FLORHAM PARK, NJ -- Todd Bowles took a sledgehammer to it. Eric Decker sprayed a hose full-throttle on it. Brandon Marshall squirted a water gun.
How about that? The biggest, boldest, loudest Jet, Marshall, decided to just let it settle, let it squirm, this notion that he and Decker skipped Jets workouts here last week as mutiny for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's protracted contract riff.
"No," Bowles, the Jets head coach, said of the alleged Decker/Marshall protest when asked about it after Wednesday's practice. "I talked to them both last week and they told me they wouldn't be here for valid reasons."
Decker, a Jets receiver, said he vacationed with his family.
"No," Decker said when asked for a yes/no answer on if his absence last week was a protest. "I love Fitz and I hope he is back. But it's out of my reach and we've got to see how it plays out. It's not my job. My job is to be the best wide receiver I can be."
The Marshall plan was to stick and move.
"You guys know how I feel about Ryan," said Marshall, who enters his 11th NFL season as a receiver. "But there is a thin line between supporting your teammate and also being detrimental to your team."
When asked for a simple yes/no, Marshall said he had already answered the question.
"Who knows what those guys were thinking?" one of their teammates said, requesting anonymity. "It was a voluntary workout, so it probably should be left at that. A lot of us want a lot of different things on this team, but the bottom line is players play and coaches coach and management manages. The less we hear from either one of those two (Decker and Marshall), the better."
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Decker wants Fitzpatrick back and Marshall wants Fitzpatrick back. Marshall said they built something special together last season. He wants to build on that in 2016.
If you talk about each receiver's individual stats, well, yes, they built something special.
If you talk about another Jets season with no division title and no playoffs, well, no, it was not special at all.
This is where Decker and Marshall can come off as selfish, no matter how much they may espouse team goals. That fine line he talks about is also one to be walked when it comes to measuring the true winning value of Fitzpatrick.
No question, if Fitzpatrick is signed and returns, both receivers' numbers should soar. But will the Jets victory total do the same? Fitzpatrick is 43-61-1 in his career as a starting quarterback. There are reasons he has played for six NFL teams over 11 NFL seasons.
The reasons include the season-finale flop at Buffalo last season with the playoffs on the line. The reasons include the fact that he is limited. That he is not a championship-level quarterback. So, why piddle around with him?
That's what the Jets say in action even though they have never said it in words. They have offered him a contract that is not top-tier for NFL quarterbacks, so they clearly do not believe Fitzpatrick is top-tier. No other team does either. Thus, he remains a free agent. One not wooed.
Many people see this, the potential self-serving nature of Decker and Marshall mixed with the Jets' franchise-based theories and plans. Maybe Decker and Marshall truly believe the two philosophies are one. Based on the eye rolls and head scratching I got from Jets players across the locker room when I brought up both names, I truly question how many of their peers in that locker room believe that.
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Neither receiver seems loyal to Geno Smith or any of the other Jets quarterbacks during their pleas for Fitzpatrick.
Marshall did say that he thought Smith looked more comfortable in practices now and overall with the offense. Decker did say that his relationship with Smith is strong enough that he doesn't have to explain that a strong vote for Fitzpatrick does not mean a dig at Smith.
It is a simple equation for the Jets: Fitzpatrick eventually signs or he does not. If he does, he still has to show he is ready to rise. If he does not sign, the Jets get final answers about Smith, who was their starting quarterback a year ago before a punch and broken jaw gave rise to Fitzpatrick.
What is wrong with the Jets moving on, getting a handle on Smith, moving Bryce Petty along, throwing rookie Christian Hackenberg into the fire? It's a next-man-up game, as Marshall and Decker must know, as each will experience brutally first-hand one day.
In this league, time is better spent engaging the hand you're dealt. That's what Bowles said.
"I'm going to coach the guys who are here," Bowles emphasized.
He also said he's learned that in New York culture, if it's not one thing, it's another. Always something to talk about. Something to hammer. Something to hose.
Surely he has learned some of that is simply Jets culture. They create it, so they might as well own it. Even if squirt by squirt.