Rex Ryan went too far on this one.
Just a day after Ikemefuna Enemkpali smashed Geno Smith's jaw and knocked the Jets' quarterback out of the lineup for as many as 10 weeks, Ryan decided he'd be the one to give the Enemkpali a second chance.
Yup. Even though Enemkpali faces the likelihood of a multi-game suspension from the NFL for his vicious punch to his former teammate, Ryan offered his forgiveness by offering the linebacker a job. It's one more chance for Ryan to tweak his old team. And one more chance for Ryan to thumb his nose at conventional thinking by bringing in a player who, quite frankly, doesn't deserve to have a second chance so soon after blowing up the Jets' locker room with his fit of temper.
Ryan makes no secret about his bitterness at how his six-year run with the Jets ended last year, making that obvious during our conversation last week about his frustrations with former general manager John Idzik. But putting in a claim for Enemkpali sure feels like an unseemly attempt for Ryan to get back at his old team and now his divisional rival.
Apparently that feeling is shared by more than a few folks in Buffalo, because Ryan was described as defensive and restrained in discussing with reporters the move to claim Enemkpali.
"We all know what happened and things like that," Ryan said. "Obviously, it was a terrible thing that happened. But IK made a mistake, there's no question about that. But instead of listening to this person, that person or whatever -- we had IK last year [with the Jets]. A lot of us were around IK, and he was a good teammate."
But get this: Ryan acknowledged he had not spoken to Enemkpali about Tuesday's incident before convincing Bills general manager Doug Whaley and team owner Terry Pegula to put in the waiver claim.
Not a good look, especially in a league that has become increasingly sensitive to this kind of behavior. With NFL commissioner Roger Goodell showing little tolerance for such violent acts, Enemkpali can expect a significant suspension for slugging Smith. The league allowed the waiver claim to go through, but a review of his situation will soon begin and penalties are likely to follow.
"If we didn't think this young man or anybody else would be successful on the football field, in our locker room or in the community, he would not be here," Ryan said. "And I know I've said that before about other people, but I mean it."
Ryan obviously isn't afraid to sign controversial players, as evidenced by his move to hire former Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, who was suspended in 2013 for his role in the infamous "Bullygate" scandal with the Dolphins and went unsigned for the entire 2014 season. But Incognito paid his debt by missing a significant portion of his career, and his time away from the game led to some serious soul-searching and behavioral changes. Incognito told me last week that he now watches what he says and does in the locker room setting, and is more mindful of his role as a team leader.
But Enemkpali's troubles have only begun. His fight with Smith, which came after he and the quarterback got into a dispute about a $600 airfare reimbursement that Enemkpali wanted from the quarterback, wasn't his first anger-related incident. During his career at Louisiana Tech in 2011, he was arrested in an off-campus incident in which he was charged with disturbing the peace and battery of a police officer. He was suspended by the team, but reinstated before the season.
Now he gets another chance with another team after another violent incident.
"Everybody's got things," Ryan said. "But if I know that person, and I feel confident in the fact that my locker room, that this guy will be successful in here, then yeah, I feel confident that he'll fit right in."
It's a huge risk here for Ryan, one he didn't need to take, especially for a marginal player who had all of three tackles last season. Until now, he's had Buffalo fans eating up his larger-than-life personality and translating that adulation into record ticket sales.
But on this one, Rex missed the mark. No need to take a chance on a player like this, especially so soon after he punched his way out of Todd Bowles' locker room.