From one outspoken Jets receiver to another, Keyshawn Johnson offered some advice to help Santonio Holmes tune out the distractions -- including the ones he has created -- and let his play do the talking.
Imagine that. Johnson telling Holmes to keep his mouth shut and just play. What in the name of the "Give Me the Damn Ball" author is going on here?
Johnson created more than his share of controversy during a tumultuous four-year run with the Jets from 1996-99, so he knows a thing or two about playing through criticism. Especially given that he frequently was at the center of it because of his cocky demeanor.
"I learned early on as a rookie and second-year player, you can't pay attention to what's said or written about you," said Johnson, who was traded by the Jets to the Buccaneers in 2000 for two first-round draft picks and now is an ESPN analyst. "Don't pay any attention. It's only a little opinion. There's so much more media now, so much more scrutiny with Facebook and social media. Every little word, people hang on it. You have to know that and let it roll right off your shoulders."
Like Johnson, Holmes has been a lightning rod for criticism, mostly because of what comes out of his mouth. Last season, he criticized the offensive line and expressed frustration about not being on the same page as quarterback Mark Sanchez. In Week 17, he blew up in the huddle late in a season-ending loss to the Dolphins, screaming at teammates and prompting offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to bench him in the final minutes.
Just last week, Holmes said during a television interview that a two-quarterback system can't work in the NFL, a suggestion that the Jets are heading down a dangerous path with Sanchez and Tim Tebow sharing snaps.
That led coach Rex Ryan to remind Holmes that he's here to catch passes, not be the offensive coordinator. That job belongs to Tony Sparano, who will be the one to decide which quarterback gets how many snaps.
Holmes shrugged off this latest brouhaha, saying that Ryan "likes the attitude I have and the mind-set I bring to this team. I think it was just a joke between us. We're not going to take anything from what was said in the meeting . . . Whatever coach Sparano brings to the table and coach Ryan wants our offense to work on is gonna be what we're gonna work on. We brought in a group of guys that will compete and help us win ballgames by all means, and that's what we're looking for."
Johnson often made suggestions to the Jets' play-callers when he was with the team, but he says Holmes ought to worry more about playing and not talking.
"Go out there and let the play speak for you, and at the end of the day, you can tell [the critics] to you know what," Johnson said of Holmes. "That was my approach. I'm going to play. I'm going to do what I need to do and stick my tongue out at you at the end of the day."
Actually, Johnson didn't let his play do all the talk. He did plenty of yapping, too. About his opponents. About his coaches. Even about his teammates.
But Holmes did pay attention to what his predecessor had to say. And maybe it'll pay off, especially if Holmes manages to channel his energy properly. "It was pretty much big brother to little brother-type talk," Holmes said. "Just teaching me to be cordial to everybody and to understand what gift I have to this football team and just learn how to utilize it."
Holmes believes he's ready for a big year, in part because of his improved relationship with Sanchez. He says he trusts his quarterback much more now, especially after working with him in the offseason.
Where was that trust last year?
"I think it was all over the place among us all," he said. "But that was last year. We're moving on now. We have trust. We're going to allow each other to play football, and I think it's gonna work."