Santonio Holmes: Benching coach's call

Updated: January 2, 2012, 10:46 AM ET
ESPNNewYork.com

New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes "quit" on the team during the final two minutes of a season-ending loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, a team source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

[+] EnlargeSantonio Holmes
AP Photo/Lynne SladkySantonio Holmes was not on the field for the closing minutes of the Jets' season-ending loss, and a team source said the captain "quit" on his team.

"There were guys in the huddle not happy with Santonio's demeanor throughout the game and in the two-minute drill," said Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson. "And they said something to him about it."

The Jets captain was yanked as his team tried to rally in the fourth quarter Sunday and avoid elimination from the playoff race. To compound the soap opera, coach Rex Ryan said he thought Holmes took himself out.

The Jets lost 19-17 to the Miami Dolphins. Following the spat with teammates, Holmes was replaced by Patrick Turner.

"It was a coach's call," Holmes said. "Patrick came in and tapped me on the shoulder and told me to come out."

The decision to bench Holmes was made by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, a team source told ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini. Turner was sent in by wide receivers coach Henry Ellard.

"I looked out there and I was wondering why he wasn't out there myself," Ryan said. "No, I didn't bench Santonio. ... Somebody told me he was on the bench."

Ryan said he didn't want to comment further until he knows the particulars.

The team source told Schefter that Jets offensive tackle Wayne Hunter got into a shouting match with Holmes after the wide receiver said something the players resented in the huddle.

"It was definitely boiling" in the huddle, Tomlinson said. "Guys had had enough of it at that point."

According to Tomlinson, players said to Holmes, "C'mon, we still have a chance."

The Holmes blowup actually had been building. On the previous series, a veteran player sensed that Holmes wasn't into the game and told him to "go home," the team source told Cimini.

The same source said, "It's been boiling over all season."

Said Holmes of the commotion in the huddle: "I can't explain what that was about. Emotions were running high on the field between two guys on the same team."

Tomlinson criticized Holmes for his "demeanor, body language -- not really into the game, feeling like it's over, feeling sorry for himself. We were still in the game."

"It's tough for guys to follow a captain who behaves in that manner," Tomlinson said. "When you are a captain, guys are looking for you to lead by example, and you have to play your tail off to the last play."

Holmes has developed a reputation in the locker room for not working hard during the week, the team source told Schefter.

Holmes, who was held without a catch for the first time in his 88-game career and was only targeted once, was asked if he thought he deserved to be removed from the game.

"I don't think I did. If it was my lack of jogging back to the huddle ... there were penalties and referees taking their time, so I shouldn't have to rush myself," he said.

But Turner said that "may have had something to do with the way he handled it."

Turner caught a 10-yard touchdown pass, but Miami then ran out the clock, ending New York's season.

The meltdown occurred in what was probably the final game of Tomlinson's Jets career, and possibly the end of his long NFL career as well.

"The worst thing that can happen (to a player) is when your teammates start to question your passion in the middle of a game," he said. "That's the worst thing. In that huddle, what you saw, guys looked in (Holmes') eyes and didn't see that fire in his eyes. Guys were turned off about that. We're all grown men. We don't have to like each other, but we must respect every man in that locker room in order to be successful. When that starts to slack a little bit, and continues to boil, that's what you get."

It's not the first time Holmes, who signed a five-year deal worth $45 million with the Jets last offseason, has been the focus of controversy this season. He twice called out the offensive line for not giving quarterback Mark Sanchez enough time to throw. At the time, right guard Brandon Moore said Holmes' comments "can have a fracturing effect" in the locker room. Moore also was disappointed Holmes made his negative opinions public since "that's not something a captain does."

The Jets failed to fulfill Ryan's pledge to win a Super Bowl title, with Sunday's loss eliminating them from the chase for an AFC wild-card berth.

The Jets (8-8) came into the game needing a win, along with losses by three other teams, to reach the playoffs. Instead, they finished the season with three consecutive defeats, a big step backward for a team that reached the AFC Championship Game each of the past two years.

When asked if the Jets gave sufficient effort, cornerback Antonio Cromartie said: "Uh, maybe on one side of the ball."

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPN's Sal Paolantonio, ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini, ESPNNewYork.com contributor Walter Villa and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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