58° Good Afternoon
58° Good Afternoon

Rex Ryan takes a chance on Ikemefuna Enemkpali

Jets outside linebacker Ikemefuna Enemkpali warms up at

Jets outside linebacker Ikemefuna Enemkpali warms up at the Jets Atlantic Health Training Center on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015 in Florham Park, N.J.. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

DETROIT - Rex Ryan took another step toward building the "bully" team he wanted in Buffalo -- literally.

The former Jets coach claimed Ikemefuna Enemkpali off waivers Wednesday, a day after the backup linebacker was released by the Jets for sucker-punching Geno Smith in the locker room and breaking the quarterback's jaw. Smith, who will need surgery, is expected to miss 6-10 weeks.

Assaulting a teammate wasn't enough to scare off Ryan, who was fired by the Jets in January after a 4-12 season.

"We absolutely are not going to be pushed around,'' the boastful coach said Jan. 14 at his introductory news conference with the Bills. "We're going to do a lot of pushing ourselves. I'll promise you that. We will build a bully, and that's what we can't wait to get started doing.''

Clearly, Ryan is still working toward that goal with the addition of Enemkpali, a former Louisiana Tech player who entered the 2014 draft with character concerns.

"I do have supreme confidence in myself, especially when I know the individual,'' Ryan said, adding that he hadn't spoken to Enemkpali prior to the Bills acquiring him. "Some of these guys that have these so-called issues or whatever, everybody's got things. But if I know that person, and I feel confident in the fact that in my locker room that this guy will be successful in here, then yeah, I feel confident that he'll fit right in.''

According to a source, the violent incident stems from the fact that Smith, 24, had not reimbursed Enemkpali for $600 that he owed. Enemkpali, 24, had paid for Smith's plane ticket for Smith to attend his July 11 football camp in his hometown of Pflugerville, Texas. Smith, however, didn't show up because a person close to him was killed in a motorcycle accident in Miami. But resentment lingered the longer Smith's debt went unpaid.

According to an ESPN report, Enemkpali -- who was scheduled to earn $510,000 this season -- "demanded'' that Smith refund him the money, and tempers flared after that.

A source told Newsday that Tuesday's incident escalated once Smith -- who makes roughly $1.25 million a year -- put his finger in Enemkpali's face.

First-year Jets coach Todd Bowles declined to confirm the details of the incident, and instead referred to it Tuesday as "very childish'' and something "sixth-graders could have talked about.

"It's something we don't tolerate,'' Bowles said. "It's something we can't stand. You don't walk up to another man and punch him in the face.''

Bowles made the stunning announcement of the incident shortly before heading out to practice Tuesday afternoon, saying Smith "got cold-cocked, sucker-punched, whatever you want to call it.''

Now, the Jets must go with former second-stringer Ryan Fitzpatrick in Thursday night's preseason opener at Ford Field.

"Regardless of the situation -- barring anybody messing with your kids or your family -- you shouldn't have to hit another man,'' Bowles said Tuesday.

Enemkpali was suspended from his college football team in 2011 after being arrested for an off-campus incident in which he was booked for disturbing the peace and battery of a police officer. He reportedly was put on probation and ordered to perform community service.

The prevailing thought was that Enemkpali's NFL career would be over following Tuesday's fight with a teammate. But it appears he will have a fresh start in Buffalo.

He joins a locker room that features other talented, but controversial, athletes. The Bills signed offensive lineman Richie Incognito and former Jets receiver Percy Harvin this past offseason. The addition of Enemkpali immediately raised questions about the stability of the Bills' locker room and team chemistry.

Ryan, however, seems to have no concerns about Enemkpali being able to adjust to the Bills.

"From what I know about this young man, I think he'll come in here and I think he'll do just fine,'' Ryan said.

"Nothing justifies hitting somebody. I recognize it was a mistake, but I also believe he will learn from this.''

Still, there's a good chance Enemkpali could face discipline from the league. An NFL spokesman said Tuesday that the league will look into the incident, which falls under the personal conduct policy. It's also possible that Smith could bring criminal charges against Enemkpali, but it's unclear whether Smith will go through with that. If he does, the Jets are expected to cooperate with any investigation.

Notes & quotes:Bowles said Tuesday that Muhammad Wilkerson would travel with the team to Detroit, but his status won't be decided until he tests his hamstring before the game . . . Former Jets WR David Nelson signed with the Steelers.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

New York Sports