CULVER CITY, Calif. -- Fair or not, Santonio Holmes enters the 2012 season as a figure of suspicion.
Can he co-exist with Mark Sanchez? Will he be a positive presence in the locker room? How will he react if he doesn't get his touches?
It all hovers over the wide receiver as he begins his third season with the New York Jets. Of course, most of this can be traced back to one very bad afternoon in Miami. Week 17 against the Dolphins, a game in which Holmes produced no receptions but plenty of drama by fighting with teammates in the huddle and eventually being benched.
In a sit-down with Around The League, Holmes explained how four quarters of ugly football fueled a fire that raged for an entire offseason.
"It was one game. One chance that both of us (messed) up. That's all it was," Holmes said, referring to he and Sanchez. "One game that we (messed) up and it happened to be the last one of the season. Whatever everybody else took from it, it wasn't good on our behalf. We didn't make the playoffs, so it made it look that much worse.
"I broke my streak of 170-something games with a catch in it, I (messed) that up. No catches in the game, that looked bad. We didn't make the playoffs, we got blown out by the Miami Dolphins, it all just looked bad. Whatever happened, it was all bad."
Despite that, Holmes still sees chemistry concerns for the Jets as a media creation. I asked him if going to a Knicks game with Sanchez, tweeting about dinner together and attending the QB's "Jets West" camp in California is a calculated attempt to dispel rumors of discord between the two.
"We know what the media is doing to us, or at least is trying to do to us, it doesn't bother us," he said. "We play professional football. That's all that matters. How are we going to get the job done? And if it requires me tweeting a picture about both of us having dinner and everybody commenting, so be it.
"But we're doing this because this is what keeps me in house for the next six years," Holmes added, referring to the long-term deal he signed last year. "This is what keeps him a confident quarterback."
Holmes is being proactive, but that cloud of suspicion will continue to hang over him. He (messed) up, and this is the consequence.