Just when it seemed like the details about the issues in the New York Jets locker room were out in the open, LaDainian Tomlinson sounded off to Showtime's "Inside the NFL." Tomlinson spoke about the Jets locker room being the worst he's been around, and the bad blood between Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes – which is worse than we originally thought. Tomlinson cleared the air about what went on behind closed doors. He also said it's time for Rex Ryan to tone down the talking.
LaDainian Tomlinson laid it all out there, and it's clear who was at the center of the problems.
"It is as bad as I’ve ever been around, honestly," Tomlinson told Showtime. "And I’ve been around some locker rooms and quarterback-receiver situations and what-not. But it was as bad as I’ve been around. You know, it was at the point where I think the players could no longer do anything about it. There was nothing that the players could do. So when it gets to that point, there are certain changes that need to happen."
While it was already clear that the Jets locker room had some problems, this hammers home just how bad it was. It's clear that it wasn't a team-wide issue, but more of a prominent feud that engulfed the rest of the team. That feud was, and still is, between Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes.
Tomlinson said that Jets players named the feud, "East Coast-West Coast beef."
Here's the other part of the whole situation: neither guy is leaving. Say what you want about what the Jets should do or what the Jets need to do, there really isn't a viable way to remove either player from the situation. They both make too much money and mean too much to the team. Trading them with the contracts they have isn't a realistic option and cutting either would greatly hamper the team's chances of fielding a team with competitive talent next season.
The challenge falls to Rex Ryan. It's his job to get the ship righted and take control of his locker room. He needs to foster a working relationship between Holmes and Sanchez. They don't need to be friends or even remotely like each other. They need to coexist in the locker room and produce on the field together.
Back to Tomlinson, in some ways this is an indictment of him as a leader. He was supposed to be the most-respected veteran in the locker room, and if he saw the relationship between Sanchez and Holmes turning sour when he says he did, he should have stepped in and done something. Getting guys fired up in pregame warm ups is great, but being a leader means that you have to take care of business in the locker room, too. There was always talk that Tomlinson wasn't a great leader in San Diego and maybe he just outed himself.
For those that will say the Jets should have never gotten Holmes, please don't overreact. What Holmes did on the field in 2010 alone was worth the fifth round pick. The big contract they gave him may end up being a miss, but that has yet to be determined. We need to let this situation play out.
Egos can be massaged, relationships repaired. The bottom line is that Holmes makes big plays when it matters. Go back and look at the 2010 regular season and all of those last-second wins. You'll see it was Sanchez-to-Holmes late in the game that made it happen. Take Holmes off that team and you can probably add losses to the 2010 regular season against the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans. And the Jets probably never even make the playoffs.
The issues sound a lot like the Derek Jeter-Alex Rodriguez problems that were rumored to plague the New York Yankees locker room a few seasons ago. They were able to move on and have a working relationship, including winning a World Series together. The Jets have to hope that Sanchez and Holmes can do the same.
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