FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – After a year away, Jerricho Cotchery briefly considered coming back to the New York Jets.
The more the wide receiver thought about it, though, there was no way he could leave the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I wouldn't necessarily say it was close," Cotchery said Wednesday during a conference call with New York-area reporters. "Yes, I did talk to the Jets, but at the end of the day, Pittsburgh really wanted me back here, and it's a place I wanted to come back to.
"I don't think any team would've come between that at that time."
Cotchery spent his first seven NFL seasons with the Jets, and became a fan favorite for his toughness on the field and his humble approach off it. But, things went sour between him and the franchise last summer, and the details of his departure remain somewhat mysterious.
The Jets cut him during training camp in August 2011 and coach Rex Ryan said at the time that Cotchery requested to be released or traded. Earlier that day, though, Cotchery said, "I love being a Jet," and didn't sound as though he wanted to leave.
"The reality of it, I don't think anyone really knows everything that transpired between myself and the Jets, so everything there is between us," Cotchery said Wednesday. "There isn't anything to look back on and really say, 'I really regret it,' or anything."
He re-signed with Pittsburgh in the offseason and will play against New York for the first time Sunday, when the Steelers take on the Jets in their home opener. He begins every week of preparation by taking notes on the opposing defense the team will face that week, and acknowledged that it was "a little weird" to write "Jets" on the top of his notepad this week.
Cotchery had 358 catches and 18 touchdowns for the Jets, topping 80 receptions in two straight seasons and establishing himself as a reliable target in the slot.
"He's a guy I always thought was the ultimate pro," Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "I learned a lot from him while he was here and really looked up to him as a competitor, as a teammate."
Cotchery had just 16 catches and two touchdowns for the Steelers last season, but couldn't imagine playing anywhere else.
"I don't really want to get into comparisons," Cotchery said of the Jets and Steelers. "I just know that over here, it's run like a family business. They put you in line when you don't hold up to those standards. It's a great family atmosphere. The guys like going to work with one another and they really lay it on the line once we get out on the field."
Cotchery was always considered a standup guy in the Jets' locker room, frequently staying at his locker to speak to reporters longer than most of his teammates. He wouldn't say whether he was surprised about the infighting in the locker room that helped derail the Jets' season a year ago.
"Well, as far as personality-wise, I don't want to say that caused the problems or whatever," he said. "I think anytime you're losing games, it's hard to fight that urge to blame someone. It's just the natural tendency to blame someone when times get hard, so obviously, that urge was at fault. I really don't know all that went into it, but I just know that anytime you're losing ballgames like that, you always have the urge to blame someone."
Cotchery is happy being a member of the Steelers now, putting his Jets past behind him — except when his new teammates remind him of Pittsburgh's win over New York in the AFC title game two years ago.
"That was a tough loss," Cotchery said. "It's still something you have to live with the rest of your life. The guys over here give me a lot of grief about that, every time that AFC championship game comes up."
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