically special teams coach Jerry Rosburg -- was dropping dimes to the Indianapolis Colts, encouraging Indy to be on alert for football shenanigans, alleging the Patriots monkeyed with the K-ball usage. Harbaugh initially denied any involvement in the mess that ensued after the Colts alerted the league to that concern and the purported deflating of footballs which was “well known around the league.” After it was demonstrated that the Ravens had communicated with the Colts, Harbaugh and the Ravens released a statement trying to establish distance. 

As much as Baltimore wants to maintain its distance, the communication with Indy and the fact that “independent investigator” Ted Wells interviewed both Rosburg and Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees during the DeflateGate investigation shows that the Ravens weren’t just minding their own business in this whole thing.

This will be the first time the teams meet since all that went down and it will be interesting to hear this week if there’s any latent bitterness on the part of the Patriots who -- despite the on-field rivalry -- had a strong relationship with Baltimore at the ownership level with Steve Bisciotti, at the personnel level with Ozzie Newsome and George Kokinis and with the coaching staff. Bill Belichick recommended Harbaugh to Bisciotti for the Ravens head job in 2008.

The surging Ravens have won four of five. They’re 7-5 and leading the AFC North. And -- unlike other teams that traditionally melt under the lights in New England -- the Ravens relish the chance to play the Patriots.

"We have to go up into a hostile place in New England that we really enjoy playing [at]," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "It's going to be another important game in December up there on a Monday night, and it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it, big time."

“Now we’ve got our toughest challenge and we’ll need to play our best football up in New England to win that football game,” said Harbaugh. “We believe we’ll have a chance to do that based on where we are right now. … They’ve got great players, a great organization and they’re always at the top and they’ve earned it. We’ve been honored to be in some big games with them over the years and that’s a place we want to be.”