Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to huddle with the New England Patriots, plotting defensive strategies as part of coach Bill Belichick's inner circle.
Now, Pees is preparing to defend quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots' other offensive weapons as the Ravens (1-1) take on his old team Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
Promoted from linebackers coach to run the defense in January after Chuck Pagano became the Indianapolis Colts' head coach, Pees didn't attempt to hide the fact that this will be an emotional game for him personally.
"It’s always an emotional day," said Pees, who was the Patriots' defensive coordinator from 2006 to 2009. "I’m not going to lie about that and act like it’s just another game. It’s a big game for me. I think I mentioned it once before, it’s kind of like when you go out and you play golf against somebody and you want to win, but when you play your brothers, you really want to win.
"There’s a lot of friends over there on the other sideline, a lot of old colleagues, a lot of players that I coached. So, yeah, sure it’s an emotional game. It always is.”
Pees left New England following a 33-14 loss to the Ravens in an AFC wild-card game where running back Ray Rice gained 159 yards.
Pees has consistently denied that he was fired or that he left because of a medical condition that flared up when he had a bad reaction to asthma medicine.
“I decided not to go back there,” Pees said in January when he was introduced as defensive coordinator. “My contract was up. I didn’t renew my contract. I was not fired, and I decided to explore other avenues. And this was a great avenue to explore.”
When asked why he joined the Ravens' staff as linebackers coach, Pees shed no light Thursday, saying: "Personal reasons."
Pees said he has maintained a strong rapport with Belichick.
"My relationship with him is great," Pees said. "We still speak on occasions when we’re playing a team that’s a common opponent and we aren’t playing each other. In certain years, we’ll discuss things. It’s a great relationship."