Here at GGN we wrote many articles about needing to pay Muhammad Wilkerson, the team-first clean-cut professional athlete that deserved to get paid. We were confused as to why it was taking the Jets so long to lock up the NJ native, now we may have part of the answer.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Jets met with Wilkerson before he signed his new 5 year $86 million deal to talk about his past behaviour. For me, this highlights two things that worry me:
1) Our view of Wilkerson has been inaccurate. We considered him a leader on this team, the consummate professional who always put the team first. On the contrary, it seems as though Wilkerson's lateness to meetings and no-show antics have been going on for years. If that's the case, he went largely unpunished, which shows an incredible lack of accountability.
2) Even after the Jets and Todd Bowles spoke to him about the need for him to become a leader and clean up his behaviour around the facility, he didn't listen. Not attending a walk-through and being late for countless team meetings shows an immaturity and a downright lack of respect for his teammates, coaches, owner and fans. It shows that he hasn't learned from past mistakes.
As Rapoport pointed out, the move to discipline Wilkerson stems from Bowles trying to change an environment that included players going to bars and strip clubs before games and after bed checks prior to the coach's arrival in Florham Park, according to a source informed of the situation.
Now there were salary cap restrictions, new coaches and GM's along the way. However if I had a player who didn't show up for meetings and was constantly late (while on a rookie deal), I'm not sure I'd be that comfortable in extending him and paying him a ton of guaranteed money. I'm not saying his behaviour led to the delay in us offering him a long-term deal, but it surely was one consideration during the process.
The only thing Wilkerson can do now to earn back the trust of the team and the fans, is to play well on Sunday's and turn up for team meetings. Hell he should be doing extra work and setting a good example for some of the young players on this team. I'm not only talking about Leonard WIlliams, but I'm talking Calvin Pryor and Darron Lee and Lorenzo Mauldin. How are you supposed to set a winning culture, if one of your well paid stars is blowing off meetings?
It's time for Wilkerson to grow up and become the leader we all thought he was. His team-first, selfless facade has crumbled and only he can reconstruct his image.