As the Jets contemplate their new season without their starting quarterback, more people are coming the defense of the linebacker who broke his jaw during a locker room altercation. One ESPN NFL analyst said that Geno Smith was acting "rather smug about" not paying a teammate $600—prompting that teammate to punch him in the face.
Smith apparently promised to pay linebacker IK Enemkpali $600 for an unused plane ticket after he skipped out on Enemkpali's charity camp. (Smith's brother's best friend had died, so Smith attended a funeral instead.) Enemkpali had asked Smith about the money on Monday during practice.
Analyst Ryan Clark said yesterday, “These guys were in each other’s face. Geno put his finger in his face and told the guy, ‘Well, you’re not going to do anything about it.’”
“It became about the fact that Geno wasn’t necessarily apologetic and being in a way remorseful about the money when saying he was going to pay IK back and he didn’t,” said Clark, a former safety with the Steelers, Redskins and Giants. “He was rather smug about it.”
Clark knows from his own dealings with Enemkpali that the hulking 24-year-old doesn’t mess around when it comes to his money.
“This guy is really tight about money, he really is,” Clark said. “He couldn’t [move on].”
The Daily News' source said that Smith "pointed/touched [Enemkpali's] face," with another source saying, "Geno deserved it." A source added that the finger-pointing was out of bounds, "That’ll get a man hit every time, especially one that hasn’t earned respect."
Even before this incident, Smith's teammates haven't been singing his praises. Jets guard Willie Colon said in June, "He was never ready to be the starting quarterback of the New York Jets. When Mark Sanchez went down, he was thrown into the fire and he was forced to cook. Everybody knows in this league, to be a quarterback, which is the No. 1 position on the field, it's a maturation period you have to go through. And it takes the mental, the physical, and everything to go along with it, to be the best, or even be in the top 10."
He also said, "Now, Geno, with that said, has made his mistakes. He's said some things where you look at him like, 'What are you talking about?' But I think that's all about his maturation period. And I think right now, like (Antonio Cromartie) just mentioned, we bought the Porsche. We've given him the keys. He can't crash it. Bottom line. He can't crash it."
FiveThirtyEight points out that Smith's stats have not been great (he was 3-10 last season): "The team’s offense will probably be better with Fitzpatrick under center than it would have been with Smith."
ESPN's Rich Cimini wonders about Smith's career, given that even though he shouldn't have been punched, the quarterback was, as coach Todd Bowles put it, "childish" to have been in the fight. "The starting quarterback is the face of the franchise, the leader of the organization. He's supposed to be above this garbage. This never happened to Chad Pennington or Vinny Testaverde or Boomer Esiason, but it happens to Smith."
Smith's jaw requires surgery and he'll be out 6 to 10 weeks. Enemkpali, who was released by the Jets immediately after the punch, was picked up by the ex-Jets coach Rex Ryan for his Buffalo Bills.