Lateness clearly is an issue for Muhammad Wilkerson.
The Jets defensive end and linemate Sheldon Richardson were disciplined on Sunday by Jets coach Todd Bowles for being late to a team meeting, a source told Newsday. It marked the second time in less than a year that Wilkerson, who signed a five-year, $86-million contract in July, has been benched for an entire quarter by Bowles.
But Wilkerson’s tardiness doesn’t end there.
According to NFL Network, he missed the team walk-through on Oct. 22, which was his 27th birthday and the day before the Jets hosted the Ravens at MetLife Stadium. Wilkerson reportedly failed to show up to his own birthday party in one of the defensive meeting rooms. His teammates even had a cake waiting for him.
Just three days before the Ravens game, Wilkerson divulged to Newsday that he had been playing with foot and ankle pain for “a couple weeks.” When asked if it would be beneficial to sit out a game, he said: “I can’t make that call.” In truth, he was hoping the coaching staff would make the call for him. And that Sunday, Wilkerson was inactive against Baltimore.
Bowles wouldn’t confirm or deny that the first-quarter benchings against the Dolphins were related to lateness. He also chose not to shed light on the speculation or reports that two of his biggest stars have developed a pattern of being undisciplined.
“It’s just a coach’s decision,” Bowles said, echoing the phrase he repeated after the Jets’ 27-23 loss in Miami. “Any decisions I make, outside of injuries and football, we usually handle in-house. I don’t usually divulge that kind of information one way or the other.”
Last year, he benched Wilkerson for the first quarter of the Jets’ game against the Giants.
Sunday’s incident was the first time Richardson has been disciplined by the coach. It’s unclear if Bowles has doled out any additional punishment behind the scenes, such as a fine.
Though he chose not to reveal the reason behind the suspensions, Bowles clearly believed their behavior warranted some type of public punishment. On Monday’s conference call, however, he insisted that he has no issues with the level of commitment shown by Wilkerson (2 1⁄2 sacks, 28 tackles) and Richardson (1 1⁄2 sacks, 35 tackles).
“Mo and Sheldon are fine,” he said. “Those are reports. Those things are handled in-house, and I know how we handle things in here, and everybody is accountable for their actions. We handle things in here as we handle them, and I’m perfectly fine with those two’s commitment. They put in work. They put in a lot of work.”