A news-packed Thursday might have robbed the upcoming Browns-Jets game of another meeting of 2018 first-round draft-mates in Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, but there’s more history to this game than just who’s under center.
The first Monday Night Football game in history was played between the Browns and Jets on Sept. 21, 1970, at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Jets running back Le’Veon Bell once ripped up yards for the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Former Browns defensive coordinator and interim head coach Gregg Williams is now the defensive coordinator for the Jets, and understandably knows his upcoming opponent well.
Browns safety Morgan Burnett knows his opponent better than anyone, though — well, at least one of his opponents.
Burnett is best friends with new Jets receiver Demaryius Thomas, who was acquired via trade earlier in the week.
“We talk all the time,” Burnett said of Thomas, his former college roommate at Georgia Tech. “We live, like our offseason home is right around the corner so we’re always together, we’re always talking. It’s another situation where it’s deeper than football. That’s like my brother.”
Like Thomas, Burnett has played in a couple different environments in the last year or so after spending the bulk of his career in one place. The safety came to the Browns after his stint with the Steelers fizzled out following the 2018 season, his first and only in Pittsburgh after eight campaigns in Green Bay.
It would seem logical, then, for Burnett to be able to easily relate with Thomas, who has gone from eight and a half seasons in Denver to half of a campaign in Houston, a preseason and one regular season game spent in New England, and now New York. Those last three stops have come in less than a year’s time.
“Demaryius is a positive person,” Burnett explained, “so he’s always going to be in good spirits as long as he can compete, as long as he can play. He’s all excited and he’s ready to go, and that’s what I respect about him.”
Thomas brings a bigger-bodied threat to the Jets, who just lost such a threat in Quincy Enunwa when a neck injury ended his season after just one week. He also carries with him some experience with the kings of the AFC East, even if his time in New England didn’t last all that long.
He’ll bring both, plus a friendly rivalry with his best friend to Monday night’s contest, which is sure to be filled with energy. Bragging rights will be on the line, too, according to Burnett.
“It’s definitely going to be fun and exciting,” he said. “We’ll probably put in our group chat, everybody gotta put their teams in by, what, Saturday. You gotta make your pick.”