Muhammad Wilkerson wasn't providing many details to the recent reports of his tardiness to a team meeting and his missing a walkthrough before the Ravens game. But in his first locker news conference since sitting out the first quarter at Miami on Sunday, Wilkerson had one theme for reporters and fans:
"I don't want to be a distraction."
"I've been late to meetings, I did miss the walkthrough," Wilkerson said at the top. "Those actions are unacceptable and I feel that as a leader on this team, I definitely need to do better. I respect the coaches and everybody in this building. ... Moving forward, it won't be an issue. I know as a leader on this team that I have to show better and do better. And that's something I will do."
Asked why he was late, Wilkerson replied that he spoke with head coach Todd Bowles, who sat down both Wilkerson and Richardson for the opening quarter of the 27-23 loss to the Dolphins.
"What we spoke about was between me and him," Mo said. "I learned from this and I won't be a distraction. I feel this is a distraction toward the team and it won't be a distraction any more."
Bowles also gave little information on the benchings on a Monday conference call, saying, "Any decisions I make outside of injuries and football, we usually handle in-house." But today the coach detailed Wilkerson's leadership qualities.
"His work ethic on the field as far as getting guys going," Bowles said. "He's one of the guys on the field that people rally around and he can make big plays and make things happen."
But he said he's satisfied with Wilkerson's and Richardson's commitment level because "they put in work. They put in a lot of work."
"Distraction" would hardly be a word associated with Wilkerson, the Jets' first-round pick in 2011 who in his sixth season has compiled 39 sacks, forced 10 fumbles, plucked an interception, scored a safety and a touchdown, earned a team MVP award in 2014 and a Pro Bowl invitation last year. His career led him, his agents and the Jets to strike a long-term contract deal before the start of this training camp.
And Wilkerson said the D-word was something he didn't want to be known as.
"This is a distraction, clearly, and I don't want to be a distraction. That's not me, that's not my character, that's not me as a teammate," he said. "So I'm putting it out there, moving forward, it won't be an issue for me. And right now I'm just preparing and getting ready for the Rams."