Florham Park, N.J. – Joe Klecko had some harsh words last month for Jets outside linebacker Quinton Coples, with the former defensive lineman and charter member of the New York Sack Exchange criticizing Coples in a radio interview and questioning his value as a first-round draft pick.
“A little bit of the time, he looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane,” Klecko said on WFAN. “I don’t know him at all, but understanding attitude and body language, he sometimes comes out there I think and thinks ‘Don’t you know who I am? I’m here.’ He has to start proving that he is something to be reckoned with.”
In his first comments on Klecko’s remarks, Coples said on Wednesday he was aware of the comments, but mostly brushed them aside.
“I don’t pay any attention to it at all,” Coples said. “I don’t know [Klecko] personally. I’m here now with my teammates and my coaches, and that’s all that matters to me.”
Asked if he would question why Klecko would make those comments, Coples said simply: “No. I’d speak to him. We’d talk. I would speak to him, just like I would anyone else.”
Coples has a combined 10 sacks in his first two seasons, which isn’t the kind of production the Jets were counting on when they selected him with the 18th overall pick in 2012 and gave him a four-year, $8.8 million contract. Coples was switched to outside linebacker from defensive end last year, a move that offered him more chances to rush the passer. But he finished with just 4 ½ sacks. As a rookie, he had 5 ½ sacks.
“Sometimes (Coples) gets out there and does things that are unbelievable,” Klecko said. “Well, you need to go out there and stick your nose in there every time and make sure everybody knows you’re there. I think he has a lot to learn.”
Coples hopes a firmer grasp of the defense a year after he made the switch to linebacker, combined with dropping 15 pounds to increase his speed will lead to the kind of production that will quiet his critics.
“At this point, it’s all about progressing and moving forward,” said Coples, who is down to 270 pounds. “It’s good to be a part of this defense. We’ve got great athletes all over the place. I think I’m much more comfortable at this time compared to last year. I’m just going with the same expectations, to be the best I can be and move forward.”
But even an improved year might not end the criticism. After all, Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors last season, knew what it was like to get ripped by a prominent former player. Buccaneers Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp tweaked Richardson in a Daily News interview a few days before Super Bowl XLVIII.
Sapp was miffed that Richardson suggested late last season that he would likely have been the No. 1 overall pick if the draft was done all over again; he was selected 13th overall by the Jets.
“As soon as that kid gets off the ‘I think I was better and should have been drafted in a different position,’ maybe he’ll see his future,” Sapp said. “Let’s not anoint this kid the next best thing since sliced bread yet.”
“Warren Sapp had a lot of bad stuff to say about me, so you just can’t listen to what people say,” Richardson said. “Hall of Famers hate on the younger guys, I don’t know why. It’s just the way it is. I love Joe [Klecko] to death. I’ve seen a few highlights of him, and I thought he was a baller. I still think he’s a baller. He’s entitled to his opinion. It is what it is. Got to grill it up and eat it.”