Some pushing and shoving between teammates is normal, but multiple days of punching leave concern about the team’s focus
Another day, another New York Jets training camp fight.
It’s been a testy August for the Green and White, as players get tangled up on a daily basis.
Though some scuffling is normal, the punching that has accompanied it is of some concern.
Head coach Robert Saleh instituted one rule during training camp: no punching. That seems rather like a recommendation rather than a rule after every thrower of punches was allowed to continue in practice.
Coach Saleh is known as a players’ coach. He’s good at spinning circumstances to make his guys look good, sometimes to the point of subverting reality. Regarding the fights, Saleh told the media last week that it’s like “brothers fighting with each other.”
Robert Saleh on all the fights in camp, said he’s not worried. # Said it’s like brothers fighting with each other — and that he got in an argument with his brother just this morning.
Made him think of the time he suplexed his brother during a fight when they were young. #Jets
— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) August 10, 2022
Earlier in camp, when invoking the “no punching” rule, Saleh commented, “They’re going to push, they’re going to shove, it’s going to happen. They’re sick of each other. I’m sick of hearing the same calls from the coordinators, and I think everyone is sick of each other at this point in camp.”
Still, as the fights pile up and tempers flare hotter, it’s getting a little much for the Jets. On Sunday, Carl Lawson got into it with offensive lineman Grant Hermanns. Garrett Wilson went at Nathan Shepherd, a mismatch if you’ve ever seen one. Wilson was angry that Shepherd ripped the ball out of his hands after the whistle.
Garrett Wilson on Robert Saleh saying it was “cute” that the rookie didn’t back down from Nathan Shepherd in practice Sunday: “I didn’t think it was cute. No matter what age you are, I don’t like being tried.” #Jets
— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) August 15, 2022
Today, after yet another scuffle involving Hermanns, Saleh gathered his guys and had some words for the team. Carl Lawson also spoke.
“Protect the team,” Saleh said. “It’s getting very, very competitive. And it’s not just from the fighting standpoint. We try not twerking each other, we try not slinging each other to the ground. We try to keep everybody up. Just too many bodies on the ground [Monday], which is not healthy for people standing around the pile. So it was just a quick little reminder and we’ll do it again in the team meeting [Tuesday] and have a good day.”
"I want a team full of agitators. I want them talking smack, to get in each other's faces. I just want them to have composure when they get the person across from them agitated."
– Robert Saleh pic.twitter.com/XnFYJQwOMs
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) August 15, 2022
For all the talk of composure, it remains to be seen if the Jets players will actually listen to their head coach. Everyone likes Saleh around the league, and he is spoken of with respect. But does he have what it takes to instill discipline among a group of competitive and unruly young men?
In the first game of the preseason, we saw the Jets’ aggressiveness come back to bite them. Linebacker Quincy Williams was flagged for a hit out of bounds on quarterback Jalen Hurts, extending the Eagles’ opening drive and allowing them to eventually get into the end zone. That undisciplined play carries over from last season.
However, Williams was out there on the field the next snap after his mental error. For many of the more old-school NFL head coaches, that would have been a benchable offense. Not so for Saleh, apparently.
Being a players’ coach is largely necessary in today’s league. Few can run with the Belichick iron-fist style that came from Bill Parcells. That’s part of the reason that so many Belichick disciples have failed as NFL head coaches.
But with that player-first approach needs to come a hard limit. There must be accountability and discipline. For a team still finding itself, unforced errors will devastate any opportunity for competitive play on the field.
This may not be a big deal at all. Training camp fights have broken out across the league. Kyle Shanahan is dealing with the same thing back in San Francisco. It could all be forgotten by Week 1.
Or it could be part of a larger trend that Saleh wants to nip in the bud. It’s a proof-of-concept year for the Jets’ lead man. The Jets must hope that his rallying cry today will bring the team back to focusing on the collective goal.