Jordan Mailata has revealed his true feelings after a rival’s “dirty” play while fellow Australian Daniel Faalele is making big improvements ahead of his rookie season.
Plus — the latest on Jets quarterback Zach Wilson’s injury and the Deshaun Watson saga.
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MAILATA FUMES OVER ‘DIRTY’ HIT, CALLS OUT ‘FAKE NEWS’
Australian Jordan Mailata was left “seeing red” after New York Jets linebacker Quincy Williams flattened Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts with a late cheap shot.
Mailata was quick to confront Williams over the hit, although the Australian has admitted in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirerthat he wanted to do far more.
“To be honest, I wanted to charge him with my helmet and headbutt him,” Mailata told The Inquirer.
Instead, he resisted but still made it clear to Williams that he was not a fan of the move, which Jets coach Robert Saleh described as “egregiously awful”.
“That [stuff] is really dirty,” Mailata added.
“I don’t give a damn if it’s preseason. I don’t like that stuff. I’m going to protect my QB. That’s the standard here.”
Speaking to reporters after the preseason game, which the Jets won 24-21, Hurts said the fact his teammates were so quick to defend him spoke volumes to Philadelphia’s culture.
“I think that’s us having each other’s backs,” he said.
“That’s Philly. That’s Coach Sirianni. That’s Jordan Mailata. That’s Kelce. That’s some of the defensive guys… just everybody.”
Meanwhile, Mailata claimed the NFL’s guardian cap is “fake news” after the Australian recently suffered a concussion at practice.
The cap was made mandatory this year by the NFL for certain positions during training camp but Mailata does not believe they are doing much to protect players.
“The hat’s fake news,” he said.
“It doesn’t stop anything. I’m sorry NFL. I really do mean that, though. It didn’t stop anything.”
AUSSIE FAALELE HAS COME ‘LEAPS AND BOUNDS’ AFTER SACRIFICE
Elsewhere, fellow Australian Daniel Faalele has been praised for extra hours spent working out to prepare himself for the humid weather in Baltimore.
Faalele, who was drafted by the Ravens, struggled to cope with the heat early in some practices at mandatory minicamp.
The 22-year-old could have taken time off or went home after the minicamp wrapped up but instead he worked at the Under Armour Performance Center with Baltimore’s Strength and Conditioning Coach Steve Saunders.
Faalele was able to get through plenty of reps in Baltimore’s preseason game with the Tennessee Titans as a result, impressing as he pushes for a starting gig in the regular season.
“He’s coming along by leaps and bounds,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said.
“Really happy with him. It’s the same thing though. He’s a rookie. He has a lot to learn. It’s a day-to-do process, it’s moment-to-moment, really. I really think he took a step by staying here after our offseason program and working with our strength and conditioning staff.
“[He] really showed some maturity there. I really think that allowed him to come into training camp in much better shape, and ready to compete.”
While Faalele’s big frame can work in his favour, it may also be to his detriment in limiting his movement and agility, although Roman said the opposite was true.
“I have to be honest with you, with Daniel [Faalele], he’s not stiff at all,” Roman said.
“He’s very flexible; he bends well. He can play with a flat back for a guy his size, which is fairly remarkable. So, I don’t think he’s very much limited due to size, in terms of leverage and certain things. He has excellent feet.
“He just has to continue to work and learn how to play this game at this level. But, no. It’s an interesting question, but you don’t see guys that size that don’t have some kind of limitation, usually.”
Faalele said he was “surprised” how humid it was in Baltimore, adding that even just playing in his first preseason game was “a huge achievement” for him.
“I just wanted to make that commitment to myself and to my teammates that I’m all in, and I want to be at my best when training camp comes around,” Faalele said.
“Just playing in my first NFL game was a huge accomplishment for me, and I just felt so grateful to put on that purple and black and represent the Ravens.
“It was definitely a big confidence boost.”
WILSON INJURY IS ‘TERRIBLE’ TIMING: JETS COACH SALEH
For all the attention paid to how many games injured Jets quarterback Zach Wilson will or won’t miss, Robert Saleh can’t help but think about all the lost practice reps.
Whether Wilson’s recovery from a bone bruise and meniscus tear in his right knee falls in the optimistic 2-4 week timetable and he is back to play Week 1 or whether he is sidelined into the regular season, he won’t return as fully developed as he otherwise would’ve been with a full training camp entering his second season.
“The timing of it all is terrible and it sucks,” Saleh said after coaching Sunday’s practice, “but I think Zach can still have an opportunity to grow from it if he attacks it mentally.”
Wilson flew Sunday to Los Angeles, where he will undergo surgery Tuesday by renowned orthopedist Dr. Neal ElAttrache. The hope is that Wilson only needs a meniscus trim and not a recovery-prolonging full repair after he crumbled to the ground making a cut at the end of a rush in Friday’s preseason game against the Eagles.
“We’re optimistic, but he’s not out of the woods until they get in there and make the decision,” Saleh said. “Based on all the information that’s been presented to us, I feel good, but, as I’m learning, you never know.”
The Jets breathed easy Saturday when an MRI revealed that Wilson avoided the initial worst-case fears of a season-ending torn ACL. Criticism of Wilson running for extra yards on the fateful play is a case of “hindsight is 20/20,” centre Connor McGovern said.
There wasn’t a metaphorical dark cloud hanging over Sunday’s practice as Joe Flacco took over leading the starters and left the second-string in Mike White’s hands. Right tackle Mekhi Becton (knee) also is visiting ElAttrache for a consultation, but he is expected to miss the season.
“Spirits are still really high,” McGovern said. “Zach’s is not a season-ending injury, by any means. Obviously, we want him out there getting these really valuable reps, but … he’s going to do whatever he can to come as fast as possible. A young guy like him, you have to make sure to tell him, ‘It’s OK,’ and to come back when he’s ready, and not rush it because he’s dying to get back out there.”
Therein lies the risk, especially because this is Wilson’s second major right knee injury in a 10-month span, after he missed four games with a sprained PCL last season. For as long as the Jets leave Week 1 open as an option for Wilson, he could unintentionally cut rehab corners trying to be cleared before Sept. 11.
“That’s a fair point,” Saleh said when asked about possibly ruling out Wilson against the Ravens sooner rather than later. “I think that’s all going to depend on what happens with the surgery and the feedback we get from the doctors.”
Flacco, 37, will play in the final two preseason games against the Falcons and Giants, said Saleh, who is not about to overcorrect to avoid injury. The joint practices leading up to those games could’ve furthered Wilson’s growth.
“It’s a setback in that Zach is missing an unbelievable opportunity to get these reps in, to play another defence — especially the Giants who have such an elaborate [defensive] pressure system,” Saleh said. “He has to stay dialled in — just like he was last year when he was hurt — learn from his teammates and try to be involved as much mentally as he can be.”
The quarterback-centre exchange ran smoothly Sunday. McGovern guessed that the quarterback he has snapped to most often in his career is Flacco, between 2019 as Broncos teammates and last season. Jets quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese was an offensive quality control coach with those Broncos.
“When you’re the backup, your emotions are up and down during the course of a game,” Flacco said. “It’s a transition [to starting], but because I’ve played so much football, you get back in rhythm pretty quickly.”
‘AGAINST THE WORLD’: BROWNS PREPARED FOR WATSON BOOING
Deshaun Watson apologised before his preseason debut with the Cleveland Browns and then got an earful from opposing fans.
Watson apologised “to all the women I have impacted” after being accused by two dozen women of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.
Potentially facing a year-long suspension, Watson publicly expressed remorse and contrition for the first time since he was accused of sexually harassing or assaulting the women during therapy sessions in 2020 and 2021.
He spoke before the team’s exhibition opener, a 24-13 victory at Jacksonville (0-2) in which Watson was roundly booed during three series of work. Fans in one end zone could be heard chanting vulgarities at Watson during his first drive.
The three-time Pro Bowler completed 1 of 5 passes for 7 yards in his first game action since Jan. 3, 2021, with Houston.
Watson managed no first downs and 7 yards while playing without receiver Amari Cooper, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and offensive linemen Joel Bitonio and Jack Conklin.
Cleveland trailed 13-0 when Watson’s night ended. He spent much of the second half sitting on a cooler on the sideline and chewing gum. If he made any strides, they came before kickoff.
“You know, I think once Deshaun came out of the game we got booed less, but you go to a road game they boo you anyway, so you know what I mean?” Bitonio said of the booing before training camp practice.
“So we’ll see how it goes. I’m sure, it seems like more than ever, Cleveland against the world, so we’ll be ready for it.”
The appeal is now with Peter C. Harvey, a former New Jersey lawyer general appointed by commissioner Roger Goodell. In the meantime, Watson can practice and play. Stefanski said he wanted to get Watson preseason action despite the looming suspension.
“It’s been something that we’ve been talking about the last few months, weeks, just trying to figure out what the best path forward was for — not just for our quarterbacks — but for the entire team,” he said.
Watson jogged into TIAA Bank Field with a security guard at his side and later stopped to sign autographs following warm-ups. No protests against Watson were found outside the stadium, although several cars could be seen sporting unsavoury messages ripping the embattled quarterback.