Tampa Bay sent New York a 2022 sixth-round pick for McLendon and a 2023 seventh-round pick in a trade that was finalized Tuesday. However, the nose tackle told reporters Friday he found out about it before Sunday's contest and was informed there would be a car waiting for him following the game in Miami.
The veteran, who has been in the league since 2010, managed four tackles, although New York lost the game 24-0.
McLendon explained Friday why it was important to him to play Sunday with the Jets:
"I got the news on Saturday night a car would be waiting for me after the game Sunday to come to Tampa. And I was like, 'Okay.' Sunday morning, I woke up. I prayed. And I was like, 'It's one last ride.' I told my boys, I was like, 'It's one last ride together.' A lot of guys were saying like, 'Man, you're going to really play?' And I was like, 'This might be the last time I play with you in my career.'"
The trade is a welcome change for McLendon's playoff chances. New York is 0-6, while Tampa Bay is 4-2 and in first place in the NFC South with a team of playmakers that includes Tom Brady, Ronald Jones II, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
McLendon played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2010 through 2015 and the Jets from 2016 until this trade. He has 14 tackles this year after posting 36 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery last season.
Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who previously coached McLendon in New York, is thrilled to have him, telling reporters:
"They asked me, and yes, I stood on the table for him. We need depth down there. ... You rarely get through the season with the guys you have. It's a long season, he's a quality player, he can help us, if not now, then down the line (and) he was a good guy to get for us. Any time you can get a good player and a good person, you try to get him."
Bowles also praised his "energy" and "toughness" while adding he is a "great locker room guy."
McLendon is expected to help the Buccaneers replace Vita Vea, who is out for the season.