Former Jets linebacker Ikemefuna Enemkpali said it was never his intention to hurt anyone and he's grateful to get a second chance at his career with the Buffalo Bills.
Enemkpali spoke publicly for the first time Thursday after he was released by the Jets this week for breaking quarterback Geno Smith's jaw with a sucker punch in the team's locker room.
Claimed by the Bills on Wednesday, he addressed the media after reporting to the Bills training camp facility in suburban Rochester, where he passed his physical and met with team officials, including coach Rex Ryan.
Though he never mentioned Smith by name, Enemkpali apologized to the Jets team, his former teammates and fans.
"It should've never happened. I should've walked away from the situation," Enemkpali said. "It was never my intention to hurt anyone."
As for joining the Bills, the second-year player vowed to be an accountable teammate.
"I'm very grateful and happy to be a Bill," he said. "I look forward to being a good teammate, an accountable player."
Wearing a grey pullover with a Bills logo on it and white shorts, Enemkpali spoke for only 45 seconds and did not take any questions. He was then escorted off the field by two team employees.
Though he's has not yet practiced with the Bills, Ryan is still considering making him active for Buffalo's preseason opener against Carolina on Friday night.
Ryan pushed for the team to place a claim on Enemkpali, and received approval from general manager Doug Whaley and first-year Bills owner Terry Pegula. As the Jets former coach, Ryan became familiar with Enemkpali during the player's rookie season last year.
Though Ryan wouldn't defend Enemkpali for punching Smith, he called the player a "good teammate" and said he was deserving of a second chance.
"Nothing justifies hitting somebody," Ryan said. "For what I know about this young man, I think he'll come in here and I think he'll do just fine."
Whaley said he's reserving judgment on what happened in New York.
"It was an unfortunate incident. We're not downplaying that," Whaley said. "But we also recognize that with what we are building around here that this guy could help us win."
Whaley, however, cautioned that Enemkpali "knows he's on a short leash."
Enemkpali could still be disciplined by the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Ryan and Whaley both acknowledged that the league is investigating what happened, and could suspend the player.
He could also face legal charges if Smith pursues them.
In Buffalo, Enemkpali will be listed as a linebacker, but work with the defensive linemen. He'll be given a shot to compete for a backup job behind outside linebacker Manny Lawson, and also play a role on special teams.
Enemkpali was a sixth-round draft pick out of Louisiana Tech, who had three tackles in six games last season.
IK, as he's known, went from being an obscure rookie on a 4-12 Jets team last season, to gaining national notoriety for his altercation with Smith. Enemkpali's punch became the subject of social media ridicule, many comments referring to the Jets' dysfunctional past. NFL broadcaster Adam Schein posted a note on his Twitter account reading: "Jets Football!!!! You can't make this up!"
The punch also inspired several inventive headlines, such as the New York Post's: "Jaw Disorder."
Now the attention focuses on the Bills, who have raised questions and criticism by adding yet another troubled player.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, whose county has a stake in the Bills' Ralph Wilson Stadium, was unhappy with Buffalo acquiring Enemkpali. In a message posted on his Twitter account, Poloncarz wrote: "As a season ticket holder and fan my personal opinion is this pickup is embarrassing. We can do better."
Buffalo's roster already includes offensive lineman Richie Incognito, who was a central figure in the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal in 2013. Receiver Percy Harvin had several run-ins with teammates in Seattle and was recently dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the NFL's "most hated player in the locker room."
And then there's offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who will miss the first six games after the Bills suspended him for allegedly punching a boy in Florida in an altercation over beach chairs.