Tomlinson Says New York Jets’ Dysfunction Was as Bad as He’s Been Around

LaDainian Tomlinson said the drama in the New York Jets’ locker room got out of hand by the end of this season and that quarterback Mark Sanchez was pampered because his job security was never in question.

Tomlinson was asked about the Jets’ lack of chemistry during an interview with Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” program yesterday and said the team’s dysfunction was as bad as he’s seen in his 11-year National Football League career.

The Jets finished 8-8, losing their final three games to miss the NFL playoffs for the first time during Rex Ryan’s tenure as coach. The slump was capped by the benching of captain Santonio Holmes following a verbal altercation with teammates, including Tomlinson and Sanchez, during the fourth quarter of a season-ending loss in Miami.

“I’ve been around some locker rooms and quarterback- receiver situations and what not,'' Tomlinson, whose 13,684 career yards rushing rank fifth in NFL history, said in the interview. ``But it was as bad as I’ve been around. It was at the point where I think the players could no longer do anything about it. So when it gets to that point, there are certain changes that need to happen.”

Ryan said after the season that the Jets lacked the chemistry they had the previous two years, when they reached the American Football Conference championship game. Rookie quarterback Greg McElroy told a Birmingham, Alabama, radio station two days later that he had never seen so many selfish players on a team.

Last week, a story in the New York Daily News quoted anonymous Jets players who said Sanchez is lazy because he has no challenger for the starting quarterback role and that he hadn’t improved as much as expected in his third year.

Sanchez Not Lazy

Tomlinson said he disagrees with anyone who contends Sanchez doesn’t work hard enough.

“He is not a lazy guy,” Tomlinson said. “He puts in the time after practice in the film room. He can get it done. He just has to have pieces around him to help him get it done.”

When asked if Sanchez was pampered by the Jets’ coaching staff, however, Tomlinson agreed.

“I would say a bit pampered because he has no competition,” said Tomlinson, who was the team’s second-leading rusher last season. “He has no real threat to say, ‘This guy may take my job.’”

Tomlinson said he doesn’t know if Sanchez and Holmes will be able to co-exist and that the Jets’ organization fostered an atmosphere that helped cause infighting.

Tomlinson was one of the players to criticize Holmes, who signed a five-year, $50 million contract in July, after the season-ending loss to Miami. While that dispute was public, the team’s internal squabbles had started by Week 3 or 4 of the regular season, Tomlinson said.

Players Went Public

“It got out of hand toward the end of the season,” Tomlinson said. ``That is why it got out in the media. Nobody knew about it because the players kept it under wraps. Until we went on that losing streak and guys started to speak up and speak out about certain things.”

Ryan and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum said Jan. 2 that they would spend the offseason assessing what went wrong and how to improve. Brian Schottenheimer resigned as offensive coordinator and was replaced by former Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano. Tomlinson said the feud between Sanchez and Holmes still needs to be addressed.

“Can it be fixed? I think absolutely it can be,” Tomlinson said in the interview. “But they’re going to have to make some tough decisions.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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