There have been a rash of fights during NFL training camp this year. First Dez Bryant was recorded throwing punches, then Cam Newton got into a scuffle at Panthers’ camp. The biggest bomb came out of New York, though, when the Jets’ Geno Smith was punched in the face hard enough to break his jaw and put him out for six to 10 weeks.
Reports conflicted when they first came out. It was initially called a sucker punch in the locker room, as if Geno was standing by his locker, looking for his shoes, and got decked. Then reports came out that he reached up and put his hand in another man’s face, and that guy then punched him as retaliation.
Either way, it appears that the man behind the punch was Ikemefuna Enemkpali. He was a defensive end for the Jets, a sixth-round draft pick who played at Louisiana Tech. The Jets wasted no time and released him instantly.
It’s an unbelievable event for a lot of reasons. For one, Enemkpali is a player you’ve never heard of from a small school, taken in the sixth round. He’s clearly not in high demand and may never see the NFL again, having lasted only a few months and never played a down.
One second, and his whole career is gone.
It’d be different if he was a first-round pick or an established vet. Guys who have shown they can play have a lot more leeway with things like this. If it was J.J. Watt, even if the Texans released him, he’d have another job by the end of the day.
But he’s not. That’s it.
It’s also just crazy because it’s yet another quarterback getting involved in a fight. Training camp fights are nothing new. They happen every year. The Bryant fight wasn’t even that surprising because corners and wideouts have gotten into it before. It usually starts as a hand fight during the play, or a cheap shot, and turns into a brawl.
Quarterbacks usually walk away. They’re never in this type of news. Now we have reports of Newton fighting one day and Smith fighting the next.
Granted, all the facts aren’t out. It’s unclear if Smith is to blame in any way. No one knows what was said, what led up to the fight, or any of that. If Smith really was sucker punched, you can’t blame him for it at all. More information is needed before assigning fault.
But still. A quarterback getting punched in the face? Breaking his jaw and missing perhaps 10 weeks? This isn’t like anything you hear during most offseasons.
For the Jets, who knows where they go from here. They already had a lot of questions at the quarterback position, and now there are even more. The questions about Geno at least have to be put on hold, and, if he comes out and plays poorly this year, people may make the excuse that he missed almost all of camp, all of preseason and even a handful of regular season games. Can they really make a fair assessment without a full season under center?
This also makes any fan wonder what in the world is going on in the Jets’ locker room. Does Geno really command that little respect that a sixth-rounder in his second year would punch him in the face? In most other locker rooms, rookies are bending over backwards to carry pads, fetch drinks and good-naturedly endure the hazing from the vets.