Wilkerson’s status with Jets still uncertain after benching

FILE - In this Nov. 26, 2017, file photo, New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson reacts while sitting on the bench during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, in East Rutherford, N.J. Wilkerson has been benched for the team's game at New Orleans on Sunday. Coach Todd Bowles said Friday, Dec. 15, 2017,  that Wilkerson will not travel with the team, saying repeatedly that it was a coach's decision and he's only worried about the players who will go up against the Saints. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

NEW YORK (AP) Muhammad Wilkerson might have played his final snap for the New York Jets.

The star defensive end’s status with the team remained uncertain Monday after he was benched for the Jets’ game at New Orleans on Sunday .

Coach Todd Bowles acknowledged that Wilkerson was at the Jets’ facility in Florham Park, New Jersey, but would not say whether the 2011 first-round draft pick would practice or play this week.

”He’s in the building today,” Bowles said during a conference call. ”We’re still working through things.”

Bowles added that it’s ”an internal thing” that is still being discussed by several people, which likely includes the team’s front office.

”We haven’t worked through everything yet,” Bowles said, ”but we’ll work through them and you guys will know when we make a decision.”

According to several published reports, Wilkerson was benched for being late to a team meeting on Friday. Bowles has refused to elaborate on the details of his decision to not have him travel to New Orleans.

Wilkerson has a history of tardiness and has faced previous discipline, including fines and benchings in games for one quarter.

”There will be a lot of people involved in this,” Bowles said.

The 28-year-old Wilkerson is the Jets’ highest-paid player and is in the middle of a five-year deal worth $86 million, which he signed in July 2016. His $16.75 million salary for next season would become fully guaranteed if he remains on New York’s roster by the third day of the league’s new year in March. So, it’s a near-certainty that the Jets will cut ties with Wilkerson at some point in the offseason, at the latest.

That money is also fully guaranteed against a serious injury – meaning, something that could sideline him all of next season.

So, that is very likely also a consideration being made by the Jets as they decide whether Wilkerson should play in the final two games of this season.

Bowles declined comment when asked how frustrating it is to him that things have reached this point with someone who had been one of the team’s top players.

”I’m kind of through talking about Mo,” the coach said. ”If you guys got anything else, I’ll answer, but I’ve said all I have to say about that situation.”

Wilkerson has 59 overall tackles and ranks second on the team with 3+ sacks. He has battled injuries the past few seasons, and has not been the explosive playmaker he was earlier in his career when he made the Pro Bowl after the 2015 season. Wilkerson has just eight sacks in his past 28 games.

Xavier Cooper saw increased action in Wilkerson’s absence Sunday against the Saints, playing 39 defensive snaps (57 percent). He also created a turnover when he pressured and hit Drew Brees, whose pass was intercepted by Leonard Williams in the second quarter and led to a field goal.

NOTES: Bowles said Williams is ”doing fine so far” after suffering a concussion Sunday, but the defensive end is in the league’s protocol for head injuries. … Bowles on Bryce Petty’s first start of the season: ”He was a little anxious on some throws, but he was confident. He just has to get his footwork down a little bit, but I thought he played with confidence.” … Bowles said the Jets are not considering playing second-year QB Christian Hackenberg right now. ”Petty only played one game,” Bowles said. ”We need him to get some reps. He was the backup, so he needs some experience.” … With the Jets eliminated from playoff contention Sunday, LT Kelvin Beachum was asked what there is for the team to play for. ”Pride,” he said. ”At this point in the season, you’re playing for the love of the game and for pride.”

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