New York Jets offense tackles Mekhi Becton, suspicious of critics and ‘so they eat their words’

New York Jets offense tackles Mekhi Becton, suspicious of critics and ‘so they eat their words’

FLORHAM PARK, NJ — New York Jets are taking on Mekhi Becton, nicknamed “Big Ticket,” who sent a big message to his critics on Wednesday.

“I’m going to make them eat their words,” he said at the end of a two-day mini-camp.

Becton, who has struggled with injuries and weight issues since his promising rookie year in 2020, sounded determined to change the narrative. In his first media appearance since last September, he showed himself in a blue T-shirt that read “Big Bust”.

Surrounding “Big Bust” was a list of perceived negatives: “Fat…lazy…out of shape…bum…sucks…overweight…injury prone.” “Lots of words I’ve been naming my entire life, so I put them on a shirt.” ‘ he said, adding that he has a chip on his shoulder.

Becton, who is listed at 6-foot-7, 363 pounds (his weight from the 2020 scouting combine), has a lot to prove in 2021 after missing 16 games last season with knee surgery.

After skipping the voluntary portion of the offseason — he was training in Texas, where his girlfriend gave birth to the couple’s first child last month — Becton was taken out of practice at mandatory mini-camp. This condition of his knee was a key issue, as was his general condition.

Neither Becton nor coach Robert Saleh revealed his exact weight. Saleh, who is usually ebullient about players in great form, was noticeably lukewarm towards Becton. He wasn’t critical, but he didn’t bother to compliment him either.

“He has 40 days to continue working and preparing to play football,” Saleh said of the start of the training camp.

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Becton, whose weight rose to 400 last season, didn’t sound concerned and said he was “happy” with his current weight. As for his surgically repaired knee, he said it’s “getting better.” He wore neither a splint nor a sleeve when working with the performance staff during practice.

Saleh said without hesitation he expects Becton to be in training when training camp begins on July 27.

“Structurally, he’s fine,” Saleh said. “It’s just about him getting back into the general football movements that he’s developing into.”

The Jets have been careful not to criticize Becton, although it’s worth noting that Saleh recently publicly called on him to participate in the volunteer workouts. Becton was overweight at last training camp, but he was in the 360s at the time of his injury, his nutritionist recently told ESPN.

“His weight will fluctuate incredibly over the course of about three days,” Saleh said. “It is fascinating.”

Becton, drafted at No. 11 in 2020, has only played eight out of 33 full games, raising concerns about its durability. In the 2021 opener, he suffered a season-ending knee injury. The team initially spoke of an injury lasting six to eight weeks and only ruled him out for the season in week 17. The fluid schedule fueled speculation that his injury was of no consequence, which angered people in Becton’s camp.

Becton said he tried to turn back but “ran into a wall. I couldn’t get the power I wanted.”

After the season, Saleh made headlines by announcing that Becton would have to reclaim his starting job from George Fant, who was doing an admirable job at left tackle. The Jets have since dodged their tackle plans, hinting that Becton could move on to proper tackle. Becton said he would be fine with a change of position and doesn’t mind competing.

“It’s football,” he said. “We will always compete no matter what. I just have to go out and get my job back.”

The Jets could have drafted a top tackle in the first round, but they chose Becton and Fant as starting tackles. Like Becton, Fant, who underwent off-season knee surgery, didn’t train at mini-camp. He is expected for the training camp.

“Obviously we’re all aware of the talent that he has — the height, the athleticism, the physicality, all of that,” Saleh said of Becton. “And he’s smart. … If he minds his business as we can, he can become transcendent.”