WR #10 Santonio Holmes - Stretch
Santonio Holmes acknowledged on a just-concluded conference call with reporters that he comes to the Jets with some off-field baggage, but he definitely gave every indication he's ready to unpack, make himself at home and assist his new team on its stated goal for 2010 and beyond.
That especially came through when Holmes, until late Sunday night a four-year Pittsburgh star, was asked about speaking with Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who said the Steelers wideout cost him a Super Bowl ring with the way he played against the coach's then-employer, the Ravens, in 2008.
"We actually joked on the phone about that last night when he gave me a call," Holmes said. "My conversation went pretty smooth. He's understanding of where I'm coming from. He's not critical of the mistakes I've made. And he's willing to accept how hard I work on the field, what I'm capable of doing, and he's willing to give me an opportunity to help his team win the championship."
No question Holmes has that talent. He carried his Super Bowl MVP performance of early 2009 into last season, when he posted career highs of 79 receptions and 1,248 yards in the first 16-start season of his four seasons in Pittsburgh.
With his record of getting better each year under his belt, Holmes probably saw a future in which he wore only black and gold, which would explain his reaction to being told late Sunday by the Steelers that he'd just been traded to the Jets.
"I got the call about 9-ish last night," he said. "I was out walking my puppy. I got a phonecall from my GM saying I would be traded to the Jets. I was very shocked at first. But I definitely knew it opened up a lot more doors and a better opportunity for me to start over."
The reasons he has to start over don't deal with his on-field production. There was an incident that allegedly involved throwing a drink at a woman in a Florida nightclub. (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently reported that another man has stepped forward to claim he, not Holmes, threw the drink to help defend Holmes.)
And this afternoon the NFL announced that Holmes would be suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season for violating the league's Substance Abuse Policy. Most trade partners didn't want to get involved in trading for a talented player who was going to miss the first quarter of the season right off the bat, but Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum said the Jets knew the risk and the price of such a trade and felt both were "reasonable."
Holmes was asked about his indiscretions. Sometimes he seemed to stonewall the questions, but other times he seemed remorseful and ready to make amends, such as when he was asked about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's positive reaction in presenting him with the Pete Rozelle Trophy as the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII.
"He definitely was excited when we talked and I kind of felt his trust in me," Holmes said. "And I felt like I let him down at some point.
Homes added that "We're young, we make mistakes, we learn from them," and he's definitely still young, having just turned 26 last month. But he also seemed to know what would happen if he got involved with illegal substances in his "new career."
"I've been given a second opportunity. I've understood where my position lies. Go back down the same road, make the same mistakes — that won't be accepted around here."
All that being said, Holmes also presented his professional side, the side that will impact most directly on the field with his new quarterback, Mark Sanchez, and his new teammates.
"I want to be able to help Mark grow and be able to trust me and know he has a guy on the field capable of making any play. ... I'll spend time with the players and show them the work ethic I have. I'm always on time for meetings, front and center establish a great relationship with the players on and off the field so those players can understand who I am and where I came from."
"I can't predict the future," he said. "I didn't know what was going to happen to me up to this point, even in winning the Super Bowl MVP. But everything that's happened has happened for a reason. Getting traded at age 26, that's not a bad thing. That's happened to a lot of guys before me. ... It's an opportunity for a fresh start, an opportunity to sit back, understand all the mistakes you've made and move forward."