Catch him in the right mood, and Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes can riff with the best of them when he speaks his mind on the realities of NFL life. But following his comment last week about quarterback Mark Sanchez being “rattled” by the Tim Tebow trade, the Holmes who appeared at his weekly interview session on Wednesday sounded as though he had been programmed by the thought police.
The former Steelers Super Bowl MVP denied feeling any special emotions about his return to Pittsburgh on Sunday. He said the Jets’ offense has focused on cleaning up its mistakes rather than patting itself on the back for it performance in a 48-28 win over Buffalo, and he emphasized how he and his teammates are working at taking their jobs seriously and doing all the little things right.
As for the Jets’ attitude about some portrayals that likened their operation to a “circus atmosphere,” Holmes wasn’t going there. “That’s not my focus right now,” Holmes said, looking as studious as a librarian in his black frame glasses. “My job is to focus on whatever I can do to help this team win as many ballgames, be the leader I’ve always been, be on time to practice, working as hard as I can for Sanchez, blocking downfield and working on the mechanics that I can improve.”
He praised Pittsburgh’s defense, especially the pass rush, and said the Jets’ offensive players have to know where All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu is at all times. The Steelers are toughest to beat at home, Holmes said, their pass rush gets to the opposing quarterback early and gets their crowd pumped up.
Back in training camp, Holmes questioned how the Wildcat offense might impact starting QB Sanchez by forcing him out of the game for a few plays, but he sidestepped when asked if there was any reason Sanchez completed several passes right after the Jets ran the Wildcat against Buffalo.
“We run the plays coach Sparano calls, and we try to do them to perfection,” Holmes said, referring to offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. “That’s our focus. Whatever plays our offensive coordinator calls for us, it’s our job to go out and execute.”
Asked about the improved focus and maturity shown in the opener by Sanchez, who had a blow-up with Holmes at the end of last season, the receiver said, “I think the biggest thing is just having fun at practice. The more we have fun at practice, the more we hit our keys and be on time in practice.”
If there was one subject that truly engaged Holmes, it was the play near the end of the first half when Holmes appeared to make a miraculous diving TD catch only to have the replay show he put his left hand down out of bounds to brace his fall before his back foot touched in bounds.
“I didn’t think twice that my hand touched the ground before my feet did,” holmes said with a shake of his head. “My main focus was, ‘If I can get this back foot down before I hit the ground, then, I will get in.’ Most people probably wouldn’t have thought twice to get the back foot down, but I know that’s where all the money is made is to get both feet down in the back of the end zone.”
Holmes described the importance of using peripheral vision to know where the boundary is even as he focuses on catching the ball. In high school and college, receivers only have to get the first step after the catch in bounds, but Holmes practiced getting two feet down. “I tried working on it all through high school, and it kind of stuck with me,” he said. “In high school, you only had to get one foot down, but my focus was always two feet because I know joining the NFL, there’s no such thing as one foot down that counts.”
Of course it was that technique that allowed him to make the catch that made him MVP in Super Bowl XLIII to beat the Cardinals.