Santonio Holmes was a bit stunned.
"I was very shocked. I got the call about 9:00 last night," the newly-acquired wide receiver said earlier this afternoon on a conference call. "I was out walking my puppy and got a phone call from my GM saying I would be traded to the Jets. I was very shocked at first, but I knew it definitely opened up a lot more doors and [would be] a better opportunity for me to start over."
Holmes is indeed getting a fresh start, but he still has a few issues that need to be resolved before he can truly start over. Holmes, 26, has been suspended by the NFL for the season’s first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. One more violation will trigger a full-season suspension, which is why the Jets were able to get the Super Bowl XVIII MVP on the cheap for a fifth-round pick in next week's draft.
"Well, we understood that was part of it," GM Mike Tannenbaum said. "We felt like even with that, it was worth it given Santonio's production in the past and increasing the production in our passing game was one of our goals for 2010. We think with Braylon Edwards, Brad Smith, Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller, another year with Mark [Sanchez], and adding Santonio for 12 games in the regular season, it was worth the price of the fifth-round pick.
"Obviously, a guy with his production at 26 years old, he would not have been available if these indiscretions didn't happen and obviously, the suspension. With that said, we just felt like for what we had to give up, the risk and the price was reasonable for us."
Holmes had a career year in 2009, piling up a career-best 79 receptions for 1,248 yards, and five TDs. But it's his off-the-field baggage that got him shipped out of the Steel City in a deal that began to take shape initially Saturday night.
He’s currently facing a lawsuit from a Florida woman, Anshonae Mills, who claims Holmes threw allegedly a glass at her in an Orlando, Fla., nightclub on March 7, which led to a cut above her eye. However, Holmes’ lawyer Adam Swickle recently since said he has a sworn statement from a man who says he threw the glass.
He was also cited for possession of marijuana during a traffic stop in 2008 and although the charges were later dropped, he was suspended by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin for one game. Holmes was also arrested on two other occassions in 2006.
He joins WR Braylon Edwards and CB Antonio Cromartie as two players with checkered pasts who Tannenbaum has traded for since October. But Tannenbaum believes Rex Ryan has the personality to handle the likes of Cromartie and Holmes, and he feels the organization has a solid support system that should help keep them in line.
"We have pretty good resources here," Tannenbaum said. "We spoke to some people. Even with that said, moving forward, we understand there is risk in this transaction. We're not going into this with our eyes closed. We understand what we're dealing with here. There's been more than one transgression and one of them resulting in a four-game suspension. We did talk to a number of people and felt that for what the price was, the risk was reasonable and the price was reasonable.
"Again, we understand going into this based on what's happened that there is some risk involved. With that said, we're also confident in three people, (team psychologist) Sarah Hickman, (director of player development) David Szott, and (vice president of security) Steve Yarnell. Those three people cobbled together form a tremendous support staff, along with Coach Ryan and Coach [Henry] Ellard. Those people will be with Santonio on a day-to-day basis. We’re looking forward to working with Santonio and give him a chance to be successful not only in this year, but in the future."
Holmes knows he has to build trust among his new teammates.
"I definitely have to be accountable for my actions now, definitely [have to] get a hold of all of the players, spend some time with these guys and show them what type of work ethic that I have," he said. "[I] always [have to be] on time to all the meetings, front and center, establishing a great relationship with the players on and off the field so those guys can understand who I am and where I came from."
Then, there's the part about picking up a totally new scheme, which admittedly has Holmes a little "nervous."
"I definitely have a lot of work from the start to learn the system," he said. "I definitely want to come in and be one of the leaders on the field and off the field. My words won't be spoken very much around here, but my actions will definitely show my gratitude towards this team."
One thing of note from today's conference call with Tannanbaum:
Our Bob Glauber asked him if he expected RB/KR Leon Washington to sign his one-year tender by Thursday's deadline. Tannenbaum's response?
"I don't know that," he said. "That would be a great question for him and his agent."