It's an obvious and tantalizing storyline whenever an NFL player or coach squares off against a former employer. Is there inside knowledge to be exploited? Matchups to take advantage of? Insights that go above and beyond what basic film study can reveal?
The answer in today's NFL landscape, where players and coaches change addresses quite frequently and exhaustive game plans are designed to neutralize any such advantage, is often not all that exciting.
Still, that was the topic of discussion surrounding Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back D.J. Ware this week as he and his teammates prepared to square off against the New York Giants – his employer as recently as August 31.
Ware was released by the Giants on that date after five seasons in New York, decided to sign with the Bucs the next day, and now almost immediately finds himself lining up across the ball from a group of defenders he played, practiced, ate, and studied film with just a few short weeks ago.
In preparation for Sunday's contest at the Meadowlands, Ware said he and Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan – another former Giant who coached in New York for eight seasons before coming to Tampa this offseason – tried to share any helpful info on the Giant's offense that they can with the Bucs' defensive players and coaches.
"We're familiar with it," Ware said. "We were there for a number of years and we pretty much know the offense inside and out. We're going to do what we can to help our defense out and help them get some keys and try to go out there and out-physical them and play just as hard a game as they do."
However, the veteran back stressed that, regardless of any familiarity that exists, the most important factor in the contest will be which team can make big plays when it matters most.
"We're just going to do what we do," Ware said. "Our offense is our offense and their offense is their offense. We're just going to try to go out there and play ball and make plays. Coach Sullivan is going to have a good game plan for us, and we've got to just go out there and out-execute them and make better plays than they do."
Whether or not Ware's knowledge of the Giants offense is able to give the Bucs an edge, there's at least one aspect of Sunday's contest he'll be extremely well-prepared for: the raucous atmosphere inside the Giants' home stadium.
"[It's going to be] pretty loud, pretty noisy," Ware said. "The fans try to get into it. I think if we can shut the fans up early they'll be on our side. If we get a couple three-and-outs they might start booing the offense and help us out. We've just got to make plays. If we make plays we'll be able to contain their crowd.
"[There's going to be] a lot of chaos, guys flying around, hitting everything, just trying to dominate and make us back down. But I think this team over here is a young, anxious team, real hungry, and I think we're all ready. We're going to be able to take our best shot and just keep rolling and let the game play itself out."
And as strange as it might be for Ware to try to block or run over a player he shared a locker room with less than a month ago, he says it'll be strictly business on the field Sunday.
It may even be a bit of the old "familiarity breeds contempt" routine.
"Those were my buddies once upon a time," Ware said. "But now they're my enemies and I've got to go out there and play against them just like it's any other team. We're going to take that into consideration and go out there and try to beat them.
"I'm kind of anxious to get back up there. I've got a couple buddies over there on the other side. I just want to get out there and prove to them that they let me go for no reason. I've found a new home now and I'm glad to be here."