Monday October 10th, 2011

Derrick Mason watched much of the Jets game against the Patriots from the sideline, fueling speculation. (Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)

The Jets signed Derrick Mason this offseason, with the hope that the veteran wide receiver could add a reliable pass-catching presence to their offense. So far, the return on that investment has not been great.

And now Mason's at the heart of a growing locker-room controversy in New York. Mason went off following the Jets' Week 4 loss to Baltimore, saying, "Somebody has got to man up and say, 'Hey we’ve got to get this done.' ... Obviously, there are some things that need to change."

A report last week then indicated that Mason, Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes all went to head coach Rex Ryan to complain about the early-season offense.

Mason played just five snaps in Sunday's loss to the Patriots, replaced in the lineup by Jeremy Kerley, who was on the field for 18 plays.

Ryan's explanation for the difference in playing time? "We've been trying to get Kerley a few more shots." Of course, Mason's absence on the field has led to speculation that Ryan benched him for his criticisms of the offense.

One issue: Mason -- and Holmes, Burress and even Ryan, for that matter -- insists that no such criticisms occurred.

"OK, let me say this: I've been in this thing [the NFL] 15 years and I've never criticized the offensive coordinator to a head coach -- never once," Mason said. "I've got enough problems going on myself. I'm not going go add another to it. Whoever told you all that I wish you would tell me who it is so I can ask why they put my name in that mess. I can't speak for Santonio or Plax, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't do anything like that.

"I'm not part of it."

The Jets naturally get more media attention than most NFL teams anyway, and Ryan's bravado has done nothing to diminish that fact. Still, at 2-3 and off the pace in the AFC East, the last thing New York needs right now is in-house fighting.

The offense was absolutely demolished by Baltimore in a 34-17 loss, then struggled again at times Sunday against New England.

The elephant in the room on all this is that Mason might not be playing because, quite frankly, he hasn't done much when he has been on the field. In five games now, Mason has 13 catches for just 115 yards -- an 8.8 yards-per-catch average. That's the lowest mark for any receiver on the Jets roster. Another report states that Mason has had trouble picking up the offense.

New York's loaded up with big personalities, so it would not be a huge shock to hear more players open up to the press in the future. But the Jets find themselves walking a tightrope here. Their promising season is closely approaching the brink, and it's imperative for Ryan to hold the team together if he wants things to turn around.

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