Jets' Sauce Gardner on Eli Apple's Trash Talk: 'I Feel Like He Should Stay Humble'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 31, 2023

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - JANUARY 08: Sauce Gardner #1 of the New York Jets looks on against the Miami Dolphins during the first half of the game at Hard Rock Stadium on January 08, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner had a spectacular rookie season for the New York Jets, earning both first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. He's also a finalist for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

So Gardner has earned instant respect for his play on the field. But he's also conscious of how he carries himself off the field as well, and in an interview with Zion Olojede of Complex before the AFC Championship Game, he said that he didn't care for the trash talk Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple spread on social media after his team beat the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round:

"I seen that. I don't get down like that because I respect the game too much to get down like that. I ain't no social media type person. I like social media, but I ain't gon' tweet like that at somebody, because I respect the game too much. I don't condone that. I feel like he should stay humble, because they're still in the playoffs, because you never know what could happen. I feel like that's why a lot of people hate him, his performance don't match his words. 
"I talk a lot of trash in a game, but I ain't really gonna go on Twitter and do much talking for real, especially if somebody got eliminated from the playoffs, because I know how I'd feel if I got eliminated from the playoffs."

Here's a smattering of Apple's trash talk after the Bengals beat the Bills, 27-10:

Eli Apple @EliApple

Someone get them in couples therapy <a href="https://twitter.com/JoshAllenQB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JoshAllenQB</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/stefondiggs?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@stefondiggs</a> I'll pay on God 🙏🏿 <a href="https://t.co/MIOzAuWdbF">https://t.co/MIOzAuWdbF</a>

Eli Apple @EliApple

They ain't do this after the game 🤔 <a href="https://t.co/B0t45N7cEv">https://t.co/B0t45N7cEv</a>

Eli Apple @EliApple

Cancun on 3 🫶🏿 <a href="https://t.co/oOHSw1AMsT">https://t.co/oOHSw1AMsT</a>

A rookie cornerback speaking negatively about the behavior of one of his peers might not always play well in NFL circles. But given that after his first season Gardner has one more Pro Bowl selection, one more All-Pro selection and only three fewer interceptions than Apple has mustered in his seven-year career—Gardner had two in his rookie season, Apple has five for his career—it probably won't rub anybody the wrong way in this instance.

Apple, after all, has a reputation for being something of a controversial figure.

Gardner, meanwhile, has bigger things on his mind.

"Oh yeah, most definitely," he answered when asked if he thought he could become an all-time great cornerback. "There's a lot of great guys I watch like Deion Sanders. I still study their game. The fact that was I able to come in and be on pace to where I want to end is a true blessing. But I want to be able to win a Super Bowl. That's my main goal. That's the main thing I want to get out of this."

Gardner, in his first season, led football with 20 passes defended. He's no doubt on a unique trajectory if he can build upon his excellent rookie season. The Jets certainly aren't regretting using the No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft on him.

His level of play did the talking for him.