Bowles dis­misses no­tion Jets a dys­func­tional bunch

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Den­nis Waszak Jr.

Losses are pil­ing, tem­pers are flar­ing and play­ers are be­ing benched.

Throw in all the penal­ties, mis­takes and ques­tion­able play call­ing, and the New York Jets have the trou­bling look and feel of a dys­func­tional bunch.

Todd Bowles’ team is 3-6, match­ing its loss to­tal from last sea­son, and its play­off prospects al­ready ap­pear highly un­likely. The se­cond-year coach, how­ever, doesn’t agree with the in­creas­ingly neg­a­tive per­cep­tion.

“Not at all,” Bowles said. “I know what re­al­ity is, so we know what ev­ery­thing is in­side this build­ing and we’re a closeknit group.”

But, per­haps the most glar­ing sign of trou­ble within came Sun­day, when Bowles benched star de­fen­sive line­men Muham­mad Wilk­er­son and Shel­don Richardson for the first quar­ter of New York’s 27-23 loss at Mi­ami .

Bowles re­peated that it was “a coach’s de­ci­sion,” adding that non-in­jury and non-foot­ball is­sues are kept in-house. He also

de­clined to say whether tar­di­ness is an is­sue with the two.

How­ever, re­ports emerged that both Wilk­er­son and Richardson were dis­ci­plined for be­ing late to a team meet­ing. re­ported that the two have been late or noshowed more than once. NFL Net­work re­ported that Wilk­er­son missed a walk­through and a de­fen­sive meet­ing at which his birth­day was be­ing cel­e­brated — com­plete with a cake — the day be­fore the game against Bal­ti­more last month. Wilk­er­son did not play in that game be­cause of an ail­ing an­kle.

“Those are re­ports,” Bowles said. “Those things are han­dled in-house and I know how we han­dle things in here, and ev­ery­body is ac­count­able for their ac­tions. We han­dle things in here as we han­dle them, and I’m per­fectly fine with those two (play­ers’) com­mit­ments.”

When asked what makes him sat­is­fied with both Wilk­er­son and Richardson,

Bowles said sim­ply: “They put in work. They put in a lot of work.”

A side­line ex­change be­tween wide re­ceiver Bran­don Mar­shall and quar­ter­back Ryan Fitz­patrick ap­peared to get a bit heated, al­though both down­played it af­ter the game. Bowles did the same, brush­ing aside the no­tion that it was an­other ex­am­ple of a team tear­ing apart.

“We had more tur­moil go­ing last year when we won four or five in a row,” Bowles said. “This year is nor­mal. Bran­don and Fitz talk on the side­line all the time. That’s just foot­ball talk. That goes without say­ing. And, Mo and Shel­don are fine.”

Mar­shall said it was “busi­ness as usual” among the play­ers, with the fo­cus on mov­ing for­ward to their next game at home against the Los An­ge­les Rams on Sun­day.

He said he feels good about the Jets’ locker room, call­ing it “one of the best I’ve been in.” He was luke­warm, how­ever, when asked if he thought ev­ery player was com­mit­ted to a com­mon goal.

“You never know,” he

said. “It’s the Na­tional Foot­ball League. There are so many dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties in the room. I love what Coach (Marc) Trest­man said when he first got hired in Chicago, one of his first team meet­ings, he said: We don’t need all. We just need the right ones.”’

Tackle Ben Ijalana thinks the Jets have those guys, along with the right ap­proach.

“Ev­ery­one is fo­cused on try­ing to right the ship and we’re play­ing a game at home,” he said. “We’re not try­ing to lull down. We’re just try­ing to get back on the right track, con­tinue to get these wins go­ing.”

The Jets are un­cer­tain whether Fitz­patrick will start be­cause of a sprained left knee , and some fans and me­dia says New York should go with sec­ondyear quar­ter­back Bryce Petty re­gard­less.

“It’s ex­pected,” Mar­shall said of the per­cep­tion that the Jets are a team in chaos. “This is what hap­pens, usu­ally, when you lose . ... We’re sit­ting at 3-6, we’re dis­ap­pointed in our play, dis­ap­pointed in our­selves.”

And the play­ers aren’t alone.

Bowles has taken his share of the blame, too, and had mis­steps in his play calls through­out the sea­son.

“I haven’t done a good job,” he said. “We’re 3-6. It speaks for it­self. I can do a lot bet­ter job of coach­ing.”

De­spite all that, though, Bowles in­sisted he has to­tal con­trol of his team.

“Com­pletely, yes,” he said. “I know me and I know how I ad­dress the team and I know how the team re­sponds. I have no is­sues with that.”

Penal­ties are a big prob­lem, with 10 called in the game against the Dol­phins. Per­haps none was as glar­ing as the off­sides call on An­to­nio Allen, whose mis­take on a kick­off re­sulted in a re-kick — and Kenyan Drake re­turned it 96 yards for the go-ahead touch­down in the fourth quar­ter.

“We don’t fin­ish,” Ijalana said. “I would say it’s a com­bi­na­tion of not fin­ish­ing and some­times start­ing slow. In this league, those things get you in trou­ble. It’s very hard to win games like that.”

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