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Nothing personal with Ellis

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By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / October 6, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - Shaun Ellis said the decision to part ways with the New York Jets , the team that drafted him in the first round (12th overall) in 2000 out of Tennessee, was never personal.

It was strictly business when the Jets made a token attempt to keep the 11th-year defensive end, then the longest-tenured member of the team, leading Ellis to sign a more lucrative deal with the Patriots Aug. 8.

“It was just part of the decision that they made,’’ said Ellis, who will face his former team in an important AFC East clash Sunday at Gillette Stadium. “They wanted to go a different route.

“For me, it was about putting myself in the best situation, and I came here and hopefully we can continue and go on to more successful things.’’

Even when Jets coach Rex Ryan seemed to make it personal, bidding Ellis adieu by saying, “There’s no way I’m going to wish him well,’’ Ellis knew it was nothing more than a business matter. He knew he had become a salary-cap consideration who didn’t fit into the Jets’ plans.

“You know Rex is Rex and he’s going to voice his opinion, whether it’s jokingly or being serious,’’ Ellis said. “I just didn’t pay any attention to it.

“I’m here, I’m happy to be here, and I’m just ready to go out there and play.’’

The move from Florham Park, N.J., to Foxborough proved to be a sound business decision.

Ellis, 34, more than quadrupled the $910,000 minimum the Jets were offering for 10-year veterans when he agreed to a one-year deal with the Patriots worth $4 million, which included a $1.5 million base salary and a $1.75 million roster bonus.

It also came with a $750,000 signing bonus that nearly matched the Jets’ total offer.

“Shaun has had some really big games against New England,’’ said former teammate Damien Woody, who likely would have had to face Ellis this weekend had he not retired. “Sometimes when you get in a situation like that, you know, as an opposing team, you’re like, ‘Man, this guy has just been killing us - why not bring him aboard?’

“When the Jets made their offer, the Patriots made one that was substantially more. Obviously it was an easy decision for him.’’

Mindful of how he twice sacked Tom Brady in a 28-21 playoff victory last Jan. 16, the Patriots hope Ellis can bring that same pressure to bear against Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

“Oh yeah, he gave us problems in the past,’’ said Patriots left guard Logan Mankins of Ellis, who ranks third on the Jets’ all-time sack list with 72 1/2 and had Pro Bowl appearances in 2003 and 2009. “Now, he’s on our side, and we don’t have to worry about him.’’

But Woody isn’t convinced that Ellis can reprise the role he had with the Jets as a dominant pass-rusher for the Patriots.

“He’s getting up there in age,’’ said Woody. “He’s still a force in the run game, but to really expect this guy to really pile up a lot of sacks, it’s asking a lot.

“He’s had some really good games against New England, because it’s the biggest rival. So when you play rivals, you tend to play your best games.

“I just think that for people to expect him to have a big year as far as sacks and a difference-maker, I think that was a little bit too much to ask from Shaun Ellis at this point in his career.’’

The Patriots, however, believed Ellis had enough left in his tank to upgrade their pass rush.

“Shaun has been a good player in this league, been very consistent, dependable,’’ said coach Bill Belichick. “Played well against us, played well against a lot of people. We felt like he could help our football team and he has. He’s been a good addition.’’

Asked how jarring a transition it was to find himself a Patriot, Ellis said, “It’s been great. It’s been a wonderful experience, so far. Just seeing how they think and how they go about their business and being a part of it and just basically fitting in line with whatever scheme or adjustment they have.

“You just get in line and follow in line with the rest of the guys. There’s no high egos on this team. You see Brady out there running 20 sprints, you run 20 sprints. So there’s no one player above the team.’’

Ellis wasn’t interested in contrasting the work atmosphere under Ryan and Belichick.

“It’s totally different,’’ he said. “Rex has his way and Bill has his way, so they run two different operations.’’

One operation, though, viewed Ellis as expendable. The other saw him as a prized acquisition.

“Smart guy, very professional, really understands the game, works hard, has a good level of skill,’’ Belichick said. “He’s big, he’s strong, he can run, he has good quickness, he’s a good technique player. He’s been a good player and he’s added a lot to our team.’’

Ellis believes he can do a lot more. In four starts, he has registered only four tackles (three unassisted) and one quarterback hit. And the Patriots have no sacks in the last two games.

“I definitely know I have room to improve,’’ said Ellis. “I’m going to have to elevate my game even more to help our defense. So it’s a gradual building process for me. I just have to keep working hard, and getting my assignments down, and go out and play.

“It’s gradually coming. So all I’ve got to be able to do is go out and turn it loose.’’

What better time to do so than Jets Week?

“Well, it’s here,’’ said Ellis. “Obviously, it’s been in the back of my mind. Just looking to go out and play what the defense calls for and not try to get outside of my element and just play my game.’’

Ellis wants to make sure his emotions don’t get the better of him, as they seemed to with Richard Seymour in Oakland’s 31-19 loss to the Patriots Sunday.

“I mean, it’s a big game, it’s a rivalry game,’’ Ellis said. “Regardless of what side of the ball you’re on, or what sideline you’re on, you want to go out there and play your best in this game. It’s one of the biggest rivalries I’ve been a part of since I’ve been in the league.’’

But in no way does Ellis intend to make it personal.

“I think if you make it too personal, that’s when you start messing up,’’ he said. “We’re just going about business as usual.

“It’s definitely a big week for us, because it’s the Jets, and it’s a divisional game, so any time you play within your division, you want to put forth a great effort and win those games.’’

Shalise Manza Young of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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