FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The hits just keep coming for the Jets franchise.
The latest blow was landed Tuesday when backup linebacker Ikemefuna Enemkpali "sucker punched" Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith in the locker room before practice. Smith's jaw was broken by the punch and the quarterback is expected to miss the next 6 to 10 weeks. Enemkpali was cut by the team immediately after the incident.
Smith, 24, was taken to the hospital from the Jets practice facility by ambulance. Later in the day, Smith posted a photo to his Instagram account with the words, "ILL BE BACK!"StoryWho is Ikemefuna Enemkpali?
Coach Todd Bowles made the stunning announcement shortly before heading out to practice Tuesday afternoon, saying, "He got cold-cocked, sucker-punched, whatever you want to call it."
Bowles said the injury required surgery.
"It's something we don't tolerate," the first-year coach said. "It's something we can't stand. You don't walk up to another man and punch him in the face. We're dealing with it internally."
The incident was the latest embarrassing moment for the Jets, who hired Bowles this offseason to help restore the team's image. The Jets fired outspoken coach Rex Ryan after six seasons that produced frequent headlines but not enough victories. The quarterback position has been particularly unstable in recent years with Brett Favre, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Michael Vick holding the position.
Bowles would not divulge details of the altercation between Smith and Enemkpali, but called the incident "very childish" and something "sixth-graders could have talked about."
According to a source, the altercation concerned a $600 debt. Enemkpali, 24, reportedly was upset that he had purchased a plane ticket for Smith to attend his July 11 football camp in his hometown of Pflugerville, Texas. But days before the event, "a person close to Smith" was killed in a motorcycle accident in Miami and Smith chose not to attend the event. Enemkpali "demanded" Smith refund him the $600 for the plane ticket and the quarterback agreed. But tempers flared in the locker room Tuesday when Enemkpali -- who was scheduled to make $510,000 in base salary this season, per Spotrac, a website that tracks players' salaries -- confronted Smith about the money. Smith makes roughly $1.25 million a year.
According to another source, Smith put his finger in Enemkpali's face. The linebacker then punched Smith.
"To me," Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said, "just looking at it outside in, it should have never gotten to a sucker punch or a scuffle or fight or however you want to put it."
"I apologize to the Jets organization, coaches, teammates and fans," Enemkpali said in a statement. "Geno and I let our frustration get the best of us, but I should have just walked away from the situation. I deeply regret and apologize for my actions. It was never my intention to harm anyone. I appreciate the opportunity I had with the Jets."
An NFL spokesman said the league will look into the incident, as it falls under the personal conduct policy. Bowles said it's up to Smith if he wants to pursue criminal charges against Enemkpali.
Enemkpali was suspended from the Louisiana Tech football team in 2011 after being arrested for an off-campus incident in which he was booked for disturbing the peace and battery of a police officer. Enemkpali was reportedly put on probation and ordered to perform community service.
The Jets will now turn to veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, a graduate of Harvard.
Bowles said there's no guarantee Smith will be the starter when he returns. Smith, 11-18 as a starter, completed 57.5 percent of his passes with 25 touchdowns and 34 interceptions in 30 games.
"If the other guy is playing well, and the boat is going right . . . yeah, you're not coming back to start," he said. " . . . That's a conversation that we have when he comes back."
The Jets' season opener is Sept. 13 against the Browns at MetLife Stadium.