Rex Ryan names IK Enemkpali captain vs. Jets

I.K. Enemkpali will be a game-day captain for the Bills

FLORHAM PARK, NJ: Rex Ryan hasn't changed. 

On Monday, just three days before Ryan's Bills square off against his recently-divorced Jets on Thursday night football, the Buffalo head coach was asked by local media if he planned on making reserve linebacker I.K. Enemkpali a game-day captain. 

Yes, the same I.K Enemkpali who infamously socked then-Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith with a sucker punch to the jaw this summer, breaking said jaw and causing Smith to lose said starting quarterback job.

Ryan's answer? Of course he is. 

"I do this all the time," Ryan said via a conference call

Enemkpali, 24, was originally drafted by the Jets when Rex was still the team's head coach a season ago. Viewed as a pass-rushing project selected in the sixth round, Enemkpali played sparingly in 2014. He saw the field in just six games, primarily on special teams, and recorded three tackles. 

In training camp this year, and the second season of Enemkpali's career, the linebacker started to show promise. He was getting more and more reps each practice, and beginning to see a few sporadic snaps with the starters. That was until Aug. 11. 

With the Jets preparing to take the practice field for a morning walkthrough, Enemkpali and Smith began a heated exchange of words. According to reports, Smith had owed Enemkpali $600 after he missed one of the linebacker's youth football camps. Up to that day, Smith had not repaid Enemkpali, and Enemkpali wasn't too happy about that. 

As things began to escalate, Smith stuck his finger in Enemkpali's face. Enemkpali responded by punching Smith and fracturing his jaw. The quarterback, who at the time was the Jets "unquestioned" starter and was having an impressive training camp, was sidelined for the next 10 weeks. In his absence, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick played well enough to be given the starting job. Smith, aside from a relief appearance against the Oakland Raiders when Fitzpatrick was injured, has not seen the field since. 

After the punch, Enemkpali was instantly released by the Jets. He was then claimed by the Bills off the waiver wire and has since appeared in three games this year. He has two tackles. 

On Monday, and just a short time after Ryan had announced Enemkpali would be a game captain, several on the Jets spoke. While Fitzpatrick wouldn't entertain any thought on the subject, Calvin Pace didn't go into any detail and Jets coach Todd Bowles said only that it was Rex's team and he could "name whoever captain he wants," receiver Brandon Marshall did offer his thoughts on the subject. 

"Typical Rex," Marshall said. "That's a Rex Ryan move. I mean, are you guys surprised? Right? Love it." 

When Marshall was pressed on if it's a disrespectful move by the Bills, the receiver said only, "(Rex) has the balls to do it."

Sending out a player to be a captain against his former team isn't a new thing for Ryan, but rather something he's done for quite some time. Four years ago when the Jets played the Giants, Ryan sent out Ex-Giants receiver and then-New York wideout Plaxico Burress as the team's only captain. Speaking to the local media, Ryan eluded to the fact that on Thursday, not only will Enemkpali be the captain, but there's a chance he's Buffalo's only one. 

Now, could Bowles spin things around full circle and make things real interesting by sending out Smith as the Jets only captain? Well, the coach didn't exactly say no, but it doesn't seem very likely. 

"That hasn't been discussed," Bowles said. 


Connor Hughes is the New York Jets beat writer for The Journal Inquirer and He can be reached on Twitter (@Connor_J_Hughes), or via email (

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