Jets coach Todd Bowles took his sweet time separating wide receiver Brandon Marshall and cornerback Darrelle Revis on Friday as the war of words between the two proud stars escalated into actual fisticuffs.
That was no accident.
A coaching disciple of Bill Parcells, Bowles is Parcells-like in his belief that a little creative tension — especially in training camp — is something to embrace rather than avoid at all costs.
As Bowles said after the fireworks heard ’round the NFL Friday: “We’re not judging a beauty pageant around here.”
Bowles need only recall the ugly incident in his own locker room the year before to know that camp drama can end up bringing a team closer together than tearing it apart.
The Jets appeared to be in shambles when since-departed defensive lineman IK Enemkpali sucker-punched Geno Smith, breaking the quarterback’s jaw and forcing Bowles — then in his first camp as an NFL head coach — to turn to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
That proved to be a turning point for the Jets, but not in the disastrous way so many expected. Enemkpali was cut, but the locker room that remained came together instead of falling apart as the Jets finished 10-6 and nearly made the playoffs.
No wonder Bowles appeared to be so nonplussed when speaking to reporters Friday after Marshall and Revis exchanged in a running verbal feud and even exchanged punches during the padded practice.
“It’s about that time of camp,” Bowles said. “Things get a little lively. We don’t condone swinging, [but] it’s about that time of camp when it gets a little chippy.”
Although the Marshall-Revis showdown obviously merited all of the attention, they were hardly the only Jets to go at it Friday. Several near-fights had to be broken up, and emotions got so heated that Bowles at one point stopped practice to lecture his players about losing their cool.
“It was more than them two [Marshall and Revis],” Bowles said. “There was a lot of chippiness going on out there. We like the motivation and the spirit of practice, but we’re not going to punch anybody. You can talk as much as you want. Other than [punching], it was fine.”
While Revis declined to speak with reporters after Friday’s practice, Marshall also downplayed the incident and the chances of any hard feelings lingering.
“We’re both pros and we’re both competitors who come from the same neighborhood and are cut from the same cloth,” Marshall said Friday. “We understand that what happens on the field stays on the field. Revis and I are actually really close. Today, we crossed that line. But that’s part of camp. That’s part of just competing.
“Obviously, Darrelle is the best to ever do it — not just in his generation, but ever,” Marshall said. “So every time I get a chance to go against him, it’s going to make my game better. It’s hard to catch a ball on Darrelle, and if I can catch a ball on Darrelle, I can catch a ball on anybody.”
Although punches were frowned upon, Bowles appeared to most like the fact that the fracas involved two of his most talented and veteran players bringing the heat in an otherwise humdrum, early August practice.
According to Bowles, that’s a great example for younger players who might think they could coast through a low-stakes workout.
“That’s what I love about practicing against Darrelle,” Marshall said. “He’s not just a guy that’s going to come out there and go through the motions. What you see on Sundays is what you’re going to get in practice. He takes it personally if you catch a ball on him. That’s what makes him great.”
Seeing that is what Bowles hopes will make the Jets as a whole great.
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