Buffalo Bills linebacker IK Enemkpali publicly apologized Tuesday for punching New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith, which ultimately led to his dismissal from the team.
"I apologize. ... It should have never happened," Enemkpali told reporters. "I should have walked away from the situation."
The quote reflects a formal statement released by Enemkpali earlier this week upon his release from the Jets.
“I apologize to the Jets organization, coaches, teammates and fans,” the statement read, per the Associated Press' Dennis Waszak Jr. “Geno and I let our frustration get the best of us, but I should have just walked away from the situation. I deeply regret and apologize for my actions. It was never my intention to harm anyone. I appreciate the opportunity I had with the Jets.”
ESPN.com's Adam Schefter first reported Tuesday that Enemkpali punched Smith after he refused to reimburse the second-year linebacker for a plane ticket. Enemkpali had reportedly invited Smith to his football camp at Pflugerville (Texas) High School, but Smith was unable to attend because of an emergency.
Sources inside the locker room told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that Smith got in Enemkpali's face, at which point Enemkpali punched him and broke his jaw. Projected to be the Jets' starting quarterback, Smith will miss at least six weeks while he recovers.
“That’ll get a man hit every time, especially one that hasn’t earned respect,” a source said of Smith's actions, per Mehta.
New York immediately released Enemkpali following the incident. He was later picked up by the Bills on waivers, reuniting him with former Jets coach Rex Ryan.
"I'm very grateful, thankful and happy to be a Bill," Enemkpali said. "I look forward to being a good teammate."
A sixth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech, Enemkpali made three tackles as a rookie, largely contributing on special teams. He may have an uphill battle to make the Bills' 53-man roster, which features no fewer than nine linebackers competing for a spot. Enemkpali will have to be at peak performance on the field and on his best behavior off of it to avoid finding himself on the waiver wire again.
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