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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Geno Smith needs to show he can be trusted, on and off the field

New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith practices during

New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith practices during training camp at the team's practice facility in Florham Park, N.J. on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - There was no mea culpa from Geno Smith in the aftermath of his Aug. 11 punch-out in the Jets' locker room, no offer of responsibility for his part in the moment of rage that prompted linebacker Ikemefuna Enemkpali to deliver a jaw-breaking blow to the quarterback.

Other than a few vague references to learning a lesson from the experience, Smith shed little light on the incident in his first public remarks since that stunning moment when he was knocked to the floor and ended up on an operating table.

"There's always a lesson learned in every situation, good or bad, so obviously I have learned something," Smith told reporters at his locker Monday as the Jets began preparations for Sunday's regular-season opener against the Browns.

And that lesson is?

"I'm going to keep that to myself," he said.

Smith could have taken the opportunity to offer some details about the incident, which was sparked by his failure to reimburse Enemkpali for a $600 airline ticket to attend the linebacker's football camp. The quarterback declined to talk about it.

Smith could have taken some responsibility in the incident for putting himself in a bad spot.

He did not.

"Once again, got to move on," Smith said. "We have the Cleveland Browns this week, and it's time to move on."

Smith got his first media session over with in less than 12 minutes but didn't divulge much, other than to say he wouldn't pursue a criminal or civil case against Enemkpali and that he doesn't like talking about his situation.

"I hate the fact that I have to answer so many questions about myself, because it's more about the team than myself," he said.

Clearly in a damned-if-he-does- and- damned-if- he-doesn't dilemma in terms of openly discussing his situation, Smith opted for the path of don't say much.

"Look, this should never have gotten to this point in the first place and I take my share of the blame for that" would have been a perfectly appropriate thing to say. But he didn't.

Quarterbacks are held to a higher standard, especially in uncomfortable situations like this. But Smith opted to stay out of it as much as possible, which is understandable, given coach Todd Bowles' edict to keep locker- room issues inside said room.

On the day of the punch, even Bowles said "it takes two to tango" when asked if Smith bears some responsibility for the incident.

About the closest Smith came to pulling back the curtain on his feelings was when he talked about how his world had changed so quickly.

"You can imagine how I felt that day," he said. "In a split-second, anything can happen. Walk outside and, God forbid, something could happen. But when situations occur, it shows you the character of a man. Just have to keep pushing, keep plugging. Really not going to change that much. Obviously, it's a setback that has altered some things for me, but I'm just going to stick to what I know, and that's to keep working and keep working hard."

Even if Smith wasn't offering a public note of his accountability, we'll eventually find out if he has learned his lesson and whether he will become a more trusted teammate and a better leader.

I'm convinced he will get another opportunity to be the starter over Ryan Fitzpatrick and that the Bowles-Mike Maccagnan regime will get a definitive read on whether Smith can be a good enough answer at the most important position on their roster.

The first-year coach and general manager bear no allegiance to Smith, because he was not drafted on their watch. Smith will have to earn their trust. That involves not only playing quarterback the right way but carrying himself the right way. Smith needs to show dramatic improvement in both areas.

His on-field progress -- or lack thereof -- will be evident. The leadership stuff will be somewhat less obvious, although Bowles, a former player who has been around enough quarterbacks to see through to their core, eventually will find out what he needs to know about Smith.

He'll find out whether he can trust Smith with his team, or whether it soon will be time to find someone else.

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