MIAMI (AP) — First came a squabble in the huddle. Then, Santonio Holmes found himself on the bench.
The New York Jets' receiver and captain was yanked as his team tried to rally in the fourth quarter Sunday and avoid elimination from the playoff race. To compound the soap opera, coach Rex Ryan said he thought Holmes took himself out of the game.
The Jets lost 19-17 to the Miami Dolphins. Following a spat with teammates, Holmes was replaced by Patrick Turner.
"It was a coach's call," Holmes said. "Patrick came in and tapped me on the shoulder and told me to come out."
The decision may have come from an assistant coach aware that Holmes had argued with teammates. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson said they were unhappy about Holmes' effort, demeanor and body language.
"It's tough for guys to follow a captain that kind of behaves in that manner," Tomlinson said. "You've got to lead by example, and you've got to play your tail off until the last play."
Holmes was held without a catch for the first time in his 88-game career.
"That may have had something to do with the way he handled it," Turner said.
Holmes was targeted only once. He went to the bench with the Jets trailing 19-10 and driving in the final two minutes.
"I looked out there and was wondering why he wasn't out there," Ryan said. "So, I did not bench Santonio."
Turner caught a 10-yard touchdown pass, but Miami then ran out the clock, ending New York's season.
When asked if the Jets gave sufficient effort, cornerback Antonio Cromartie said: "Uh, maybe on one side of the ball."
It's not the first time Holmes has been the focus of controversy this season. He twice called out the offensive line for not giving quarterback Mark Sanchez enough time to throw. At the time, right guard Brandon Moore said Holmes' comments "can have a fracturing effect" in the locker room. Moore also was disappointed Holmes made his negative opinions public since "that's not something a captain does."