FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Less than two weeks before Mo Wilkerson’s final game for the Jets — assuming he’s even allowed to play the last two games after being suspended last week for being late to work — he delivered yet another mea culpa for screwing up.
His last one, actually.
Wilkerson was disciplined for the fourth time in three years — including twice in the last three games — for being late to team meetings. After sitting at home Sunday watching the Jets lose to the Saints, he returned to practice Wednesday, albeit with no assurances from Todd Bowles that he’ll be allowed to play Sunday against the Chargers.
“I want to be out there with my teammates,” Wilkerson told reporters. “At the end of the day, it’s up to the coaches.”
While Wilkerson had to explain once more why he has failed to live up to being a first-round pick and a building block, Jamal Adams provided some hope that he can offer the kind of legitimate promise expected of a franchise-caliber player. Minutes before reporters grilled Wilkerson in their first session with him since he was left home last weekend, Adams talked about doing his part to change the negative culture that Wilkerson has fed into with his subpar play and lousy attitude.
“This team is not where we want to be yet,’’ the rookie safety said. “Still needs a lot of work. We know that, but we’re setting the foundation. We’re building it each and every week.”
Adams will be a part of that foundation; Wilkerson will not. It is a virtual certainty that the Jets will part ways with Wilkerson after the season and get out from under his onerous contract that includes a $20-million salary-cap figure next year. He’s not worth the money, and certainly not worth the distraction.
Adams is the kind of player the Jets so desperately need, and he already has shown he can be counted on. A leader on the field and in the locker room, his play and his attitude command respect. Even his tweets show the kind of attitude you want from your best players.
“I [want] another Pro bowl. Believe that,” he tweeted Tuesday night, when the Pro Bowl rosters were announced and he hadn’t made the cut.
“I tweeted it,” Adams said Wednesday. “I stand by it. It is what it is.”
And this isn’t about individual awards, because that’s not what it’s about for Adams. This is about being the best he can be to help the Jets be the best they can be.
“My intention coming into the Jets facility when I was drafted wasn’t about the Pro Bowl,” he said. “It’s an honor to be recognized, but again, it’s not about that. It isn’t about me. It’s about this team. It’s about this organization. It’s about setting a foundation, creating change and getting this team to where it needs to be.”
Adams already has shown he’s part of the solution, while Wilkerson has shown time and again that he’s part of the problem. He talked before the season about taking a more active leadership role, but those words turned out to be as hollow as his performances. Wilkerson has been the highest-paid Jet the last two years, but he has only eight sacks to show for it.
He owned up to his teammates Monday for his latest transgression, but it’s too late to get back in their good graces. Or the good graces of the franchise. There’s no way the Jets can justify keeping him next season, and a case can be made to deactivate him for the final two games, because his entire 2018 salary would be guaranteed if he suffered a career-ending injury.
Adams hopes to have many more years in green and white, and he’ll do whatever is necessary to effect the kind of change the Jets need to become a winning franchise.