Santonio Holmes was rather upbeat as Monday’s conference call began. He lauded the leadership Mark Sanchez showed in reaching out to discuss an offseason workout plan and also touched upon his excitement for the upcoming season.
But Holmes’ mood quickly soured as the topic of conversation turned to the way his 2011 season ended -- with him on the bench in the final minutes of a 19-17 loss to Miami that cap a disappointing 8-8 season.
A succession of clipped responses from Holmes ensued, starting with “Nope” when asked if he ever thought he might not be a Jet this season. And the starting wide receiver grew more and more defensive as the media refused to relent.
When pressed about the regrets he had from last season -- aside from not making the playoffs -- Holmes responded: “Why should I?”
“I gave my statement after the game was over with and that was that,” he continued. “I left it at that. That’s why you guys didn’t have anything to talk about this offseason. You didn’t have anything to say to Santonio Holmes because I answered the questions correctly and I left it where it was at. It happened down in Miami. And that’s where it’s going to stay at. Down in Miami.”
Holmes, who reportedly was benched in that final game in Miami by former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, was anonymously dubbed “a cancer” by one of his teammates and was seen, by many, to be one of the main causes for the Jets‘ fractured locker room.
But Holmes never saw himself as the issue last year and he certainly doesn’t think differently now. He said he was "not at all" bothered by the way his "portrayal" in the media following last season.
“I’ve been a better teammate to be a part of the NFL for seven years,” said the receiver, who had 654 yards (the lowest of his career) on 51 receptions. “Regardless of the things that you guys report and the way you say it and the way you portray it, it doesn’t matter. When I step on the football field, I come to work every day. I show up every day to work and I expect to be worked every day.”
But some of his teammates didn’t feel that way last season, reportedly saying Holmes quit on them during the Miami game and “checked out” weeks before.
Holmes, however, refused to acknowledge or clarify the past.
“That happened in 2011-2012 season, so I’m going to give you the message I gave them: that happened in the past,” he said. “We’re not looking forward to any of that. We don’t have anything to talk about or anything to say on that subject. We’re worried about the 2012 New York Jets football season. And if you’re not concerned with that, we don’t have anything else to talk about.”
One thing he was willing to discuss was the acquisition of Tim Tebow. Though initially surprised by the move, Holmes said he thinks the Jets new backup quarterback will do “some great things for our team this year.”
“He’s going to be a guy that we can depend on when situations come about,” Holmes said. “And when he gets on the field, he’s going to prove that he’s a playmaker and he’s willing to help this team win by any means.”
Upon an invite from Sanchez -- move the receiver said showed tremendous leadership -- Holmes spent the past week working out in Orlando, along with tight end Dustin Keller and wide receiver Patrick Turner, in an attempt to build chemistry.
But when asked if he had personally reached out to Tebow and other players who project to be key on offense, Holmes put the onus on Sanchez.
“I can personally say, I didn’t,” he said. “But most of everything was left up to Mark and he did most of the reaching out to the guys. And the guys that showed up, were the guys that showed up.”