Santonio Holmes: I was 'scapegoat'

Updated: July 31, 2012, 2:29 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Seven months later, Santonio Holmes is still upset he got benched in the season finale, claiming Monday he was the "scapegoat" for the New York Jets' disappointing season.

"It was the end, it was playoffs on the line, and your best receiver doesn't get but two passes thrown his way in 60 minutes of football," Holmes said in an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM.

"That's just hard to understand and to cope with when you want everything just as bad as everybody else does, and it just doesn't even happen. And nobody has the answers for it, but 'the scapegoat' is the answer, and that's what happened."

This was the latest in a string of recent controversial remarks by the lighting-rod receiver. A week before training camp, Holmes questioned the viability of two-quarterback systems -- the Jets plan to use two quarterbacks -- prompting a mild rebuke from Jets coach Rex Ryan.

In a separate interview, Holmes scolded the New York media for not being positive enough.

This time, Holmes dredged up the bitter finish in Miami, where he was held without a catch, fought with teammates in the huddle and was benched for the final two minutes of the game. The Jets are trying to move on from that debacle, so Holmes' comments may not sit well in the organization.

It came two days after a "big brother-little brother" talk between Holmes and former Jets receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who visited Jets camp for ESPN and sought out Holmes to offer advice on how to deal with the media.

At least Holmes took some responsibility for last season's turmoil, saying he needs to do a better job of measuring his words with the media. He was publicly critical of quarterback Mark Sanchez and the offensive line, fueling the divisiveness in the locker room.

Holmes said he needs to learn "how to hold my tongue and be more critical of myself instead of others." He also seemed to be longing for his days with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who traded him after the 2009 season.

"What we had in Pittsburgh was a net family, guys who stuck together, who believed in one other," he said. "No matter what was said in the media, it never affected nobody in our locker room, no matter who said what.

"But coming here ... now understanding how the New York media works ... and the players in the locker room not believing or understanding that it can only drive these guys to be successful or it can break you. And we were caught in the crossfire."

No doubt, Ryan's patience is being tested by the $9 million-a-year receiver, whose mouth keeps getting him in trouble.

"As much as everybody dislikes him, I'm glad he's on our team," Ryan said the other day.

"Is he perfect? No," Ryan said. "None of us, there's not one person in our locker room that's perfect. Let things go behind us. Let's judge him for how he is right now. We had a poor year there's no doubt, Tone, myself Mark (Sanchez) all of us. We want to have a better year this year and we're determined to do so."

General manager Mike Tannenbaum, who addressed reporters Tuesday on a variety of topics, said he doesn't think Holmes' comments will have a negative impact.

"From where I sit in the world, seeing him every day in the offseason program and interacting with his teammates, he's really done a nice job for us. I think he's gotten off to a good start in camp. I think he'll play very well this year."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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