Jets quarterback Geno Smith needed surgery to repair a broken jaw after he was punched in the face during a "childish" locker-room altercation with a teammate Tuesday, head coach Todd Bowles said.
Smith, the team's starting quarterback, will likely be out six to 10 weeks after he was "sucker-punched" by linebacker Ikemefuna "I.K." Enemkpali, Bowles said.
It's not immediately clear what caused the punch, but Bowles said it wasn't football-related.
"It was something very childish, and he got cold-cocked, sucker-punched — whatever you want to call it — in the jaw," Bowles said. "It was something very childish, that sixth-graders could have talked about. It had no reason for happening."
Enemkpali, the Jets' sixth-round pick in 2014, was released after the altercation. In a corresponding move, the team signed cornerback Javier Arenas.
In a statement to NBC 4 New York, Enemkpali apologized to the Jets organization, coaches, teammates and fans.
"Geno and I let our frustration get the best of us, but I should have just walked away from the situation," the former Jets linebacker said. "I deeply regret and apologize for my actions. It was never my intention to harm anyone. I appreciate the opportunity I had with the Jets."
Smith took to Instagram and posted a picture of himself sitting in a car — mouth closed and looking stern — and a simple message: "ILL BE BACK."
The quarterback, a second-round draft pick out of West Virginia in 2013, was set to enter his third year as the team's starter. He was having a good training camp and will now be sidelined for the rest of the summer and likely for the first few games of the season.
The season opener at home against Cleveland on Sept. 13 is five weeks away.
"Depending on how surgery goes, we'll see where we go from there," Bowles said.
It's not clear if Smith will face any discipline.
Bowles, in his first season as coach, spoke for about two minutes before heading to a meeting and then practice, but was clearly angered by the situation.
"The team knows this is something we don't tolerate," Bowles said. "It’s something we can’t stand. You don’t walk up to another man and punch him in the face."
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It was a jaw-dropping announcement by Bowles, who earlier in camp had to deal with the news that star defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy and then was arrested after a high-speed road race in Missouri 12 days later. Richardson could face additional discipline by the league for violation of the personal conduct policy once the legal process plays out.
Bowles says the Jets could add another quarterback, but it appears recently signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, most recently with the Texans, will assume the starting job. The team also drafted former Baylor star Bryce Petty in the fourth round of the 2015 draft.
While the players were not immediately available because they had practice, wide receiver Brandon Marshall sent out a simple "cryface" emoji on his Twitter page. Marshall and Smith have been developing solid chemistry this offseason, with the two spending time together on and off the field.
It was unclear as to whether there had been previous bad blood brewing between Smith and Enemkpali.
"If you have a team and you have a bunch of side issues, you can't tolerate that," Bowles said. "This is something that happened in the locker room and we're dealing with it internally and that's where we are right now."
Smith has had a rough two-plus seasons in the NFL, starting with his slip to the second round of the 2013 draft. He got the starting job as a rookie after Mark Sanchez was sidelined for the year after hurting his shoulder in a preseason game, and mostly struggled.
Last year, he had a few flashes of solid play, but again had issues with turnovers and consistency and was benched a few times in favor of Michael Vick. Smith has 34 interceptions and 41 total turnovers in his first two seasons, but new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey was impressed with his progress this summer.
Smith threw the first two interceptions of camp on Monday, an impressive stretch that had the quarterback and coaches thinking positively about his prospects for the upcoming season.
"He took time that month when we were away (before training camp)," Gailey said of Smith shortly before the news broke. "He looked at it and studied it and talked about it and thought about it. When he came back, he really had a grasp of it."
- John Chandler contributed to this report