Last week, speculation ran a bit wild regarding why the New York Jets decided to cancel a second joint practice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday.
Thursday came and went with the Jets having their own practice where head coach Robert Saleh was in attendance and did his usual post-practice press conference with reporters.
That made it all the more confusing on Friday when WFAN’s Tiki Barber took to the airwaves with a “report” that the joint practice was canceled because Saleh could not attend and his absence would raise too many questions once that episode of Hard Knocks aired.
“The Jets and the Buccaneers were supposed to practice together for two days,” said Barber on Friday’s Evan and Tiki. “The Jets canceled the practice on Thursday and the Bucs were already on their way here. Like, they’re not gonna come practice for a day.
“There were lots of theories on why, but I believe, from what I have now ascertained…through a second-hand party, that Coach Saleh couldn’t be at practice. This is the most important part of it. They are being filmed by Hard Knocks. That when Saleh couldn’t be there, they had to cancel practice.
“It would elicit questions. ‘Why isn’t the coach here?’ What Hard Knocks is showing has caused Robert Saleh to be criticized.”
The discussion was met with confusion and derision from Jets fans and media members, many of whom pointed out that Saleh was quite literally at practice the day before.
This is not accurate. Saleh was at practice yesterday. https://t.co/fnwIBeQ3fW
— Brian Costello (@BrianCoz) August 18, 2023
Umm…Robert Saleh had a press conference from training camp yesterday
Here's a picture from yesterday's practice with him in the background ⬇
WTF are you talking about ? pic.twitter.com/Ih2PVZcwKU
— Harrison Glaser (@NYJetsTFMedia) August 18, 2023
On Monday, Barber took time out of his show to apologize for the “reckless speculation” and says that he has personally spoken with Saleh about the situation.
Tiki Barber apologizes to Robert Saleh and the New York Jets after "reckless speculation" pic.twitter.com/GnzqbyM0H8
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) August 21, 2023
“Friday, we talked, uh, speculatively, about what was going on with the Jets and the Buccaneers practice,” said Barber. “I made a reckless speculation about what Coach Saleh was doing. And I know that was reckless and I’ve talked to Coach Saleh, talked to the Jets, and we’ve smoothed it out. I just wanted to apologize publicly to Coach Saleh and to the Jets. And I know where I went wrong in that and we have talked it out, so to speak.”
WFAN also appears to have scrubbed Tiki’s report from their audio feeds and social media. Their initial tweet featuring his discussion has been deleted.
When I click on the “Real reason why the Jets cancelled joint practice” it jumps ahead to later on in the show pic.twitter.com/fp5mlKWO7s
— Danny Small (@dwsmall8) August 21, 2023
The Jets are under a mountain of scrutiny this season thanks to the arrival of Aaron Rodgers and their reluctant appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks. It goes without saying that the New York media is going to go all-in on the team, for better or worse. And while there is plenty of room for criticism, speculation, and hot takes, especially if the season doesn’t go well, there’s still a responsibility that comes with being on a platform like WFAN when discussing the reality of what’s happening. It seems as though Barber was reminded of that responsibility here.