Thursday, May 10, 2012
Updated: May 11, 8:49 AM ET
Hunter, Santonio Holmes make peace
By Jane McManus
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Right tackle Wayne Hunter said when he and wide receiver Santonio Holmes ran into each other on the first day of the New York Jets' offseason conditioning program, they forged a peace.
"I told him, you know what? Clean slate," Hunter said.
Holmes and Hunter blew up at each other in the huddle during the last game of last season. That loss in Miami meant missing the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, and there were questions about whether the combustible Holmes or struggling Hunter would be back on the roster. During the offseason, both got an answer from the Jets in the form of guaranteed money.
When he wasn't cut at the start of free agency, Hunter's contract became guaranteed this season for $2.45 million. A clause in Holmes' contract kicked in as well over the offseason, to the tune of $15.25 million.
The rift between the two offensive players last season exposed a dysfunctional locker room and a team that questioned the ability of quarterback Mark Sanchez. Hunter said that Holmes has turned it around this year, from what he's seen.
"He's been great," Hunter said. "Santonio has been great. He's been doing extra stuff that people wouldn't believe, he's been doing extra with Mark. He's been doing stuff that he hasn't done in the past. He's been a team player. And it's been a good change."
Recently, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano sat down with Hunter and told him that he is the team's starting right tackle.
"Whatever happens on opening day so be it, but as of right now I am the starting right tackle," Hunter said.
Hunter came under heavy criticism last season, his first as a starter after Damien Woody retired. There were games where he clearly struggled, and he admitted that and said he was committed to fixing the issues. The criticism, he said, was warranted.
"I took the criticism that New York gave me and it's as simple as that," Hunter said. "If you can't handle it, don't play in New York is what I say. When it comes to media and the fans they have certain expectations that you have to live up to, and I don't feel like I lived up to it.
"I had good games, I had great games -- but I also had some bad games. Being the new piece of the puzzle with the offensive line, I didn't pick up where Woody left off, and my focus this year is to get better and I am going to get better. I'm the starting right tackle and that hasn't changed. whether people like it or not."
Matt Slauson, the team's starter at left guard, said Hunter is a team asset in a lot of ways, and supports Hunter in the spot.
"We all know in this room what Wayne can do," Slauson said. "Obviously we all want Wayne there. In our mind he's the guy -- if another guy comes in and takes the spot from him, good for them, but Wayne works his butt off every day. He is a great teammate to have on our line."