The player who sucker-punched New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith and broke his jaw has been claimed on waivers — by a division rival led by a former Jets coach famous for trolling.
“IK Enemkpali was claimed by the #Bills. For real,” NFL.com reporter Ian Rapoport posted on Twitter.
Mike Rodak, the ESPN reporter for the Buffalo Bills, said the team later confirmed the signing.
Mr. Enemkpali has spoken to the Bills organization, though not head coach Rex Ryan specifically, to give his side of the story about the locker-room fight that promptly ended his Jets career.
“Nothing justifies hitting someone and all that stuff. … But I also believe that he’s gonna learn from this,” Mr. Ryan said, adding that Mr. Enemkpali is not guaranteed a spot on the team.
“We think this young man can compete for a job and make us a better football team,” he said. “If we didn’t think he would be successful on field, in locker room, and in community, he wouldn’t be here.”
The way Mr. Ryan spoke of the signing Wednesday was in stark contrast to his longtime brash, trash-talking persona.
“Subdued Rex Ryan not taking any jabs at Jets in his news conference. Says he isn’t concerned with what they do,” Mr. Rodak wrote.
But that wasn’t the immediate reaction of many football fans, though. In breaking the news, Mr. Rapoport added the ironic hashtag “#Rex.”
Mr. Ryan has a history of trolling division rivals, particularly the New England Patriots, when he was had coach of the Jets himself from 2009 to 2014.
For example, in an interview after becoming Jets head coach, he said “I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick’s, you know, rings,” referring to the multiple Super Bowls the Patriots had won with Mr. Belichick as coach while dominating the AFC East.
In 2009, the Jets acquired former Patriots backup quarterback Kevin O’Connell and Mr. Ryan made him the team captain — a rare honor for a 2nd-string playcaller — for an early-season game against the Patriots.
In the incident Tuesday, Mr. Enemkpali punched the Jets signal-caller, knocking Mr. Smith out for 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw, reportedly in a quarrel over a few hundred dollars in plane tickets.
The Jets immediately cut Mr. Enemkpali, who had been drafted in the sixth round by Mr. Ryan’s Jets as a defensive end.
The Enemkpali signing means he will have two chances to play the Jets — and go after Mr. Smith or whoever the Jets will have playing quarterback while their preferred starter’s jaw heals.