Despite his desire for a long-term deal that will tie-up a future with the New York Jets, Muhammad Wilkerson showed up for the first day of training camp on Thursday and according to his head coach, he looked good.
Wilkerson, in the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, had missed offseason workouts in what has been taken to be as a message sent to the franchise. With other defensive ends getting long-term deals this offseason, Wilkerson is looking for the kind of big money contract that an All-Pro can haul in.
But despite the lack of a contract, Wilkerson is in at the start of training camp and said all the right things after Thursday’s session was over.
He said that there was “No consideration” at all to a training camp holdout. His perspective, he says, was to be where his teammates were given that he is now a veteran and a focal point of this team.
“Well I’m one of the leaders on this team,” Wilkerson said. “It’s the start of training camp, my job is to get out here with my teammates and be ready for the season.
“I’m focused on the season. It’s my job to go out there and be competitive with my teammates and get ready for games on Sundays. I don’t want to be worried about contract situations. That’s a distraction for myself as well as my teammates.”
There does seem to be a glimmer of hope though from Wilkerson, born and bred in New Jersey, that he will get a long-term deal done with the Jets before the season starts.
“I’m confident, Wilkerson said. “I have an agent who handles that and hopefully something happens.”
As for head coach Todd Bowles, he was glad to see one of his stars back in the fold.
Wilkerson’s lack of presence during offseason workouts was a bit of a distraction for the team but he helped alleviate the fears of a holdout by showing up at mandatory minicamp.
But don’t necessarily paint Wilkerson as a saint, there were serious considerations in place here had he attempted a holdout. If he had missed training camp, he faced a fine of $30,000 per day.
It made dollars and sense for him to report on Wednesday and be in place for the first day of camp. But with that being said, it was good for the Jets to have Wilkerson back on the practice field and avoid a contentious situation.
“Mo’s a good guy, he’s a competitor. Obviously every player wants a better contract but he came in, he’s a professional. He’s a great guy to be around, we’re happy to have him here,” Bowles said.
“He came in in great shape. We look forward to him having a great season.”