With the author of the biggest guarantee in the sport’s history standing just a few feet behind him, Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson offered up a new version of the guarantee.
This one wasn’t about winning a Super Bowl or beating the Colts, though. This one was about the Jets winning more than five games in 2017, not nearly as lofty a prediction as Joe Namath made in January 1969. But it’s a start.
“The team will definitely be positive and do more things better than we did last year, I guarantee that,” Wilkerson said on Tuesday night in Manhattan at the United Way of New York City’s 24th annual Gridiron Gala. “We’ll have more wins than we did last year, that’s a fact.”
Wilkerson went further, saying that he expects his own play to rebound after a lackluster season in which he was coming off ankle surgery and was suspended for a quarter for chronic lateness. He also seemed miffed by reports earlier this offseason that he was out of shape. He did not comment on that report directly, but seemed to lump it together with the general disappointment of the previous season.
“That’s just me as a man, how I was brought up and raised, it’s the competitiveness in me,” he said. “People want to take shots, all that does is add fuel to my fire and put the spark up under me. I’m going into my seventh year. I know what I need to do, I know what I’m capable of doing. Last year was last year. I know it didn’t go my way for myself and the team, but I’ll do what I can do to rectify that.”
One of the reasons for Wilkerson’s optimism is a new vibe in the team’s locker room. After a season of sometimes shaky leadership, and an offseason that included the departure of a great many veteran players, Wilkerson said the team is coming together nicely.
“The way the guys are preparing right now during the offseason shows that we will definitely be successful during the regular season,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I speak for most of my teammates, we don’t care what anybody says outside the building. It’s about us, the Jets organization, everybody who is down on Jets Drive. That’s all that matters.”
Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, who was honored at the event as a Hometown Hero, said the Jets have used several team-building events so far this offseason.
“I think Coach [Todd] Bowles did a great job of doing bonding things for us this year,” Enunwa said. “We did a type of workout that builds character. We had a group come in and help us out. That was cool to do, to build leadership and build relationships together. I think this year we’re going to be a stronger group.”
“Everything is good right now in the locker room,” Wilkerson said. “Guys are approaching things differently. It’s different for me . . . It’s always going to be a new locker room every year in this business. We have to build off any kind of positive we had last year. Lots of things didn’t work as well as planned for us, and just fix those things and correct them and look forward to positive things going into this year.”