(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
My initial reaction when I heard that Jets quarterback Geno Smith broke his jaw after being punched in the face by a teammate, second-year defensive end IK Enemkpali, was “Why would a little-known linebacker risk his NFL career by attacking his team’s starting QB?” My second thought was that Enemkpali automatically became a pariah to his teammates.
NFL training camp fights are not uncommon but they generally take place on the practice field and not in the locker room. What was shocking was that nearly every Jets player who was interviewed placed the blame on Geno Smith who had apparently been humiliating Enemkpali since training camp started. Apparently Smith did not show up for a charity event that IK was running and that the linebacker was out $600 because of transportation costs that he had to advance. Geno promised that he would repay the amount, which was chump change for an NFL player, but apparently was not in a hurry to do so.
Sure, Enemkpali shouldn’t have taken matters into his own hands, but Geno Smith’s lack of leadership skills and judgment are appalling. It’s one thing to act like a jerk if you have been a QB with a winning record but Geno Smith clearly doesn’t have that cushion.
The Jets had no choice but to immediately cut Enemkpali but the Buffalo Bills, whose head coach is Rex Ryan, signed him the next day. The understandable gut reaction was that Rex was trying to stick it to his old team but I have a different take. My feeling is that the Bills spoke with the Jets who did not want Enemkpali to lose his livelihood because of Smith’s behavior. They also might have felt that it would send a message to their immature signal caller.
Geno Smith was drafted in 2013 by then Jets general manager John Idzik who was fired by team owner Woody Johnson this past January. Idzik’s successor, Mike Maccagnan, has no reason to be loyal to Smith but he may be stuck with him for the 2015 season.
The US Open Qualifiers get underway next Monday and conclude on Friday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Some of the best tennis players in the world will be competing to earn wild card berths into the tournament. This is one of the best bargains in sports as the admission is free.
If you are on vacation the last week of August then you may want to make a visit to nearby Philadelphia where the Mets will be playing a four-game series with the Phillies at beautiful Citizens Bank Park beginning on Monday. The Phillies have rolled over and played dead for the Mets this season but they have performed a lot better since the All-Star break. They are a young loose club who should enjoy trying to play the role of spoiler on the Mets’ post-season dreams.
In last week’s column I wrote that the Mets’ weekend series with the Pittsburgh Pirates would be a test of how good the Mets really are. Well, they got swept but two of the games went into extra innings and Sunday’s 8-1 loss was actually somewhat misleading since the game was tied 1-1 when Mets ace pitcher Matt Harvey left after six innings. The Mets however played like their 1962 forebears in the seventh and eighth innings.
Mets first baseman/outfielder Michael Cuddyer acknowledges that he isn’t happy about the fact that the Mets are 0-13 against the Cubs and the Pirates this season but believes that no one in the Mets clubhouse is going to dwell on that fact. “We’ve proven to be a resilient team all season long and that’s not going to change,” he said with reassurance.
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker who grew up in Pittsburgh and watched his team endure 20 consecutive losing seasons is impressed with the direction of the Mets. “They are following our blueprint with strong pitching, solid defense, and a good mix of young players and veterans,” he told me following Sunday’s game.