New York Jets offensive tackle Mekhi Becton wary of critics, set 'to make them eat their words'

ByRich Cimini via ESPN logo
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
ESPN

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets tackle Mekhi Becton, nicknamed "Big Ticket," delivered a big message Wednesday to his critics.

"I'm going to make them eat their words," he said at the conclusion of a two-day minicamp.

Becton, who has battled injuries and a weight problem since his promising rookie year in 2020, sounded determined to change the narrative. In his first media availability since last September, he showed up wearing a blue T-shirt that read: "Big Bust."

Encircling "Big Bust" was a list of perceived negatives: "Fat ... Lazy ... Out of Shape ... Bum ... Sucks ... Overweight ... Injury Prone." "A lot of words I've been called my whole life, so I put it on a shirt," he said, adding that he has a chip on his shoulder.

Becton, 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 due to knee surgery.

After skipping the voluntary portion of the offseason -- he trained in Texas, where his girlfriend delivered the couple's first child last month - Becton was held out of practice at the mandatory minicamp. That state of his knee was a key question, as was his overall conditioning.

Neither Becton nor coach Robert Saleh divulged his exact weight. Saleh, usually effusive about players in great shape, was noticeably lukewarm on Becton. He wasn't critical, but he didn't go out of his way to compliment him.

"He has 40 days to continue to work and get himself ready to play football," Saleh said, referencing the start of training camp.

Becton, whose weight ballooned as high as 400 last season, didn't sound concerned, saying he's "satisfied" with his current weight. As for his surgically repaired knee, he said it's "getting better." He didn't wear a brace or a sleeve as he worked with the performance staff during practice.

Saleh, without hesitation, said he expects Becton to practice when training camp starts July 27.

"Structurally, he's fine," Saleh said. "It's just a matter of him getting back into overall football movements, which he's progressing into."

The Jets have been careful not to criticize Becton, although it's worth noting that Saleh made a public appeal recently for him to attend the voluntary workouts. Becton was overweight last training camp, but he was in the 360s at the time of his injury, his nutritionist told ESPN recently.

"His weight will fluctuate incredibly over the course of, like, three days," Saleh said. "It's fascinating."

Becton, drafted at No. 11 in 2020, has played only eight complete games out of 33, raising concerns about his durability. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2021 opener. Initially, the team called it a six- to eight-week injury, not ruling him out for the season until Week 17. The fluid timetable fueled speculation that his injury wasn't significant, angering people in the Becton camp.

Becton said he tried to return but "hit a wall. I couldn't get the strength I wanted."

After the season, Saleh made headlines by proclaiming that Becton would have to win back his starting job from George Fant, who did an admirable job at left tackle. Since then, the Jets have been evasive about their plans at tackle, hinting that Becton could go to right tackle. Becton said that he'd be OK with a position change and that he doesn't mind competing.

"It's football," he said. "We're always going to compete no matter what. I'll just have to go out there and get my job back."

The Jets could've drafted a top tackle in the first round, but they decided to roll with Becton and Fant as their starting tackles. Like Becton, Fant, who had an offseason knee procedure, didn't practice in minicamp. He's expected for training camp.

"Obviously, we're all aware of the talent he possesses -- the size, the athleticism, the physicality, all of it," Saleh said of Becton. "And he's smart. ... If he takes care of his business like we know he can, he can become transcendent."

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