FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey–New York Jets linebacker IK Enemkpali punched the team’s quarterback, Geno Smith, in the face this morning, breaking his jaw.
The Jets immediately released Enemkpali after the incident that occurred in the team’s locker room at their training complex in North Jersey.
“One man is out of work, one man is in the hospital,” Jets linebacker Calvin Pace said.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the fight happened over a $600 plane ticket that Enemkpali bought for Smith to attend his charity football camp in Texas. Smith ended up not attending, so the linebacker wanted his money back, Schefter reported.
Jets coach Todd Bowles wouldn’t confirm the dispute occurred because of money, but said if it did, he said, that wouldn’t justify punching a teammate.
“That doesn’t warrant punching somebody in the face,” Bowles said. “Unless somebody is messing with your kids or family you shouldn’t have to hit another man.”
Also, NFL.com reports that Smith pointed his finger in Enemkpali’s face right before the punch was thrown.
So does the coach think Smith is totally innocent in this ugly episode?
“I didn’t say he was innocent,” Bowles said. “I think the whole thing is childish. It’s tit-for-tat, he said, she said. It’s high school stuff they could have handled better than they handled it.”
The injury could keep Smith out of the lineup for quite some time.
“It’s 6-10 weeks,” Bowles said. “It depends on how he heals and what type of surgery they do.”
When the two men started arguing with each other in the clubhouse, why didn’t a teammate jump in to separate them before it escalated?
“From what I hear, it happened kind of suddenly,” Bowles said. “It’s hard to jump from me to you or from here to there when you don’t know anything is going to happen.”
So with Smith out of the lineup, the Jets’ starting quarterback is journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick.
While this is an unfortunate incident, it doesn’t ruin the Jets’ season. One thing was pretty apparent watching the first couple of weeks of training camp: Geno Smith isn’t better than Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick, a Harvard graduate, has made quicker decisions than Smith in camp. He clearly displays more comfort in the system of the Jets’ new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Fitzpatrick played under Gailey in Buffalo from 2010-12.
Bowles will not commit to Smith getting his starting job back once his jaw heals.
“That is a conversation we have to have when [Smith] comes back,” Bowles said. “If [somebody] is playing great, you can lose your spot by injury, you can lose your spot by a bunch of things. If he’s playing great, and the ship is going the right way, you don’t make a move. We will see how it goes.”
So, while what happened in the Jets locker room was unfortunate for the two men in involved, it likely won’t have a negative impact on the team’s season.