Janoris Jenkins’ Giants career ended not with a bang but with a tweet.
The Giants waived the embattled cornerback on Friday in response to a derogatory term he used in a tweet on Wednesday, which he sent during practice. Coach Pat Shurmur categorized it as a “top down” decision and a direct result of his conversation with the eight-year veteran, as well as Jenkins’ reaction with the media the next day.
For his part, Jenkins appeared to directly respond to the decision via Twitter, tweeting “Best news ever. Thank you” just two minutes before the Giants made the announcement via written release and tweet.
Two hours later, Jenkins added to that: “I just want to thank the organization for the opportunity & good luck to my brothers that remains a Giant! Again, want my fans to know my intentions are always pure and genuine. #RabbitLoveEverybody”
Jenkins also was nursing an ankle injury. Because he was waived after the trade deadline, he can be picked up by another team ahead of the postseason.
In the statement announcing the decision, Shurmur said that “from ownership to management to our football operations, we felt it was in the best interests of the franchise and the player. Obviously, what happened this week, and the refusal to acknowledge the inappropriate and offensive language, was the determining factor.”
Shurmur said Friday that he spoke to Jenkins after Wednesday’s practice and was aware that Jenkins offered a brief public apology earlier in the week. But when speaking to the media Thursday, Jenkins partially defended his use of the word — a response to a comment made to him on Twitter — and said it was part of the slang he grew up with. Shurmur acknowledged that Jenkins’ comments then were a factor in the decision.
Safety Michael Thomas said the team learned of the decision just Friday morning, before practice. Jenkins’ locker demonstrated as much: It still was packed with equipment and some personal effects, including a charger. On a box lay an iPad.
“I spoke to him, my understanding was he made an apology, [and] after the apology, he made an attempt to rationalize his beliefs,” Shurmur said after practice Friday. “It’s not a word you should use and I made that very, very clear.”
Shurmur said Thursday that Jenkins was receiving treatment on his ankle when he decided to take to Twitter, reacting to a user questioning his value to the team.
“I really didn’t see nothing so bad with it until people like y’all started picking it up and making stories, so I just decided to apologize,” Jenkins told reporters Thursday. “I regret it, but at the end of the day, like I said, it’s my slang, so if you take it how you’re going to take it, then that’s on you. I don’t mean to offend nobody. My dad always told me speak freely and own up to what you say. I always speak freely as a man. I speak the way I want to speak.”
Jenkins signed a five-year, $62.5 million contract before the 2017 season and was set to earn $10.5 million next year. By waiving him, the Giants will need to pay out only $3.5 million against their salary cap.
Jenkins led the Giants this season with 14 passes defended and had 54 tackles. He also was the elder statesman in a decidedly young cornerback unit, which now will rely more heavily on rookies. It’s yet to be seen how that will play out Sunday, but it seems likely that it will be DeAndre Baker and Sam Beal, along with Grant Haley as the slot corner.
Jenkins was thought to be a leader of sorts for the defensive backs, and it was a position Shurmur seemed eager for him to fully assume last offseason.
Shurmur said he didn’t regret it. “You try to get all the players to grow with regard to leadership,” he said. “There are many things about Rabbit — he’s practiced, he worked hard, as an older player, as you know, we have a very young group, so you try to promote leadership in all the players. Just like working on any element of a player’s game, you try to help them become better leaders.”