According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Enemkpali believed Smith owed him the money after he originally bought the quarterback a ticket to attend his July 11 football camp in Pflugerville, Texas. Days before the camp, “a person close to Smith” was killed in a motorcycle accident in Miami and Smith could not attend the camp. Enemkpali demanded Smith pay him back the cost of the flight, which Smith did not. He confronted him in the locker room about it Tuesday, and it ended with him punching Smith and breaking his jaw. Schefter adds that Smith intended to pay his then-teammate back but had yet to do so.
Brian Costello of the New York Post reported similar facts, adding that Enemkpali was upset over Smith's inability to attend and also sought reimbursement for a limousine, which Smith agreed to do. Smith did not retaliate after being hit and left the locker room, telling Enemkpali “something to the effect of, ‘not here.’”
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported similar reasoning for the fight, adding that Smith's brother had been in the bike accident and broke his arm and ribs, and Smith went with him to the hospital. The New York Daily News reported that Smith's brother's best friend died in the accident.
The incident occurred Tuesday morning and Smith’s injury will require surgery, Jets head coach Todd Bowles said. Bowles described it as a “sucker punch” and Enemkpali was released by the team shortly afterward. Bowles told reporters Tuesday that Enemkpali, a reserve linebacker, would have been released even if he were a starter.
Smith’s injury leaves the Jets with three healthy quarterbacks: Ryan Fitzpatrick, rookie fourth-round pick Bryce Petty and undrafted rookie Jake Heaps, listed on the depth chart in that order. Bowles said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon that Fitzpatrick would be the starter for the time being.
Smith, entering his third season in the NFL, started the Jets' first eight games last season. He was benched in favor of Michael Vick, then started the final five games after Vick was injured.
- Jeremy Woo