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Jets' Holmes says he was 'scapegoat' in 2011, Burress says he was 'great teammate'

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
The Jets decided not to bring Burress back in 2012. (US PRESSWIRE)

Head coach Rex Ryan may have stopped short of declaring the Jets Super Bowl-bound but he's still long on confidence and guarantees -- even if neither carries the weight of a championship decree. On Monday, Ryan called himself the best defensive coach in the NFL, an observation, at least according to Ryan, based "on facts."

Other facts: the Jets were 8-8 in 2011 based in part on a divisive locker room, one Ryan promised to fix a day after the season's ended ingloriously in Miami.

Some might have taken that to mean the end of Santonio Holmes' run in New York. After all, he was benched in the Week 17 debacle for reportedly quitting on his teammates. Instead, Holmes, who announced this offseason that he wasn't a fan of the the two-quarterback system and, before that, voiced his displeasure about too many practice reps, is still with the team.

Now, some 10 days after instructing the New York media to "write positive things" about the team, Holmes tells ESPN radio that he was the "scapegoat" in the season-ending loss to the Dolphins.

"It was playoffs on the line and your best receiver doesn't get but two passes thrown his way in 60 minutes of football," Holmes said (as transcribed by the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta). "That's just hard to understand when you want everything just as bad as everybody else does and it just doesn't happen. And nobody has the answers for it. … But the scapegoat is answer. And that's what happened."

Holmes did admit earlier in the interview that he was at the heart of the problem because of his knack for speaking frankly about the team's struggles during the season, adding that he needs to "(learn) how to hold my tongue and be more critical of myself instead of others."

It's easy to just assume that the next Holmes implosion is a matter of when and not if, but Ryan would like to reassure you that he's got everything under control.

“I take full responsibility for what happened last year and I know what's going to happen this year: This is going to be a close team,” Ryan told NFL Network (via PFT). “I don't know how many games we're going to win, but I can tell you one thing, that we will have a close football team.”

So there's there.

Whatever happens, this much is certain: Plaxico Burress won't be the scapegoat because, unlike Holmes, the Jets weren't interested in bringing him back for another season. Just like the 31 other NFL clubs. And it's a development that still puzzles Burress.

"No doubt about it," he told ESPN's Adam Schefter (by way of PFT). "With some of the things I was able to do after being away for two years, I pretty much thought it spoke for itself. But I guess obviously not."

More than that, Burress wants to make it clear that he wasn't a distraction off the field, either.

"For anybody to say I was a problem in the locker room or anything like that is totally a lie," he said. "All I did was come out, was a great teammate, tried to play the best football that I could play."

In comments made shortly after the season-ending loss in Miami, former Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson spoke in general terms about the locker room dynamic: "I think some things that happened in the locker room between [Sanchez] and the receivers, I think that's where this is coming from -- some of the disconnects that happened throughout the year, maybe some of the arguments you guys heard about throughout the year," he said. "So I think this is where it may be coming from."

And by "this," Tomlinson was referring to the unnamed sources in the Jets organization that referred to Sanchez as "lazy" and "coddled."

As we wrote at the time, It doesn't take Norman Einstein to piece together that Tomlinson seemed to indicate that Holmes and Burress might be behind the not-so-nice -- and anonymous -- comments about the Jets quarterback.

The difference, in our opinion, is that the Jets know that Holmes is a playmaker when he's focused while Burress, who was never known for his good hands, now also struggles to get separation. But the former Steelers and Giants wideout isn't giving up.

"Some things you don't have an answer to, but to me it's just a matter of keep working hard, keep training, and keep building myself up to get back to the player I know I can be," Burress said.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.

 
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