FOXBORO — It’s no mistake that the Patriots are honoring Ty Law on a Thursday night against the Jets.
It was the same in 2010 when they paid tribute to Tedy Bruschi, and celebrated with a 45-3 destruction of the Jets. The Patriots can only hope this works out as well.
“It means a lot. To have it come around one more time to say a final salute to the Patriot nation, it’s amazing,” said Law, the latest enshrinee to the Patriots Hall of Fame. “I think I [said] everything that I possibly could during the Hall of Fame ceremony, but to be able to go out on the field one last time in front of the crowd, on the football field, it’s an amazing feeling, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Law will also get the chance to again watch Darrelle Revis. In the last two weeks, Law has seen his fellow Aliquippa, Penn. legend turn into the shutdown corner everyone expected when Revis landed in New England. Has Law enjoyed seeing Revis do some of that in recent weeks?
“I knew coming into the game that’s how I got myself prepared,” Law said of expecting 1-on-1 battles. “It’s a challenge that I relished week-in and week-out, and I wanted my teammates to feed off of that confidence. I wanted to be contagious, letting guys know that I was going out there to do my job. If I took that approach, the next guy would be like, ‘You know what, I got him. I’m going to do my job.’
“And it worked for us. It was just one of those things that I took a lot of pride in. And then after it was pretty much established that I’d be taking the top dog every week, it just became one of those things that we had a lot of fun with, and I always looked forward to it. I think it makes your job somewhat easier even though you’re going against the best guy, to know and study and say, ‘OK, primarily I have him, so I don’t have to look at five, six different guys. I’m covering him.’ So, it was a blessing in that aspect as well. So, to see Darrelle doing some of the same things now that was one of my selling points to him.
“If you were to come to the Patriots you would have an opportunity to do some of the same things that you did in New York. Somewhat different system, but you will still be in charge of taking out the top guy [in] man or zone, and I think that was one of the things that pushed him to come to New England. It’s been a joy to watch him the last few weeks to go out there and be able to do what he does best because he was totally out of place in Tampa Bay. That wasn’t Darrelle Revis; that wasn’t the type of football that he likes to play. Where we’re from in Aliquippa, we called that cat coverage. I’ve got that cat, you got that cat, you got that cat, and that’s what we do. So, we’ve been doing this thing for a long time.”
Marvin Harrison was one of the toughest cats Law ever covered.
“Absolutely, because I played with a lot of power and strength. He was more quickness, so he was naturally quicker, he was naturally faster as far as foot speed, so I had to cater my game to that,” Law said. “I had to play a little bit ‘¦ It was like chess when I’m out there playing against Marvin Harrison to try to get my hands on him, then they start putting him in motion at times, and I’d back off because he’s a smart, gifted wide receiver. And then you have someone like Peyton Manning throwing him the ball. He can get it wherever he needs to get it, so it was always a challenge because he was the guy.
“How many guys could you say can play Marvin Harrison throughout a game for 65-70 plays, one-on-one, man, zone, but you’re always [on] him? It’s a tough challenge. This guy is a Hall of Famer all day, and I got a chance to battle with him throughout our careers. So, I know he’s going. It’s just a matter of time. So when you play against a Hall of Famer like Peyton Manning, a Hall of Famer like Marvin Harrison and have some success, I can hold my head up at the end of the day and say, ‘You know what, that was a hell of a career playing against some of the all-time greats, and I feel good about it.’ It’s something that I can share with my kids.”
One cat that Law skinned numerous times goes by the name of Peyton Manning. Law intercepted Manning nine times, between regular season and postseason, including three in the 2004 AFC championship.
“First of all, it’s the utmost respect that I have for him as a player, who he is to the game, how he approaches the game and I know that he’s studying me as much as I’m studying him. And the fact that he had one of the premier wide receivers in my era in the game that I was responsible for ‘ all of that came into play. You’ll get embarrassed if you don’t come prepared. I probably studied more for Peyton ‘¦ I tried to take the same approach, but you always do that little bit extra to try to find what you can do to beat him because you’ll be on the opposite end of the highlights if you don’t come in ready to roll.
“And I tried to give everybody the same respect, the same preparation, but you can’t do that with Peyton Manning. He’s too good. You have to put a little bit extra in there. It was more so the respect that I had for him, and admiration, and I wanted to perform. So, I felt like if I could play well against a Marvin Harrison, pick off balls and give Peyton Manning a hard time, that did a lot for my personal confidence going into next weekend. If I could do this against Peyton, this guy is going to have problems. So, that’s the kind of Jedi mind tricks I played on myself.”
Here is more from Law and his thoughts on the current-day Patriots:
Q: How do you see the Patriots defensive philosophy this season, and has Darrelle Revis had any impact on that philosophy?
TL: People always try to compare defenses to the past defenses that showed more success, that were great in their own right. You sometimes have to consider the personnel. There have been coaching changes, personnel changes, and you can’t always put the scheme in and say, ‘Just go out there and run it.’ It’s about personnel. The Patriots, they didn’t have the personnel at times. There were a lot of injuries that happened. But when you get a guy like Darrelle Revis to be able to take so much of the pressure off of everyone else, it’s special. And that’s who we had. I was able to take pressure off of the defense. We were able to do certain things, and when you have a corner like that, it opens it up for everybody. I think now you have Brandon Browner there as well, the possibilities are endless. Unfortunately with the injury to [Jerod] Mayo, that hurts, that stings, but somebody else has to step up. When you have the personnel like they do now, especially back in the secondary, it’s going to be great for the team. No, you don’t have Willie McGinest or Mike Vrabel, no, but hey you have a Rob Ninkovich. Those guys have to step up and play. And I think they’re on the right track to be able to bring back the great defenses, and I think they’ve shown the last couple of weeks, if they go out there and trust the players, if the coaches trust the players and they let them do what they do best, good things will come. I mean, I understand you may have tried this and it didn’t work, but you didn’t have the personnel. You have the personnel now, so the sky is the limit for this defense.
Q: How have you seen the team use Darrelle Revis this season? Has it been a lot more man-to-man coverage than last season in Tampa Bay?
TL: Oh, absolutely. Tampa Bay, he wasn’t playing any man-to-man coverage. Their system was more of a zone, and that just doesn’t cater to his strengths. He probably played more man coverage and more of an aggressive scheme in New York, but he will play man-to-man coverage here. He’s going to play a lot of zone-based coverage, he’s going to play some soft zone, he is going to get to do a variety of different things here with New England. He didn’t get to anything that he liked to do, and when you pay a guy that type of money to be a shutdown corner, he didn’t get to do that in Tampa Bay. He played well, he still went to the Pro Bowl, but people were questioning what happened to Darrelle Revis. What happened to him? He’s not getting the opportunities. He’s not doing what he’s used to doing. So, his talent wasn’t flourishing. He’s going to be able to flourish here for as long as they continue to give him the responsibility and the challenge. Darrelle needs a challenge. It’s not a challenge for him to go into any game and play the average receiver, a mediocre receiver. The challenge for Darrelle to get him stimulated, he has to be on the guy. He wants to take him out. That’s how you get the best out of Darrelle Revis. Are you going to lose some sometimes? Absolutely, absolutely. Those guys get paid, too. But he’s going to win more than he’s going to lose, and I think your best chance of getting the maximum performance out of Darrelle and your best chance to win a football game is to let him go out there, whether it’s man or whether it’s zone, play against that top dog because he’s also going to make that quarterback think. No quarterback is going to go into the game thinking, ‘I’m going to attack Darrelle Revis.’ I don’t care who their receiver is. That’s just the talent and aura that he brings to the game, that he brings to the field. He’s just that type of player, one of those once-in-a-lifetime-type players. I’ll say once-in-a-decade. Let me retract that. He’s a once-in-a-decade-type player.
Q: What are your thoughts on being honored at halftime of the Jets game, and what are your thoughts more generally on that rivalry?
TL: I think it’s not as prestigious as it used to be, but it’s always there. You’re going to bring out the best in both teams. The Jets, even though they have beaten the Patriots under Rex Ryan, but they’re not much of a threat when it comes down to it. And the reason is, there’s always that little bad blood scenario with all of us interchanging ‘ some of the top players, coaches, Coach [Bill] Parcells ‘ it’s always going to be there. But as a football player and as a fan, as an analyst, you would like to see better football games. There is a lot of talking going on as far as Rex ‘¦ Of course, Bill [Belichick] is not going to give you much bulletin board material. But the product on the field hasn’t been the same in recent memory. Once we start getting some good football games, the hype machine will start jumping on the Patriots-Jets bandwagon again. But right now, it’s there, but the product on the field isn’t much to get too excited about because the Jets haven’t been a very good football team lately, in my opinion.
Q: What is your greatest moment as a Patriot?
TL: Man, that’s a tough question. How are you going to put me on the spot like that? It would be a medley for me. I really can’t pick just one because one of the greatest moments was off the field ‘ the reception I got during the [Patriots] Hall of Fame [induction]; the people that came out. That was an incredible feeling. This is a team game, but that day in particular for me, they made that day incredible for me. Mr. [Robert] Kraft, he outdid himself as far as setting up everything to honor me for what I did on the football field. Personally, that was one of the greatest moments for me. From a football perspective, you’ve got to think about the first Super Bowl ‘ that run ‘ being able to have the interception to turn the game in our favor and being such a big play in the game that got us that first championship, that helped get us that first championship. You talk about the AFC Championship Game, to have three picks in a game of that magnitude against Peyton Manning. I can ring off some plays that I get chill bumps every time I think about it. I had a friend of mine who made a highlight tape, and I was like, ‘Wow, that was me?’ because I sure can’t move like that now. There are so many plays and moments throughout the career that I can sit back and feel pretty good about, but this Hall of Fame thing, this is really one of the greatest moments personally for me, given the championships, the Super Bowls, the Pro Bowls. But when people come out there to wish you well, to support you, to go out of their way to praise what you’ve done on the field, that right there was something I’ll never forget. This is incredible, and just to come back out and get one last wave is going to stand up there on the list as well.
Q: What are your impressions six games in of how the new rules are working out? Has it been the nightmare you thought it’d be or has it calmed down to a point where it’s kind of manageable?
TL: I don’t like the rules at all, the touchy feely calls. The refs, we’ve got to give them a little leeway because they’re trying to follow what the league mandates, but I don’t like it. And to be honest with you, I don’t know if we’d be sitting here having this conversation, talking about me being in the Hall of Fame and the way I played the game, if I had to play with these rules because we were taught for so long to take a certain way to dislodge a receiver from the ball. It’s a warrior sport as far as I’m concerned, and you have to be courageous, you have to be brave. I understand protecting players, but I do not like the way the game is being played at all. It’s more catered to the offense, I think, and like I said, nobody wants to see anyone get hurt, but as far as I’m concerned, we all knew what we signed up for. You know what I mean? You want to protect us from ourselves. Even the kickoffs ‘ why take away a guy like Devin Hester with his remarkable ability to do something that only a few people in the league can do? That’s why they’re called specialists. You’re taking away that position from the game. Kickoff coverage is a dynamic position, but how many kickoffs do we get to see now because of the rules? They don’t want that play in the game. How many [times] do you see a receiver come across the middle if you touch him if he doesn’t have full possession of the ball, and you get a flag on the defensive side? Nobody is scared to go across the middle anymore because they know. When I played, you were scared to go across the middle, as you should be. I just don’t like the way ‘¦ Where they’re taking the game is messing up the integrity of the game because it was played a certain way for so long, and now these changes I don’t think are making the game better. That’s just my opinion.