FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The Jets’ highest-paid player didn’t wear his own jersey on Friday in what could have been his last practice with the team.
Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson wore No. 26, not his customary No. 96.Sometimes players will wear another player’s jersey for fun, but the last two weeks couldn’t have been much fun for him. He was suspended for the Dec. 17 game against the Saints and inactive for the Dec. 24 game against the Chargers as a healthy scratch in what Todd Bowles described as “a coach’s decision.”
Given that Wilkerson had limited reps in practice for the second consecutive week, it appears he won’t play in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Patriots, either.
In a spirited exchange with a reporter, Bowles repeatedly was asked if ownership or the front office helped with his decision.
“My, me, yeah, it’s my decision,” he said. “We can continue this for the next two hours and we’re going to have the same dialogue.”
Bowles also would not say if money had anything to do with it. After the suspension, if Wilkerson had played in the final two games and gotten hurt, the Jets would have been on the hook for his $16.7-million salary for 2018. If the Jets release him by the third day of the league year in March, the team will be left with $9 million in dead money but will save $11 million against the salary cap.
Bowles was asked why he would not answer the question about Wilkerson and said: “I don’t have to answer the question if I don’t want to answer it. I gave you my answer. You either accept it or you don’t.”
Wilkerson irked Jets officials by being late twice for meetings in a two-week period in December. After the defensive end was suspended for the Saints game, Bowles said he had served his sentence, but he has yet to take the field since.
Said Bowles, “We’ll put our inactives out on Sunday.”
Notes & quotes: Starting RT Brandon Shell (concussion) has been ruled out for the Patriots game. He’ll be replaced by Brent Qvale. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (foot and ribs) is doubtful. RB Matt Forte (knee) and DE Kony Ealy (knee) are questionable.