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Former ally seeks a way to stop Testaverde

Pats coach Bill Belichick was one of the quarterback's biggest boosters even before both were Jets.

Bill Belichick admired Vinny Testaverde even when the quarterback was struggling with Tampa Bay. Now, the New England coach is trying to teach the Patriots how to beat Testaverde.

"In 1993, when we were after Vinny as a free agent, there really wasn't any other team that was pursuing him," Belichick said, referring to his courting of Testaverde when Belichick was coach at Cleveland.

"I was shocked, because from watching him at Tampa, the record wasn't that good, but I think there were other problems down there besides the quarterback. I think once, maybe twice, in Tampa he was named NFL player of the month. So there were stretches were he was extremely productive."

Belichick's Patriots and Testaverde's Jets faced off Monday night at Giants Stadium.

Belichick signed Testaverde to play in Cleveland in 1993, and the quarterback outlasted the coach with that franchise as Belichick moved on to New York after going 37-45 in five years with the Browns.

"He is one of the best defensive minds in the game," Testaverde said of the Jets' former defensive coordinator. "I was certainly glad that he was on my side in 1998. He helped us go a long way that year (to the AFC title game). I know it will be a big task, a big challenge for us to face his team, at the same time, he knows our team pretty well.

"I remember the last two training camps, he would come to me probably once a week and he would tell me, "You're just killing us, Vinny. Everything that I threw at you, you just seemed to find a way to get the ball to somebody that is open.' I'm sure that he's going to have some different things for us and we're going to try to be prepared for that."

Testaverde said that the Jets-Patriots off-season soap opera, which saw Belichick accept, then turn down, the Jets' coaching job, was distracting at first, but the players got used to it.

"First, Bill Parcells steps down, Bill Belichick takes over, he leaves, Keyshawn Johnson leaves, Al Groh takes over," Testaverde said. "It was like a roller coaster. One day you're feeling a lot of concern for your team, the next day you have some stability with who is replacing them, the next day it is the same.

"We feel like we have some stability now that Al Groh has taken over. He is a guy who has been with Parcells for a very long time, really hasn't made many changes for this team to go through. That is why I think we're going to be a pretty good football team."

Belichick said Testaverde played well at quarterback in Cleveland despite all the criticism he endured.

"As far as passing the ball, accuracy, velocity, he is very athletic and he is an extremely good passer," the Patriots' coach said. "He had a lot of rap about interceptions down there (in Tampa Bay), but in Cleveland he took care of the ball pretty well. I think we only gave up 15 sacks or something like that in 1994. He was very good in the pocket."