Rex Ryan can’t use the F-word or throw up the middle finger against his old team so he did the next best thing, making IK Enemkpali, the former Jet who broke Geno Smith’s jaw during training camp, a captain for Thursday night’s game between Buffalo and New York.
“I don’t know why you guys are surprised. I really don’t,” Smith told reporters after practice. “I don’t think you are surprised. No one should be surprised.”
And Geno’s right because Ryan is a better troll than head coach.
“Guys, it’s not a slap in anybody’s face,” Ryan said in a conference call with Jets reporters defying incredulity. “It is not a sign of disrespect. It’s just what we do. And I’ve done it, you guys know, I’ve done it that way ever since I came into the league.”
It’s true that Ryan has a history of designating players who are going against their former teams as game-day captains but he’s also smart enough to understand the optics of this situation.
Enemkpali ended his stint in Florham Park with a right cross to the then-presumed starting quarterback, allegedly because Smith owed the backup linebacker $600 for a plane ticket after agreeing to attend a July football camp in his Enemkpali’s hometown of Pflugerville, Texas, something Smith now denies.
“I didn’t owe him,” Smith told Newsday. “No. That’s the biggest misconception in America.”
The personal animosity between Enemkpali and Smith is no longer the issue, however. Clearly IK was upset enough with Smith to risk his NFL career by KOing him.
The end game of a fringe player versus the starting quarterback, even a bad one who didn’t deserve the coronation ahead of Ryan Fitzpatrick, isn’t the best career move. And if it wasn’t for Rex trying to tweak his old team, Enemkpali would still be sending out resumes and trying to spin some incrediblly unprofessional behavior.
Whether Smith believes he didn’t owe the $600 because a personal matter forced him to miss the camp is fodder for the “Judge Judy” episode when Rex gets tired of antagonizing his old team and the new Jets regime waives the white flag and admits the old one made a mistake by drafting Smith.
For now though it’s astonishing two role players who will likely have no effect on Thursday’s game are the lead storyline entering the contest.
“I mean, how can I feel some type of way about somebody else’s decision?” Smith said, referencing Enemkpali’s status as a team leader for the coin toss. “You’ve got to know this business. He’s the Bills’ head coach. I don’t hate anyone. I don’t hate him, I don’t hate IK. It’s whatever to me, honestly. It’s like ‘OK? Big deal.’
“I don’t care who’s a captain or coaching what. If there was some type of shot that was supposed to be (aimed at me), I didn’t get that message.”
“It was definitely kind of disrespectful,” Jets safety Calvin Pryor said.
“I don’t get it,” Ryan responded, again leaning on his past history and refusing to acknowledge the rather obvious extenuating circumstances. “I really don’t get it. … You guys know how I do the captains. If this was an isolated deal where I just threw a guy out there, then I can understand it. But this is what we do, every single week.”
So, how difficult is it to stop it for one week as perhaps a teaching tool to an immature hot-headed athlete?
“Well, he has been an outstanding teammate right here,” Ryan claimed. “And you know what? IK was one of the hardest-working players (with the Jets), every player on that team will tell you the same thing.
“Look, he’s not perfect, he admits it. It was a terrible thing that happened. But you know what? We’ve moved on. So we’ll forgive people. And we forgive guys, and he’s a good teammate right here. I think he does earn the right to be a captain for this game.”
Troll on Rex … troll on.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen. Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for The Sports Bash on ESPN South Jersey.
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