Geno Smith was the Jets’ starting quarterback when Leonard Williams first came into the league as a first-round pick, but that’s far from what the current Giants defensive lineman remembers most about their tenure together.
“It was a crazy eye-opener for me to see he got punched by a linebacker in the locker room,” Williams recalled on Thursday. “I was a rookie seeing this and I was like ‘Whoa!’”
That punch, thrown by the immediately released IK Enemkpali in 2015, fractured Smith’s jaw and derailed most of his career. After nearly a decade as a transient backup — including a year with the Giants in which he replaced Eli Manning in the game that ended his consecutive starting streak — It wasn’t until last season that Smith was able to return as a regular starter, earning the league’s Comeback Player of the Year for the Seahawks.
On Monday, Smith, 32, will return to play at MetLife Stadium for the first time since he was released by the Jets in 2017. Williams, for one, is glad to see that.
“Since that moment he got his opportunity taken away from him and he was trying to climb back, so it’s really cool to see him in a system that is working well for him,” Williams said. “He seems to be loving it over there and doing well.”
“He’s done a great job this year, too,” Brian Daboll said of Smith’s encore to his comeback. “He has good leadership about him, you can tell. He’s done a heck of a job.”
Jones not bothered by Niners flak
Daniel Jones responded – barely – to the taunts hurled at him from 49ers defenders following last week’s loss in San Francisco, many of which pointed to the disparity between his level of play and his level of pay.
“I saw it,” Jones said on Thursday. “I’m focused on what we’re doing here with these guys and trying to get back on track. . . . They won. They have good players on defense and they won. We’re focused on us and what we do here.”
Jones signed a four-year, $160 million contract with the Giants this offseason, which has increased the target on him.
“A lot of people who make all that money don’t even deserve it,” linebacker Dre Greenlaw told the San Francisco Chronicle after helping hold Jones to 137 passing yards on 32 attempts and the Giants to 12 points. Added cornerback Charvarius Ward in the same story: “Forty million dollars a year is a lot of money.”
Jones said he doesn’t know why he is a regular target of player-on-player criticism that goes all the way back to when Baker Mayfield questioned his draft selection by the Giants and continued this offseason when he was described as “trash” by Bears linebacker Jaquan Brisker on social media.
“You’d have to ask them,” Jones said. “I guess some people are like that or they feel the need to be like that. That’s fine. That’s part of it.”