by Dennis Waszak Jr.
NEW YORK (AP)—Newly acquired Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes was suspended Monday without pay by the NFL for the first four regular-season games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
|HEADED TO NEW YORK—Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes (10) eludes Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis to score a touchdown Jan. 3, in Miami. The New York Jets acquired Holmes from the Pittsburgh Steelers April 11.
The league announced the suspension a day after the Jets acquired the talented but troubled Holmes from the Pittsburgh Steelers for a fifth-round pick in this month’s draft.
Holmes, the 2009 Super Bowl MVP, is eligible to participate in the team’s offseason program and in all preseason practices and games. He would be suspended for an entire season if he violates the league’s policy again.
The 26-year-old Holmes is coming off his best season, with 79 catches for 1,248 yards and five touchdowns. But he is also facing a lawsuit in Florida from a woman who claims he threw a glass at her, cutting her above the eye, in an Orlando nightclub. A witness has since taken responsibility, according to Holmes’ lawyer.
The Jets appeared unfazed by the off-field issues, adding a game-breaking player to an offense that already included second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez, wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery, tight end Dustin Keller, running backs Shonn Greene, Leon Washington and the recently signed LaDainian Tomlinson.
“He’s known by members of the team,” owner Woody Johnson said of Holmes at a news conference in Cortland, N.Y., to announce the Jets’ training camp plans. “Everybody has a lot of respect for him. He’s tough. He’s a clutch receiver. I don’t think pressure gets to him in a game. We were happy to start this (relationship).”
Holmes has 235 catches for 3,835 yards and 20 touchdowns, but his troubles off the field could explain the relatively low price the Jets paid to get him. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Monday, citing anonymous sources, that the Steelers were prepared to release Holmes if they couldn’t find a trade partner.
Besides the incident in Florida, Holmes was arrested in 2008 for possession of marijuana. He was also involved in a domestic violence incident in 2006; the misdemeanor charges were dismissed.
The 5-11 Holmes, a first-round pick out of Ohio State in 2006, has one year remaining on his contract and will essentially be on a 12-game tryout for a long-term deal. The Jets have taken the same approach with Edwards, another wide receiver who came to New York with baggage.
The Jets acquired Edwards from the Browns two days after he was accused of punching a friend of NBA star LeBron James in October outside a downtown Cleveland nightclub.
New York also traded for former San Diego cornerback Antonio Cromartie last month, even though he was dealing with paternity issues. Cromartie has fathered seven children by six women in five states, and the Jets advanced him $500,000 to clear up his legal troubles.
Despite being benched earlier in the 2008 season for the marijuana arrest, Holmes made a number of big plays for Pittsburgh—none bigger than in the Super Bowl against Arizona. His tiptoe catch in the corner of the end zone of a 6-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger with 35 seconds left sent the Steelers to a 27-23 victory.