“I don’t think (Rob) just wants to beat his brother — he wants to destroy his brother.” Curtis lofton, New Orleans Saints linebacker on the rivalry between Rex and Rob Ryan
After the New York Jets play the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in MetLife Stadium, Jets running back Chris Ivory will look up a few of his former backfield mates from his three seasons with the Saints.
Make that a lot of his former backfield mates.
Ivory shared a meeting room and played in a crowded backfield with Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Travaris Cadet before being traded to the Jets on the second day of the draft in April.
During a conference call Wednesday, Ivory couldn’t help but notice that the Saints’ backfield is just as crowded as it was when he was here.
The only difference is undrafted free agent Khiry Robinson has taken the roster spot Ivory earned in 2010 as an unheralded free agent from tiny Tiffin College in Ohio.
“They still have five running backs … they’re still playing just three,” Ivory said.
“It was just crowded. I think he (Saints coach Sean Payton) knew coming in there were too many backs to let me sit around.”
Which is why Ivory isn’t mad about the way his career in New Orleans ended.
“I wasn’t upset at all, it was an opportunity for me to come over here,” he said Wednesday. “Time was going by. No, I was happy with what he did, and now I’m here trying to make great things happen.”
Ivory became a fan favorite for his violent style of running, which often included banging into defenders and stiff-arming them. It also came with a price as he struggled with hamstring, foot and hernia issues, which all cut into his carries.
Ivory was shipped to the Jets for a fourth-round draft pick, which the Saints packaged with their own fourth-rounder to obtain a third-round choice that was used to take nose tackle John Jenkins — whom they hope is the anchor of their defensive line for years to come.
“I didn’t ask for a trade, but I just felt like it was time …” he said. “I didn’t ask for it, but yet again, it was a crowded backfield. So I was happy with the move.
“Sean told me he enjoyed having me there,” Ivory said of his conversation with Payton after the deal was consummated. “He loved everything I did and just allowed the move to happen. That’s pretty much it.”
Ivory was the Saints leading rusher in his rookie season when injuries decimated the position. He rushed for 716 yards and five touchdowns, but a foot injury in the regular-season finale knocked him out of the playoffs.
But hamstring woes and a sports hernia, not to mention the depth at halfback, limited his participation to just six games each in 2011 and 2012.
In 24 games, which amounts to 11/2 seasons, he rushed for 1,307 yards and eight TDs and left some good memories.
“Chris was one of those guys, a great success story,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “When you look around our team, (you see) all the undrafted free agents that became good and productive players for us over the years — Chris was absolutely one of those guys.
“Unfortunately, at times, it was a matter of not being healthy or having that stable of backs. When he got opportunities, he made the most of them.
“He really did everything we asked him to do, and more, but I think just like anything it was a matter of opportunities.”
Like it was during his time with the Saints, Ivory’s opportunities have been curtailed by a hamstring injury that cropped up at the outset of training camp.
In seven games, he has 230 rushing yards and is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry, even though he’s been healthy the past two games. In an Oct. 20 game with New England, he picked up 104 yards on 34 carries — just six less than he had all last season with the Saints.
“When he’s been out there, he’s just been a battering ram as you guys know, very physical,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “I love that about him; I love that passion that he brings. He’s a tough dude — a tough, strong, physical back.”
The Saints only hope he doesn’t use the chances he didn’t get with them as motivation.
“(There’s) no extra motivation,” Ivory said. “I’ll treat it like any other game. I was with New Orleans, loved it there, but I think I’ll treat it like any other game … not any more or any less.”