Jets' benched Wilkerson doesn't want to be 'distraction'
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Muhammad Wilkerson wants to act more like the team leader that he and Jets coach Todd Bowles believe he is.
The defensive end owned up to the mistakes he has made that led to his benching, along with Sheldon Richardson, for one quarter last Sunday. And, Wilkerson insists he'll be better.
''This is a distraction, clearly,'' Wilkerson said Wednesday. ''I don't want to be a distraction. That's not me. It's not my character. That's not me as a teammate. Moving forward, it won't be an issue for me.''
Both Wilkerson and Richardson sat on the sideline for the first quarter of the Jets' 27-23 loss at Miami . After the game, Bowles said it was simply ''a coach's decision,'' and refused to go into details. Neither player spoke to reporters in the locker room after the game.
Reports emerged Monday that Wilkerson had either missed or been late to more than one team meeting, and was absent for a walkthrough the day before the Jets' game against Baltimore on Oct. 23. Wilkerson didn't play in that game because of a sore foot. He was also late for a meeting before the Jets' preseason game against the Giants and was benched for a quarter and fined.
''I have been late to meetings,'' Wilkerson said. ''I did miss the walkthrough prior to the Ravens game. Those actions are unacceptable. I definitely feel that, as a leader on this team, I definitely need to do better. I respect the coaches and everybody in this building. I take responsibility for my actions.
''Moving forward, it won't be an issue. As a leader on this team, I have to show better and do better. That's something I will do.''
Wilkerson declined to divulge what he and Bowles spoke about when they met to discuss the situation. Despite the missteps by Wilkerson, Bowles still thinks the defensive end exhibits 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. He can rally guys up in the locker room and out on the field and get going. That's how I view him from a leadership standpoint.''
Wilkerson has struggled to match his production from last season, when he had a career-best 12 sacks. He spent the offseason recovering from a broken leg suffered in the season finale, but received a five-year, $86 million contract extension. He has 2 1/2 sacks this season, but insisted his lack of production isn't a result of his tardiness issues.
''That has nothing to do with my play,'' Wilkerson said. ''Whenever I'm out there, I'm going to do the best that I can.''
Richardson admitted to oversleeping by 20 minutes and missing the team meeting last Friday, which led to his benching.
''I'm not a regular at missing meetings,'' Richardson said. ''Coach Bowles is a disciplinarian. That was my sentencing right there.''
Richardson said it was the only non-excused absence he had for a team meeting this season.
''It has been blown way out of proportion,'' he said. ''I know me missing the first quarter is not blown out of proportion, but it was one meeting. It's all it is.''
The benching of two star players has contributed to an increasing opinion that the Jets are dysfunctional , which is a direct reflection on Bowles as the coach. Wilkerson insists Bowles has not lost control of his locker room, not even close.
''I don't think coaches lose control,'' Wilkerson said. ''It's not coach who was late. I was late and I'm taking responsibility.''
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