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Mauga faces former team in K.C.

Thomas Ranson
lvnsports@yahoo.com
Chiefs linebacker Josh Mauga, back, fights off a block as defensive lineman Allen Bailey sacks St. Louis quarterback Austin Davis last week. Mauga faces his old team, the New York Jets, on Sunday.
KCChiefs.com | LVN

His first paying gig came in the country’s biggest city several years ago.

But after a tumultuous career with the Jets ended earlier this year, Josh Mauga found a new home this summer after being medically cleared to return to the field. If not for the injuries in New York, Mauga, an inside linebacker, may still be a member of the Jets but he’s making the most of his second life.

And he’ll get to show his former boss what he’s been up to this season when the Chiefs host New York on Sunday, making it the first time Mauga will oppose Rex Ryan and his former club.

“It will be great to see all the guys out there and mostly the guys I played with in the linebacker room,” Mauga told the Chiefs’ team website. “It’ll be cool to see them again. There’s no hard feelings. They kind of made way; I guess they just figured I was done like you said. Yeah, it’ll be great to get back on the field and show them that I can still play.”

Mauga has shown the rest of the NFL he can still play as he’s turning in his best season, filling in for the injured Joe Mays, who came back to practice this week and could be activated as early as next week. Mauga leads the team with 43 tackles, the same amount he combined for in three seasons with the Jets.

But Mauga’s not looking ahead and instead, he’s living in the moment as he gears up for his former team after spending four injury-filled seasons, including all of 2013 on injured reserve.

“Anytime you have an injury, it is frustrating,” Mauga said. “And having one back-to-back like I did, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get a chance to play again. But I did and I’m here and just trying to take advantage of it.”

Mays and Derrick Johnson, who’s out for the year, have been instrumental in helping Mauga succeed this fall.

“Having a guy like DJ, I go back and I watch games,” he said. “I watch films on how he plays the run and how he tracks the passes and I get a lot of my movement from him, trying to play fast and make plays.”

With every week in the NFL, Mauga’s starting to feel more at home, too.

“I have kind of been feeling more and more comfortable as the week goes on,” he said. “Trying to work on my reads, trying to be quicker in my footwork, it’s helped out a lot.”

When Ryan brought Mauga to New York in 2010, he was aware the ex-Greenwave standout could perform at football’s highest level on one condition: if he stayed healthy.

“Josh Mauga has done a nice job filling in at Mike (middle) linebacker,” Ryan told the Jets’ website. “He leads their team in tackles. We know he is an instinctive guy, so if he can stay healthy he is a pretty good player.”

After spending time in Ryan’s defense, Mauga knows what to expect when the Chiefs take the field this weekend. He said the defense is similar to what the Chiefs run because their defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton, used to coach in New York when Mauga played with the Jets.

“They’ve got guys playing around, got guys put in positions where they can make plays and create turnovers,” Mauga said. “Any time you can be physical every play, fly around and make plays, you love it as a defensive player.”