Pete Kendall is one of the NFL’s most reliable players. An 11-year starter with the Seahawks, Cardinals and Jets, Kendall has missed just 17 games. He’s so dependable that he has endured several numbing injections in his thumb to stay in the Jets lineup.
Kendall maintained his near-iron man status last year, helping the Jets return to the playoffs under rookie coach Eric Mangini. However, the 34-year-old guard, who is expected to earn $1.7 million this year, had the boldness to claim that the Jets had promised to release him if they declined to give him a $1 million raise this winter.
“On the heels of a meeting between my agent [Neil Schwartz] and [Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum] in early March, I came down here to meet with [Mangini] under the impression that he and I were on the same page and that the numbers were fine,” Kendall told the Newark Star-Ledger. “I don’t know what changed. There was a handshake agreement with coach that if it wasn’t going to work out, I could move along.
“There are some things that I’m not so sure were honest mistakes,” Kendall added. “As I said to Mike many months ago, I’m not interested in having this spitting contest. I don’t think it’s in my best interest and I don’t think it’s in their best interest. There certainly have been things that have gone on that I’ve been upset about. Is it intentional? I certainly can’t prove anything at this point. I just want a clean break if that’s what’s going to happen.”
Instead of making that clean break, the Jets demoted Kendall behind Adrien Clarke, a third-year man with four starts on his resume. To add to Kendall’s humiliation, they assigned him to the rookie dorms.
“We take our players’ conduct incredibly serious,” Tannenbaum said. “We’ve read Pete’s comments and when or if we feel his behavior is detrimental to the team, we’ll act accordingly. We have to do what’s best for the team.”
In other words, freedom of speech doesn’t really exist on the Jets, whom some observers believe are afraid that Kendall will sign with AFC East rival Miami if he gets his wish and is cut.
The Jets apparently prefer to make Kendall, the winner of the Good Guy award from the New York media, a virtual non-person just as the Washington Redskins did with LaVar Arrington. Once the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker was on the organization’s bad side in a contract dispute and then got hurt, he was on his way to becoming an ex-Redskins player.
“It’s an uncomfortable situation, one that I truly wanted to avoid,” Kendall said. “I would be fine [remaining with the Jets], but I can’t speak for the other parties involved. [I didn’t want] to be the center of attention for something like this.”
Kendall’s situation shows that, despite 15 years of free agency, management still has the advantage in the NFL. Kendall has to hope that the Jets come to their senses and either return him to the lineup or let him go soon. More likely, he’ll continue to sit and stew at least until the final cuts, giving him little time to learn a new team’s system if he’s still not with the Jets come September.
Yes, Kendall has a contract. But if this is how 11-year starters are treated, imagine how little power young backups have.
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