FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A disgusted Santonio Holmes, who missed a handful of voluntary practice sessions while out of the country on a USO-sponsored trip to a U.S. Air Force base in Germany, pulled himself out of practice Thursday because he felt he was unfairly overworked by coaches.
The New York Jets' top wide receiver staged a mini-meltdown near the end of the two-hour workout, limping off the field and tossing his helmet. He spoke with receivers coach Sanjay Lal, also drawing immediate attention from the trainer.
Afterward, Holmes insisted he wasn't injured, but he clearly was bothered that the coaches wanted to give him a full workload despite his time away.
"I was talking to the coach, letting him understand it was too many reps today," Holmes said. "I've been gone for a while, so I can't be at full tempo like the rest of the guys and where they want us to be at."
Holmes said he was slated for 35 practice reps, but left after 20 or 25. The Jets conducted their ninth and final OTA session before next week's mandatory minicamp. Holmes participated in all three workouts this week, but he missed the previous four while on his trip.
Rex Ryan said he had no problem with Holmes -- or any other veteran -- asking out of a practice if he feels vulnerable to an injury.
"If he thinks he'd be stretching it to give five or 10 extra reps, you have to be smart about it," Ryan said, adding, "If a guy thinks he's tight ... you don't want a guy pulling (a muscle). He knows his body better than anybody."
Ryan said he spoke with Holmes and Lal, who is new to Ryan's coaching staff.
The irony in this episode, of course, is that Holmes nearly was dragged out of last season's final game after an altercation in the huddle with right tackle Wayne Hunter. Holmes was frustrated by his lack of involvement -- he had no receptions -- and complained throughout the game, finally getting benched with two minutes to play.
That was the seminal moment of the Jets' well-chronicled season of turmoil, much of which involved Holmes and quarterback Mark Sanchez.
After a tumultuous couple of months, the team is trying to rebuild its chemistry. Holmes took another positive step this week by declaring he will attend Sanchez's "Jets West" passing camp in the coming weeks at the quarterback's high school in Mission Viejo, Calf. At least a dozen players, including backup quarterback Tim Tebow, are expected to attend.
Holmes said he wants to be there because, even though he's not a captain anymore, he still sees himself as a team leader.
"Being out there is going to give the young guys a sense of security, knowing we have our veteran, we have our leader here with us, who's going to help us and get us on the same page," said Holmes, alluding to the young receiving corps. "I think all of us doing the same thing at the same time will be a great chemistry builder."
Ryan has all but admitted he made a bad decision by making Holmes a captain. In fact, Ryan said he no longer will have team captains. Holmes, entering his seventh season, is the Jets' only proven veteran at receiver. But he admittedly still isn't in top shape.
"I'm at OTA No. 5," he said. "I've got a lot of catching up to do for myself."
Sanchez, who claimed he and Holmes moved past their issues from last season, said he's looking forward to Holmes participating in his annual "Jets West" event. Actually, Holmes was there in 2010, but he skipped last year because he was unsigned at the time.
"It's a chance for us to talk about football in a relaxed environment," said Sanchez, who also worked out with Holmes in March near the receiver's home in Orlando. "(We will) get around Southern California a little bit, try to see the beach, go see a movie. Whatever we decide to do, just have fun."
The Jets are trying to change the perception that formed last season, that of a bickering team with too many big egos. Ryan opened his news conference Thursday by announcing -- or gloating -- they had 99 percent attendance during the voluntary portion of the offseason.
"That shows you about this team and how much this team is looking forward to this season," Ryan said. "I don't care if people are motivated through negative things we hear or the fact that we missed the playoffs. Whatever the driving force is, we had 99 percent attendance."
Sanchez said: "The whole building has a good vibe. At practice, we're having fun again."
Holmes, called a "cancer" by some teammates last season, said there's more unity on offense because the unit is spending more time together at the facility, apart from the defense. He also said new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has brought a sense of accountability that was missing last year.
"We're doing things a little differently around here this year," Holmes said.
Just don't ask him to run an extra pass route or two.