The Wayne Hunter-for-Jason Smith swap was considered like-for-like, one team’s disappointment for another’s.
But for Hunter, it was about the chance at a fresh start, and from his comments about the situation in New York, it was a relief.
Hunter told Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch leaving New York was like a weight being lifted off him.
Asked to describe it, Hunter replied: “No, I can’t. No words describe it. If you can handle the ‘Concrete Jungle,’ you can handle anywhere. I’ve been through it all.”
After a poor preseason outing against the Panthers brought more verbal abuse from behind the Jets bench, Hunter snapped and had to be restrained by teammates.
“They’re like sharks,” Hunter said. “If they don’t like you, they let you know right off the bat. And even if you’re doing good, they might just not like you for the heck of it. It’s brutal over there. Those fans, they know what they want, and they pretty much demand it. So if you don’t give it to them, they’ll let you know.”
Of course, fans weren’t the only ones who had it out for him, as he was at the point of Santonio Holmes’ barbs last season, though they’ve since made amends.
He said he has no hard feelings toward the Jets organization, but clearly relished the slower pace in middle America.
“I just want to come in, I just want to participate, I want to help the team win,” he said. “That’s all it is for me. There’s no chip on my shoulder. The New York Jets treated me so well. I had the best four years over there. We had a great run with two AFC championship games. I’ve got nothing to complain about. I love those guys, I wish ’em the best, but it’s time for me to move on.”
Some guys can’t handle the crucible of the largest media market. But coming down the stretch, Hunter became a pinata, a symbol of the Jets problems, rather than the moderately talented backup tackle thrust into water over his head he actually was.
That wasn’t his fault, but New York and New Yorkers apparently weren’t ready to consider it.