If you’re a Jets fan who saw the news about Mekhi Becton injuring his right knee in Monday’s practice and rolled your eyes, shame on you.
This being his second injury on the same knee in two years, it’s not out of the possibility that Becton’s career is over after just 15 games and 739 snaps.
Based on the latest prognosis on Tuesday — a chip on the right kneecap — Becton is expected to miss the entire 2022 season. This after he was lost for the final 15 games of last season.
So, if you’re harboring cynical thoughts about Becton because he hasn’t become a dominant left tackle (yet) or because he’s always looked too heavy and you don’t think he worked hard enough in the offseason to get in shape (your assumption), table it.
This is a 23-year-old kid in crisis, not a robot. Just because he was selected 11th overall in the 2020 draft and hasn’t become the second coming of Anthony Munoz, that doesn’t make him a criminal.
Becton needs your compassion more than your contempt at the moment, as he tries to process his latest devastating setback and prepare his mind to make another long-road go of it through surgery and rehab — all the while not feeling like a part of the team for the second consecutive year.
Tuesday, Jets head coach Robert Saleh and second-year quarterback Zach Wilson did their best to publicly boost Becton’s morale.
Saleh, who leans quite heavily on the side as a player’s coach, got particularly passionate.
“These are young men; you worry about all them,’’ Saleh said after practice. “I think sometimes — with social media in this world — we dehumanize these athletes in the worst way imaginable. Mekhi has walked into this building and he has taken every single punch you can get from every which way, and he shows up and he works his tail off and he grinds every single day.
“He shows up at camp and he’s fighting to get himself back in shape, [and there are] videos of him vomiting and people are throwing shade. He’s limping and he’s fighting for his family, for his teammates, for himself, for this organization and for this fan base … and everybody wants to drop him like a wet rag. That ain’t the case. We love Mekhi, we appreciate everything he’s done.
“His ride is not over, his story is not over,’’ Saleh vowed. “He’s got full support of this organization, and if you’re a fan that wants to support him, you’re more than welcome. Otherwise, just keep moving. [We’re] really excited for him to come back even stronger and give himself a chance to show why he was a first-round pick.’’
Saleh said he’s spoken to Becton and said, “Like anyone in those situations, there’s a lot of frustration. You work your tail off to get yourself prepared and ready to play, and then this happens. On a routine play. I’ll let him speak for himself.’’
Becton, who was not made available to speak to reporters, posted this message on his Instagram page on Tuesday: “Everything happens for a reason … I know God and my Grandma got me up there I JUST KNOW IT!’’
“It sucks,’’ Wilson said Tuesday. “It hurts even more for him just because of what he’s been battling back from last year. We’ve got to comfort him, make sure I’m there for him and anything he needs. He’s got a next challenge in front of him and we know he’ll try and battle back.’’
Wilson, who’s taken his share of lumps from the dark side of social media, understands exactly what Saleh was speaking about when he talked about the “dehumanization’’ aspect of this all. That’s why Wilson made it a point to visit Becton in the training room after the injury to tell him: “I’m there for you if you need anything.’’
“I just wanted to comfort and let him know I’m there for him,’’ Wilson said. “[The social media jockeys] don’t look at us like we’re real people. They look it as a game — like I’m the Jets quarterback, I’m not Zach Wilson. You start to have tough skin as a football player, and that’s why you keep those that really truly care about you tight and you understand that we have each other’s back.’’
Regardless of how many games Becton has played or missed, what he weighs, how he’s graded out on Pro Football Focus and all the other analytical machines, what he needs most right now is for more people who have his back.
Compassion, not contempt.
“I give Mekhi credit for how hard he’s fought,’’ Saleh said. “I’m proud of him, because he’s come a long way and I know his story is not over.’’
Here’s hoping Saleh is right.
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