Commentary

Holmes glad for second chance

Updated: April 13, 2010, 12:47 AM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

With the trade for Santonio Holmes, the Jets have taken a gamble. Can Rex Ryan keep a player with numerous off-the-field issues in his past and turn him into a team player?

"We understand that there's significant risk, but at the end of the day we felt that the price was reasonable and the risk was reasonable," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said.

Holmes, 26, is loaded with potential and won the Super Bowl MVP when the Steelers claimed the championship two seasons ago. Since then, the wide receiver has had run-ins with authorities, and Holmes' problems aren't all in the past.

As for getting Holmes in line, the Jets couldn't even get him on a Monday conference call until nearly an hour after its scheduled start. When he did arrive, Holmes said that he was shocked by the trade and found out at 9 p.m. Sunday while walking his dog, but that he was looking forward to playing with the Jets.

"I don't think I need to dig myself out of any hole," Holmes said. "These guys are opening their arms to me right now, and all I have to do is walk into them. Show these guys that I trust them to put their arms around me and follow their lead."

But there is reason to be wary of Holmes, given recent actions and words. Holmes tweeted "time to wake n bake" to a follower on March 31, and he will serve a four-game suspension at the start of the season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Although the substance in question wasn't named by the league, he was deactivated by the Steelers in 2008 for a marijuana charge.

Asked whether he would continue to use marijuana or illegal substances, Holmes responded generally.

"Given a second opportunity, I understand where my position lies," Holmes said. "To go back down the same road and make the same mistakes won't be accepted around here."

Numerous times, Holmes said he would be accountable for what he does now and in the past, and he admitted he had made mistakes. If a player is having a hard time staying out of the police blotter in a city like Pittsburgh, imagine what he can accomplish in New York.

But Tannenbaum pointed to the fact that Holmes is a "dynamic playmaker" and said that the lure of being able to harness his speed and pass-catching ability made him a worthwhile risk.

Tannenbaum said that the Jets became aware of the possibility of getting Holmes on Saturday night, and that he, Ryan and Jets owner Woody Johnson had some very "robust" debates about whether to go for Holmes.

In the end, Tannenbaum said that Ryan was impressed by what Holmes did to the Baltimore defense and said that Ryan is able to coach players from a variety of backgrounds.

"He has a very unique ability to connect to a lot of different types of people," Tannenbaum said.

There is no question that this changes the dynamic of the locker room. A steady leader such as Thomas Jones signed with Kansas City, and vocal Jay Feely will kick for the Cardinals. Replacing those personalities will be difficult, but Tannenbaum said other players will fill the void.

"Each year, every team's identity takes its own," Tannenbaum said. "I think each team forms its own personality."

Despite the suspension, Holmes will be able to practice with the team during training camp. He said it would be "totally awkward" starting out with a new team, but he was looking forward to a new beginning while he's still young enough to take advantage of it.

"I definitely have a lot of work from the start to get to learn this system," Holmes said. "I definitely want to come in and be one of the leaders on the field and off the field. My words won't be spoken very much around here, but my actions show my gratitude for this team."

Jane McManus is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow her on Twitter.

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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