Keyshawn Johnson delivers message

Updated: July 28, 2012, 12:20 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Santonio Holmes received a mini-sermon on leadership Friday from Keyshawn Johnson, who once wrote a book entitled, "Just Give Me the Damn Ball."

Ironic? Perhaps. The two lightning-rod wide receivers, from the New York Jets' past and present, walked off the practice field together, chatting. Johnson was at Jets camp as part of his analyst duties for ESPN.

"It was a big brother-to-little brother talk," Holmes said. "He was just teaching me to be cordial to everybody and to understand what gift I have to this football team and learning how to utilize it."

Lately, it has been the gift of gab -- and not in a good way.

Holmes, in a TV interview last week, questioned the viability of two-quarterback systems, prompting a mild rebuke from coach Rex Ryan. The Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow dynamic will be tricky, and the last thing Ryan wants to hear is skepticism from one of his own players.

But all that was forgotten on the first full day of training camp. Holmes, painted as the villain in last season's meltdown, tried to be Mr. Sunshine.

He said he's cool with Ryan. He's cool with Sanchez, with whom he clashed last season. And he's cool with Tony Sparano, who replaced Brian Schottenheimer as the offensive coordinator.

Holmes laughed when asked about being chided by Ryan, who told ESPN that Holmes shouldn't act like the offensive coordinator. Holmes took it as a "joke."

"I love the guy," he said of Ryan. "He brought me here to be a leader and to be a guy that's going to play football and be aggressive for this football team. His jokes are his jokes. I don't put anything past what Coach says, because it's all fun and games with him."

Holmes said the reason why he questioned the two-quarterback system is because it didn't work well during his college days at Ohio State. Backtracking from last week's remarks, he said the Sanchez-Tebow situation can work because each has distinct roles.

[+] EnlargeKeyshawn Johnson, Santonio Holmes
Rich Barnes/US PresswireKeyshawn Johnson and Santonio Holmes got together at Jets camp.

It was a feel-good debut for Holmes, who connected with Sanchez for a couple of pretty pass plays. After a diving catch near the sideline, he jogged back to the huddle and received a high-five from Sanchez.

Only seven months ago, the Sanchez-Holmes relationship was ice. In the final game, Holmes didn't catch a single pass, erupted in the huddle, got benched and spent the last two minutes of the game sulking alone on the sideline.

Holmes said he and Sanchez are closer than ever. They spent time together in the offseason, mending their relationship. They built a "trust," according to Holmes, who admitted it was missing last season.

"I think it was all over the place amongst us all," he said. "It wasn't just between myself and Mark. It was quarterbacks and wide receivers."

Asked to elaborate, Holmes bristled.

"That was last year, man," he said. "We're moving on. Let's talk about something positive."

Holmes made similar comments last week in an interview, catching flak for saying the New York media should write positive things "if they want to be part of our team." It wasn't the first time his mouth has gotten him into trouble.

Sixteen years ago, another Jets receiver made headlines with his mouth -- Johnson, now an ESPN studio analyst. He offered advice to Holmes, encouraging him to take a leadership role and be a playmaker for the team.

"All eyes are you," said Johnson, relating what he told Holmes. "If you can do it -- and you've done it before -- you can write your ticket."

Holmes was a divisive player last season, angering teammates because he was publicly critical of the offensive line and Sanchez. Johnson believes Holmes is past that.

"He'll grow up," he said. "He'll get there. I'm not worried."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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