Josh Lambo was off to a slow start. The Jaguars kicker missed a field-goal attempt in each of the first two preseason games.
But the fourth-most-accurate placekicker in NFL history wasn’t worried as he stretched with teammates at a practice during the week before the final exhibition game against the Cowboys in August.
Then Lambo was approached by head coach Urban Meyer, who wasn’t calling Jaguars specialists by their names.
“It was ‘Kicker, Punter, Long snapper,’ ” Lambo said. “Or S--tbag, Dips--t or whatever the hell it was.”
The names didn’t bother Lambo, but what the former Florida Gators coach did next, Lambo said, were the actions of a mean-spirited bully.
“I’m in a lunge position. Left leg forward, right leg back,” Lambo said. “Urban Meyer, while I’m in that stretch position, comes up to me and says, ‘Hey Dips--t, make your f--king kicks!’ And kicks me in the leg.”
Lambo spoke for the first time publicly about what he said happened to him in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.
Hours after the story went viral Wednesday, the Jaguars fired Meyer, ending his tumultuous NFL tenure after 13 games.
Of the kick, Lambo said, “It certainly wasn’t as hard as he could’ve done it (kicked), but it certainly wasn’t a love tap. Truthfully, I’d register it as a five (out of 10). Which in the workplace, I don’t care if it’s football or not, the boss can’t strike an employee. And for a second, I couldn’t believe it actually happened. Pardon my vulgarity, I said, ‘Don’t you ever f- king kick me again!’ And his response was, ‘I’m the head ball coach, I’ll kick you whenever the f--k I want.’ "
Lambo said other players saw and heard the incident, but he did not disclose any names because he did not want to involve them.
Meyer, speaking prior to his firing, denied that the incident happened the way Lambo described it.
“Josh’s characterization of me and this incident is completely inaccurate, and there are eyewitnesses to refute his account,” Meyer said. “(General manager) Trent (Baalke) and I met with him on multiple occasions to encourage his performance, and this was never brought up. I was fully supportive of Josh during his time with the team and wish him nothing but the best.”
Concerns about how he was being coached
The morning after Lambo said he was kicked, he said he was in a nutritional aisle at the team’s training facility making a smoothie.
Meyer approached him.
“He sees me and I’m by myself and he kind of cornered me and comes up to me and says, ‘Are you going to put a smile on that face?’ ” Lambo said. “I said, ‘I’ll smile if you’ll stop kicking me.’ ”
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The conversation was out of earshot of other players or staff, Lambo said.
“The details of the conversation I do remember, I was having issues with how he was coaching me throughout spring, throughout camp that I had kept to myself and I expressed a couple of those issues with the special teams coordinator, who related them to Urban, who seemingly halfway understood. His response was, ‘OK, you don’t like me doing this, OK. If you don’t like me doing that, fine. But if you ever speak to me like that again, you’ll be out of here. You’re the first player I’ve ever let speak to me that way in my career, and if you do it again, you’re gone.’ ”
Lambo said he was stunned.
“I said, ‘I’m genuinely not trying to be sarcastic here, Urban, but what did I say that offended you?’ ” Lambo remembered asking Meyer. “He said, ‘When you responded to me out there on the practice field in front of everybody. If you have an issue and don’t like me kicking you, well, then, you keep that to yourself and you wait until after practice and after meetings and you come find me in the office and tell me privately.’ ”
Lambo said he reported the incident to his agent, Richard Irvin, who contacted the Jaguars’ legal counsel the day after Meyer kicked him.
Irvin and the Jaguars confirmed that the legal counsel was contacted and offered Lambo a chance to meet with them. Lambo said he has “no recollection of being able to speak with the Jags’ legal team.”
“Jaguars legal counsel indeed acknowledged and responded immediately to the query made by Josh Lambo’s agent Friday, August 27, 2021,” the Jaguars said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “Counsel offered to speak with Josh, or to assist Josh in speaking with coaching or any other football personnel, if he was comfortable with her sharing the information. Any suggestion otherwise is blatantly false.”
Lambo, 31, was released after he missed his first three field-goal attempts to start the season.
Lambo, currently a free agent, said he felt it was his obligation to come forward with his story after watching Meyer’s run-ins with players and assistant coaches in recent weeks.
The Jaguars lost their fifth straight game Sunday, shut out by the Titans 20-0, to fall to 2-11.
‘People need to speak up against bullies’
Meyer’s future with the Jaguars had been clouded since October after he stayed in Ohio instead of taking the team plane home following a Week 4 loss to the Bengals. He was captured on video at a bar with a young woman who was not his wife dancing close to his lap.
Last week, nfl.com reported that receiver Marvin Jones became so angry with Meyer’s public and private criticism of the Jaguars’ receivers that he left the team facility until other staff members convinced him to return. He had a heated argument with Meyer in a practice.
According to that story, Meyer also delivered a scathing message in a staff meeting that he’s a winner and his assistant coaches were losers, challenging each in a meeting to defend his resume.
Meyer, 57, has denied the report, saying, “if there is a source, that source is unemployed. ... I mean, within seconds.”
That comment didn’t sit well with Lambo, who spent five seasons with the Jaguars and was named second-team All-Pro in 2019.
“That’s the reason I wanted to talk about this,” he said. “There’s been a lot of turnover, but those are still my people. Some of those dudes are my dudes, and the staff members I have grown into amazing relationships with over the last five seasons. (Meyer) threatened all of them for speaking the truth. And that’s a bully, and people need to speak up against bullies.”
Lambo knows he could face pushback from Meyer supporters, including players and coaches who won national titles with him at Florida and Ohio State. But he said he felt it was important to speak out.
“A 50-something-year-old man can kick a 30-something-year-old man, both working doing their jobs, and he can do that in front of everybody else and that’s OK? But I can’t defend myself?” Lambo said. “Again, an adult, in the line, doing what I’m supposed to be doing for his team, and I can’t stand up for myself, and when I do, I get fired?”
Lambo said Meyer’s actions have no place in any work environment.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s football or not, and I know football has this perceived notion about it,” Lambo said. “But at the end of the day, that’s my job. I’m not there as a football player, I’m there as Josh Lambo doing his job. What (Meyer) did was unfathomable.”
Contact Rick Stroud at email@example.com. Follow @NFLSTROUD.
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