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With eye on Jets, Cotchery moves on

| Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Steelers receiver Jerricho Cotchery cuts in front of Walter McFadden during practice at St. Vincent College July 27, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Jerricho Cotchery, a consummate blue-collar possession receiver, said repeatedly that he has moved on since the New York Jets released him more than a year ago.

However, after investing seven years of sweat equity with a franchise in which he envisioned spending his entire career, Cotchery's eyes revealed the sting of rejection. He said there's no resentment, no lingering thoughts of the disparate causes of his departure.

Yet Cotchery concedes there's emotional ambiguity in facing his former teammates Sunday in the Steelers' home opener at Heinz Field.

“It's weird because I don't know how I'll feel on Sunday playing against them,” said Cotchery, who still resides near the Jets' training facility near East Rutherford, N.J. “I haven't seen them on the other side of the field. Right now I just want to make a play for this team.

“I've got a lot of friends there, and I see those guys a lot. I still work out with (linebacker) Bart Scott. I see (guard) Brandon Moore, (tight end) Justin Keller and (tackle) D'Brickashaw Ferguson a lot when I'm in their territory, but they know black and gold are my true colors now.”

The Jets stripped Cotchery of his green-and-white jersey in favor of aging free agent Derrick Mason. Also, quarterback Mark Sanchez didn't have enough passes to spread among a receiving corps that included former Steelers Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress.

“Sometimes things don't happen the way you want them,” said Cotchery, who had no catches in the season opener in Denver. “There's a misconception among the New York media that because they brought in Tone and Plaxico that I wanted to leave.

“I enjoyed lining up with Tone, and Plaxico is a good dude. They didn't have any role in me moving on, but that's how assumptions were made when I chose to keep it between me and the Jets.”

Cotchery's unceremonious exit left many of his New York teammates perplexed. They couldn't understand why such a hard-nose receiver, who in 2010 played with an ailing back and a groin injury, was jettisoned to the waiver wire where the Steelers claimed him.

“I laid it on the line for seven seasons, and I played when I was hurt, sometimes when I shouldn't have been out there,” he said. “It's what you're supposed to do for whomever you work for.

“When I was there, I was all in. Just ask anyone. When I stepped on the field, I had my teammates' backs. Now I'm here — and I'm all in for these guys, and that's all that matters.”

Cotchery has discovered that his current teammates have his back, too.

“We're doing this for the win, but we're also doing it for Jerricho,” receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. “We know what kind of situation he had over there and how he would like to beat the team he played on.”

Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com or 412-320-7923.

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