New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins is one veteran on a defense that features young and talented players. So, when the Jets square off against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this upcoming week, Rankins will lead New York's defense up against a quarterback who is considered to be the greatest at his position.
As a member of the New Orleans Saints, Rankins faced off against Brady three times, including twice last year when Brady joined the Bucs after his Hall of Fame run with the New England Patriots. Rankins said he, along with veteran linebacker C.J. Mosley, will need to make sure that some of the young players don’t get starstruck when Brady steps onto the field on Sunday.
"At the end of the day, football is football," Rankins said on Monday. "He is Tom Brady but you’ve got to treat him like a nameless, faceless guy and go out there and go through your progressions, go through your keys and play football the way you’ve played football your whole life."
Back when Rankins first met Brady in 2016, the Saints and Patriots held joint practices. Rankings intercepted Brady on a screen pass on the first day of practice and ran it into the end zone.
"I look back and he was like really trying to chase me, really trying to come after me," Rankins recalled. "That’s a different level of competitive nature. This is practice and at this point in his career, he is Tom Brady. He’s not trying to prove anything to anybody. He didn’t have to do that."
Rankins said he understands why Brady is regarded as the greatest quarterback in league history.
"You watch it unfold and you realize that’s a different level of greatness right there," Rankins said. "I’ve had some battles with him and came out on the good end of some of them and came out on the bad end of some of them. Hats off, he is, you can’t argue with it, the greatest to ever do it. At the end of the day, he is the opponent this week and we’ve got to go get him."