No love lost between Raiders' Middleton, Jets' EvansPosted: Monday January 06, 2003 10:33 PM
The left guard for the Oakland Raiders had been crossing his fingers he'd get another shot at the Jets, namely defensive tackle Josh Evans, when the AFC West champions open the playoffs at home Sunday.
Middleton got his wish, thanks to the Jets' 41-0 win over Indianapolis in the wild-card playoff round.
"I got a friend on their line and am looking forward to playing against them again," he said with a smile Monday. "No names, no names. It's a fine team and every time we play them we have fun, and I like having fun."
Evans cursed Middleton for his dirty play after the Raiders' 26-20 Monday night win on Dec. 2 in Oakland, and criticized the officials for letting the Raiders "get away with murder."
"Believe it. Believe it," Evans said Monday. "Middleton is one of the dirtiest players in the game. But I kind of like playing them. It's a punch here, a punch there, they try to gouge your eyes or kick you. That stuff doesn't matter. I can give as well as receive. But when they go for your knees and ankles, that's too much."
Raiders head coach Bill Callahan said he figured Oakland and New York "could butt heads again in the playoffs."
The players seem to be ready for the rematch.
Some of the Raiders eagerly pointed out a sign in their locker room bearing words uttered by Jets offensive lineman Dave Szott after the Monday night game last month.
It said: "I think if you look at that game, we just ran out of time. It's not like they clearly beat us."
It's not surprising these two teams have their share of bad blood. Sunday's game will be the sixth meeting between the teams in four seasons, four of those in the past 20 games. All of those games have been in Oakland.
The Raiders (11-5) don't really care who they're playing. They're confident, having won seven of their last eight. They have the league's top-rated offense and, with the bye, even had an extra week to prepare and get players healthy. Their secondary could be close to normal Sunday if cornerback Charles Woodson plays as expected. He had surgery Dec. 24 to repair a cracked fibula in his right leg.
"Anybody who is in this position, anybody who is in the elite eight that's in the final four of their conference, has some special quality," Callahan said. "They all have an excellence about them and you wouldn't be in this position if you didn't have it. No matter who we play, we take on all comers."
For Middleton, that means a fired-up Evans and company.
"I remember [those comments], I remember all of them," Middleton said. "It's one of those things where I'll be there on Sunday and he's got to come back on Sunday. And if he didn't like it then, he sure isn't going to like it now.
"I'm not going to lie, man. It's really going to get tight out there. We'll see what happens."