By Kristian Dyer
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He just doesn’t get it and at this point, he most likely never will.
On Monday afternoon, Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes spoke with the New York media via conference call following the first day of voluntary workouts at the team’s facility. Holmes is coming off a season where he was the major culprit of a dysfunctional and divided Jets locker room. He publicly called out his teammates while voicing displeasure over what he perceived to be his lack of a prominent role in the offense.
In his first public comments since a Week 17 meltdown in the fourth quarter of the season finale in Miami where he was kicked out of the team huddle and benched, Holmes repeatedly tried to hide behind the fact that those events took place four months ago.
He had a chance to make things right, to make amends for his actions and his words last season and finally clear the air as the Jets try to regroup from last year’s underwhelming performance.
Instead Holmes, who was named a captain by head coach Rex Ryan last season, proved that he’s the epitome of everything that was wrong with the Jets during last year’s disaster of an 8-8 season and why he also might be the reason why they could fail again this year. He started off smooth as can be, answering wisely and shrewdly the initial softball questions lobbed at him about offseason workouts which then rolled into questions about last season. Holmes said all the right things and talked about moving on, his commitment to the Jets and his repaired relationship with quarterback Mark Sanchez. Then the questions got specific and Holmes began to get testy and his answers terse and impatient as he was pressed more and more by the media.
In the end, he was abrupt and dismissive, much like how his sessions with the media gradually degenerated towards the end of last year season. He clearly hasn’t moved on or become a better person nor has he made any effort to try and appear better.
At one point Holmes was asked if he had reached out to the same teammates who, six months ago, he had insulted with pointed comments to the press. His answer was a distinct and clear “I had no reason to” and to the follow-up question he responded with perhaps a touch of disdain that “I didn’t reach out to anybody this offseason for that matter.”
Last year wasn’t a good one for Holmes. His 51 catches were the second lowest of his NFL career and his receiving yards set a career low. Not only was he a non-factor in many games, he was a locker room distraction and a head case of the highest order. Last August he was named captain, almost wishfully, by Ryan; as if a ‘C’ on his chest would somehow magically make him a mature, responsible human being.
Instead, his antics were a major reason why the Jets missed the playoffs for the first time under Ryan and the hints of possible discord and strife already emanating from the talented if enigmatic wide receiver could well place the Jets head coach on the hot seat. Rather than stand up, Holmes ran away from his responsibility as a supposed leader on this team.
There has to be a zero-tolerance approach from Ryan in handling Holmes.
If last season proved anything, it’s that placating the egomaniac that is Holmes only emboldens the player to act out more. The Jets locker room is notoriously player-friendly, a major reason why superstars often rave about wanting to play for Ryan. But with this attitude there must be a realization that all players – especially those like Holmes who absorb so much of the salary cap – must live up to the standard of what Ryan likes to call “Play Like a Jet.”
And in order to play like one, you must first live and act with responsibility.
It’s not a bad thing that Ryan is so player-friendly or as critics might say “loosey-goosey” but few star players will want to come into a locker room that is dominated by such a moody, brooding player as Holmes. He has always created a stir and it was always about himself, even as he couched his words in “team speak.” It was about him getting the ball – or perhaps apropos not getting it enough – and about how his star power waned as the season went on. Of course none of that had anything to do with him mentally checking out of games now did it?
When asked on Monday about the divisive Holmes, Ryan did acknowledge that he had spoken a few times with the player since the season ended, a necessary evil for a wide receiver who still has four years remaining on the contract he signed last summer. But at a certain point, Ryan and the coaching staff need to realize that Holmes is a grown man getting paid an obscene amount of money to produce.
Of course this year, Ryan can lean heavily on his new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, a no-nonsense disciplinarian who has never tolerated the types of ego trips for which Holmes has now become synonymous. Whoever is the bad cop this year, whether Ryan or Sparano, must be decisive and reign in the penchant for Holmes to lash out and act like a maniac hell-bent on his own destruction and conversely, that of his Jets team.
But would anyone really be surprised if he did just that?
Kristian R. Dyer covers sports for Metro New York and contributes to Yahoo!Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer