DETROIT -- Rex Ryan never spoke to Ikemefuna Enemkpali before putting in a waiver claim for him on Wednesday. But the Bills received intel from, of all places, the Jets.
According to a Sports Illustrated article, a member of Ryan's staff contacted a current Jets player who witnessed Enemkpali punch quarterback Geno Smith in the locker room Tuesday.
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The report said Bills coaches were told that "Smith was mouthing off about the debt in the locker room, and Enemkpali told Smith to come over and say it to his face. Smith did, and put his finger in Enemkpali's face, at which point Enemkpali slugged him."
Smith, who suffered a broken jaw, is expected to miss 6-10 weeks. Smithwill undergo surgery after seeking a second opinion, a source told Newsday. However, the exact surgery date has yet to be determined.
Enemkpali was released immediately after the incident, but was awarded off waivers to Ryan and the Bills a day later.
Speaking briefly to reporters on Wednesday, Ryan expressed confidence that his latest risky roster move would pan out. "From what I know about this young man, I think he'll come in here and I think he'll do just fine," the former Jets coach said.
At the heart of the locker-room punch-out was an unpaid $600 debt and Smith's flippant attitude about paying back the money.
A source told Newsday that Enemkpali, 24, had paid for a plane ticket so that Smith could attend his July 11 football camp in his hometown of Pflugerville, Texas. Smith, however, didn't show up because a person close to him was killed in a motorcycle accident in Miami. But the longer it took the Jets quarterback to pay up, the more frustrated Enemkpali became, and things reached a boiling point on Tuesday after Smith put his finger in Enemkpali's face, the source said.
But the details of the troubling incident weren't enough to scare off the Bills coaching staff or front office.
Bills defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman even recounted the time he almost lost his football career for pulling what he thought was an innocent prank back in 1980.
"Hell, I walked into a bank one time, and I handed the teller a note saying, 'What would you do if I held up the bank?' She thought I was holding up the bank, and I went to jail for about eight hours," the former Jets assistant coach told SI.
Thurman, a former defensive back who in his second season with the Dallas Cowboys, was taken into custody and interrogated for hours by local police and the FBI. He later was able to convince the Cowboys' front office that he just made a dumb mistake.
"They asked me, What were you doing? I couldn't even explain it," Thurman said, referring to Cowboys coach Tom Landry, general manager Tex Schramm and executive Gil Brandt. "It was so dumb and random on my part, but it happened. People do dumb [stuff] when they're young. If they hadn't given me a second chance, I wouldn't be here right now."
Asked about Enemkpali, Thurman said: "There can be no more missteps. Obviously there is a risk that we are taking, but for the talent he has, at this point we're willing to gamble."
Meanwhile, the Jets are placing their trust in veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for tonight's preseason opener against the Lions. For now, the team appears to be standing pat with the three quarterbacks they have -- Fitzpatrick, fourth-round pick Bryce Petty and Jake Heaps.