FOXBOROUGH -- It's been a little less than a year since the Patriots last played the Jets, taking a 49-19 victory on Thanksgiving Day 2012.
That game, of course, was signified by more than the win for the Patriots: It also provided the memorable and seemingly everlasting image of the "butt fumble," with Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez running into teammate Brandon Moore's behind and coughing up the football.
Patriots safety Steve Gregory knows the tale well. He was the one who scooped up the fumble and raced away for a 32-yard touchdown. It was his second fumble recovery of the game, to go along with an interception, making it quite possibly the best game of his career to date. And as a native of New York (born in Brooklyn, went to high school in Staten Island), he's heard his fair share about the play from family and friends who are either Jets fans or Jets agitators.
Going into Thursday's game, Gregory talked briefly about the butt fumble on this anniversary of sorts, his role in the New England defense, and at length about this week's opponent.
So it's your hometown team and another reason to bring up the butt fumble. How do you commemorate it?
Well, I think the butt fumble is retired now (laughs). So I guess we can just put it up on the shelf and not worry about it anymore.
Going into this season, did you expect that you would be playing every snap, as you did against the Bills, when there was so much competition at your position?
I just always prepare myself for that situation. It's the way I approach it every day. It doesn't matter your situation, I approach it as I'm there, playing. Every snap. You gotta be ready for everything. That's always my approach.
You've had a chance to play against Mark Sanchez and now you get to play against Geno Smith. What have you gathered on Smith that is different in any way from Sanchez?
You know, he seems to be real mature. Obviously he's athletic, he can move around, definitely can hurt you with his legs. But also has a strong arm and can make tight throws and kind of put the ball in places that you don't usually see from rookies. He's a mature guy, a good quarterback, sound football player, and somebody we need to be ready to try to contain and limit the things he can do.
Jets tight end Kellen Winslow was a Patriot for a brief time last year. He seems to have a found a role with the Jets. What kind of problems does he present?
He's a good football player. He runs good routes. He's a big, physical guy. Definitely has good hands and he can make plays as you saw in the last game. So we definitely need to know where he's at.
What do you think of the development for second-year Jets receiver Stephen Hill?
Just maturity. Obviously understanding the game a little bit more. He's a good speed guy that can really go up and get the ball. Again, runs good routes, can make plays on you. They have a lot of good, talented guys on that side of the ball and we have to be ready for and try to limit the things they can do.
What is the main challenge for the Patriots in terms of the Jets' passing game?
Just trying to understand how they're trying to attack us. Understand our schemes within the play, understand where your help is, where you don't have help, and again try and just limit the things they can do offensively based off of what we see them lined up in.