There isn't anyone on the New York Jets roster as close to embattled defensive end Sheldon Richardson as safety Rontez Miles. And in the eyes of Miles, who has spent much of the past two years on the practice squad, Richardson will bounce back from his recent legal woes.
It is a friendship based on trust, on their shared mutual backgrounds. Neither took the easy way to the NFL and neither had an easy upbringing. Their is a bond between the two, a camaraderie that goes beyond the huddle, beyond the film room.
Last year, Miles and Richardson shared a house together in one of the commuter towns in Essex County, about 20 minutes from the team's practice facility. They've become friends and they're close, to the point where Miles says they openly and honestly talk with each other about things going on in their lives. Last week, Richardson said he didn't tell anyone on the team about his arrest on July 14th in an incident that includes excessive speeding, a police chase, running a red light in a vehicle where a firearm and marijuana was found as well as 12-year old passenger.
Miles doesn't care much for the details. He sees a friend who is going through a whole lot right now.
Now in Jets training camp Miles and Richardson are roommates in the team's hotel. Over the past few days as Richardson has gone through this very public shaming, Miles has been there for his teammate.
For his friend.
“That's still my roommate. It's life, it can happen to anybody. I know the guy more than anybody. He's a great guy, we're going to pick him up as a unit, a defense, a team. Coach said it isn't about Sheldon the player, it's about Sheldon the man,” Miles told Metro.
“We're roommates, we talk. We talk, we get it off – we vent. It's good to vent, get it out so it doesn't weigh down on you mentally. We're used to talking to each other.
“Even in the house we're across the hall. We're going to talk it out, what you need to say to me, you can say to me. It always makes you feel better.”
Now more than ever, Richardson needs someone like Miles in his life just solely to be there.
An undrafted rookie free agent, Miles is in his third year with the Jets as he came to the team in the same rookie class as Richardson. He's a hard hitter, a guy from a tiny Division II college who is a hard-hitter and a hard-worker. In the locker room, Miles is always talking, always joking. Richardson is the same way.
Easy to see why the two are fast friends.
Already Miles is thinking about life after football. He may go into real estate and investing, something he wants to do with his girlfriend. There is a purpose and a plan to his life as he thinks long-term. Some of that would be useful for Richardson.
It is something the Jets want to see in Richardson as they realize that the man, not the Pro Bowl defensive end, must be the focus on their efforts right now. It is something that general manager Mike Maccagnan said on Saturday when he spoke to the media and it is something that head coach Todd Bowles said the day before, underscoring that his priority lies with him being “more worried about the man than I am the player.”
And that's where the Jets safety can come in.
While they joke and tease – Miles and Richardson might be two of the biggest clowns in the Jets locker room when it comes to pranks and one-liners – the waters run deep here. To think that Miles and Richardson is just some perfunctory relationship founded on the football field is to not understand the depth of their understanding.
There is truly a serious side to their relationship, to their friendship, one that goes beyond the turf and to the heart of the matter. They are confidantes, able to share their innermost thoughts with each other. That includes the past few days where Richardson has been the focal point of all the wrong type of media attention.
“He's good, he's been changing. I know him in and out. The media can make it seem a different million ways how it really is,” Miles said. “I know the man personally. He's had my back the whole way. He's a great guy, he'll bounce back.”