NFL Wire News

Jets curious who will answer roll call at minicamp


The Sports Xchange

FLORHAM, N. J. — Now that so-called voluntary OTAs are over, it gets interesting for the New York Jets and their two best players.

When the team opens minicamp Monday, attendance will be mandatory.

Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has been a no-show for all of OTAs as he tries to negotiate a new contract with the Jets. Wilkerson is due to make a shade under $7 million this year in the final season of his rookie deal.

Since the first set of OTAs are voluntary, Wilkerson is not obligated to attend and can’t be fined. But next week’s minicamp is mandatory and a player who is absent all three days can be fined up to $60,000.

While the New York Post reported Wednesday night that Wilkerson plans to attend, his agent, Chad Wiestling, told Thursday that “we have yet to decide whether to attend or not.”

New Jets head coach Todd Bowles said if Wilkerson reports, he would line up with the starters during minicamp practices.

“I mean, this is voluntary,” Bowles said Wednesday. “This is nothing where we’re demoting or promoting anybody. Mo’s a good player, he’s a first-team player. He comes here next week, he starts with the first team.”

A more surprising absentee has been fellow defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, whose attendance at the OTAs has been spotty. He was not with the Jets on Wednesday, the lone day this week’s OTAs were open to the press.

Per his sparse public comments on the matter, Richardson is not staying away from OTAs to make a statement about his contract, which pays him just shy of $3.1 million through 2016. Richardson said via Twitter May 22 that he has a life outside of football and that he is “going to enjoy my family a little longer.”

–In car terms, the Jets’ offense the last two years was a rusted-out station wagon. But guard Willie Colon thinks the offense is a decidedly souped-up machine this season and that third-year quarterback Geno Smith can’t be the one to mess it up.

“We bought the Porsche,” Colon told SiriusXM on Tuesday. “We’ve given him the keys. He can’t crash it. Bottom line. He can’t crash it.”

While the Jets upgraded their offense by adding wide receiver Brandon Marshall as well as competition at running back in the form of veterans Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy, the unit is still far from the luxury car offenses operated by the likes of the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos.

Even head coach Todd Bowles seemed to admit as much Wednesday, when he was asked his thoughts on Colon’s comments.

“I don’t know what kind of car we have yet, we are still building it and there are a lot of parts to be determined,” Bowles said. “But it’s probably just a figure of speech, knowing Willie.”

Of course, part of the reason the Jets aren’t really a Porsche is Smith, who has committed 41 turnovers in two seasons behind the wheel. Colon acknowledged Smith wasn’t ready to start as a rookie, when Mark Sanchez suffered a season-ending injury after Rex Ryan and/or John Idzik ordered Sanchez to play behind third-stringers in the waning minutes of an exhibition game against the New York Giants.

“He was never ready to be the starting quarterback of the New York Jets,” Colon said. “When Mark Sanchez went down, he was thrown into the fire and he was forced to cook.”

But now, Colon seems to think Smith will be cooked if he can’t cook.

–The Jets’ lone injury this week appeared to be sustained by second-year tight end Jace Amaro, who tweaked his back running a route on Wednesday and walked slowly off the field.

Ridley and cornerback Dee Milliner continued working on the side as they recover from the knee and Achilles tendon injuries, respectively, that cut short their 2014 seasons. Guard Brian Winters, who missed the final 10 games of last year with a knee injury, was a full participant.

–Here’s another reminder just how happy the Jets were to land defensive end Leonard Williams.

Brian Heimerdinger, the Jets’ recently named director of player personnel, said during a radio interview Wednesday that landing Williams with the sixth pick in the draft was “like getting your favorite Christmas present when you walk down the stairs on the 25th of December.”

Williams was pegged by many as a top-three talent and general manager Mike Maccagnan stuck by his best player available policy in taking Williams, even though he plays the same position as entrenched stars Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson.

“Very excited,” Heimerdinger said. “He’s a big, strong, athletic guy. Usually you like to have those guys.”

Heimerdinger, 28, is the son of the late longtime NFL offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who was the Jets’ offensive coordinator in 2005. The elder Heimerdinger died of cancer in 2011.

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