<
>

Matt Forte says Jets don't want repeat of locker room issues

"There's a difference between playing next to somebody and (playing) for them," Matt Forte said. AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Coach Todd Bowles doesn't believe there were locker room issues last season with the New York Jets, just some minor stuff that got blown out of proportion because of the losing.

That's interesting because they've spent a lot of time this offseason addressing problems that didn't exist.

Running back Matt Forte, one of the few over-30 players who survived the roster purge, became the latest player to publicly acknowledge something was amiss last season with the team's chemistry.

"Being in that locker room and going through that season, we know what the issues were," he told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday from the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp. "We identify those issues as a group and meet with the coaches and talk about, 'How do we change that? How do we change the culture in the locker room? How do we change the mistakes we made last year?'"

Forte said team leaders have conducted "a lot of meetings" with the coaches throughout the offseason, relaying the message to the rest of the players. He spoke in general terms -- no specifics -- but he touched on a topic that was raised by wide receiver Quincy Enunwa at the end of the season. It was Enunwa who said -- quite accurately, I might add -- that the 2016 Jets simply didn't play as a team.

"There's a difference between playing next to somebody and (playing) for them," Forte said. "I always say that to guys, like last year, when we were in the middle of the season and things weren't going well. We were at practice and I was like, 'Guys, everybody is out here as an individual and we're just playing next to the guy. Do you really know that guy?' If I'm playing next to you instead of for you, I really don't trust you."

By now, you probably know most of the stuff that happened. There was the Ryan Fitzpatrick-front office contract battle, which set a bad tone in the offseason. There was the Brandon Marshall-Sheldon Richardson feud, which created tension in the locker room. And, of course, there were the Tardy Boys, Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, both of whom were benched for a quarter.

Bowles changed the dynamic in the locker room by parting ways with several vets, including Fitzpatrick and Marshall. Now it's up to Bowles, and his group of team leaders, to rebuild the chemistry for 2017.

It's still only May, but the Jets are ahead of 2016 in at least one respect: The team's most experienced quarterback and likely starter, Josh McCown, is in the building, bonding with teammates. That wasn't the case last year with Fitzpatrick, who wasn't able to attend offseason activities because he was unsigned.

Forte said McCown, a former teammate with the Chicago Bears, is doing a good job of helping to fill a leadership void at quarterback.

"He's been able to reach out to guys throughout the locker room already, and gain that camaraderie, that teammate that you need and that leader ... at quarterback that we need and are pretty much lacking," Forte said.