Jets suspend Sal Alosi indefinitely

Updated: December 16, 2010, 10:21 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

The New York Jets have suspended Sal Alosi indefinitely after the team got "new information" that the strength and conditioning coach "instructed" five players to stand in a wall before he tripped Dolphins player Nolan Carroll on Sunday.

Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum announced the punishment after Alosi was suspended for the rest of the season and fined $25,000 on Monday.

"Over the last day as we continued our investigation we discovered some new information," Tannenbaum said. "The players at the Miami game were instructed by Sal to stand where they were forcing the gunner in the game to run around them. Based on that new information we've suspended Sal indefinitely, pending further review."

NFL vice president of football operations Ray Anderson has reviewed the play and he said what Alosi ordered was illegal. At the owners meetings in Fort Worth, Texas, he cited two NFL rules about where players, coaches and support staff are supposed to stand.

When asked if they were in violation of the rules, Anderson said: "Yes."

This isn't the first time Alosi has ordered players to line up either, according to a player who was on the wall on Sunday.

"We've been doing that since the beginning of the year, standing right there. Sunday was not the first time that we'd been doing that," Jets tight end Jeff Cumberland said.

"I mean, throughout the season you know things are going to happen but you never expect this to happen."

Cumberland said Alosi didn't explain to the players why they were lined up.

"He never really just gave a reason," Cumberland said. "He just said during punt return, 'You just stand right here by this line, everybody just stand right here.' There wasn't really a reason why. But we kinda figured just in case somebody ran over here."

Tannenbaum said as soon as the team learned the new information, the Jets contacted Anderson.

"They support this initial decision that we presented to them," Tannenbaum said. "The league is going to look into this as well, as well they should. Once we get all the information we'll make a final determination."

Tannenbaum added that not only what Alosi did affected his punishment but how he handled the fallout. The general manager said Alosi wasn't forthright when the team spoke to him on Monday.

"It's really for the totality of the situation -- the unsportsmanlike act," Tannenbaum said. "We didn't have all of the information on Monday. Over the course of the next few days more information came out and that really doesn't sit well with us, and that's why we felt this additional step was necessary."

Tannenbaum was clear in what happened on the sideline Sunday.

"Specifically, when Miami was punting they were asked to stand there by him," he said.

Tannenbaum said Alosi acted alone, he wasn't told by anyone in the organization to instruct players to stand in a line. Addressing the media Monday, Alosi claimed he wasn't instructed by anyone to create a human wall.

Cumberland backed that stance when asked if anyone else asked him to stand in the line. "Just Sal," he said.

Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan said Monday the players aren't coached to do that.

Tannenbaum said the team looked at game film of the play and "it looked to me like it was unusual for them to be standing that way." The Jets interviewed the players who were standing near Alosi, but will not take any action against them.

"This is just about Sal," Tannenbaum said.

Could Alosi be fired for the move?

"All options are certainly on the table. We're going to complete the review and get all the information," Tannenbaum said. "[Special-teams coach] Mike Westhoff was not involved, Rex Ryan was not involved, but we just want to be thorough and get all the information."

Westhoff told ESPNNewYork.com on Wednesday that he was not teaching players to line up in formations to impede play. He said that he would never condone being in a position to injure a player from the sidelines.

"You'd have to be a sick individual to have that in mind," Westhoff said.

He added that he felt bad for Alosi, who he said had a lapse in judgment.

"I think the whole thing is silly," Westhoff said. "I don't see a purpose served. I truly don't. I just don't see an advantage."

Westhoff said in a Wednesday visit with the Waddle & Silvy Show on ESPN 1000 in Chicago that he didn't know what Alosi was doing.

"I had nothing to do with it, just to be honest with you," Westhoff said. "I didn't even know we were doing it. There was some organization to it."

But he also said he's noticed the Jets aren't the only team lining up on the sidelines during punts. The Patriots engage in similar tactics, he said.

"A number of teams do it," Westhoff said. "There is a pretty good team up north that lines their whole defense up when they do it, so it's something that just kind of happened."

Asked if he's saying the Patriots line up players to impede punt coverage teams, Westhoff elaborated: "Well, if you watch them, their defense when the opponents' punt team is out there, they're up there pretty close to the line, so it looks like they are trying to do it. Now are they doing anything illegal? Are they tripping anybody, heck no. I'm not saying that. That's not the point. But, yeah, they're lined up there. Is it making a difference? I don't know. I really don't know, because to tell you the truth, before this happened I never really looked at anybody's sideline in all my years."

The league is trying to formulate a standard for plays along the sideline.

"Ray Anderson and his staff are reviewing and clarifying sideline protocols with the teams at today's league meeting in Fort Worth and will follow up with a memo to the clubs this week," NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello said in an e-mail.

Player sentiment was united behind Alosi. Quarterback Mark Sanchez and linebacker Bart Scott referred to their strength and conditioning coach as a teammate.

"I'm sure, maybe in his way, he was doing what he could to help the team win," Scott said. "He's paying a hefty price. But, like with all things, he's like a teammate. He's no different from Braylon [Edwards] who had his adversity or Santonio [Holmes] or anybody. You stand behind your teammate. Hopefully he gets through it."

Wide receiver Brad Smith said he has been in Carroll's shoes.

"I've been the flier," he said. "I didn't know if you see a wall necessarily, but nobody's really going to move to get out of the way if you're running on the sideline. It happens every now and again, not necessarily hitting a guy, but people are there and you have to avoid them."

He said that it can be hazardous.

"Sometimes they try to push them into a kicking net or whatever obstacle is on the sideline," Smith said. "They're taught to just get the guy and slow him down in any kind of way."

Former Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas had accused the Jets on Tuesday of deliberately forming a wall on their sideline to influence the Dolphins' gunner.

Thomas is part of a growing faction that believes Alosi wasn't acting alone.

"They had to be ordered to stand there because they're foot to foot," Thomas said Tuesday on Miami radio station WQAM. "There's four of them, side to side -- five of them, I mean -- on the edge of the coaches' zone. They're only out there to restrict the space of the gunner.

"But there's more to it because I'm telling you, the only thing [Alosi] did wrong was intentionally put that knee out there. If he just stood there, there would never have been a problem, even if the guy got tripped. But there's more to this. He was ordered to stand there. No one is foot to foot on the sideline in the coaches' box."

There was a six-man line, starting with Alosi and defensive lineman Marcus Dixon (inactive). It's believed the other four also were inactive players. They were in a tight formation, almost like soccer players preparing to defend a direct kick. Their toes were right up against the boundary, with Alosi positioned in the corner of the coaches' box.

Westhoff said he spoke to Thomas about his comments Tuesday that it was obvious the Jets had set up a wall. Westhoff said they are very close and that those comments made him look culpable: "The fact that it's associated with teams, then it comes back to me."

Carroll said Wednesday he has found it difficult to get away from replays of the tripping episode.

He said he has seen the replay on TV more times than he can count.

"The past couple of days it has been continuous, every channel I turn to," he said, shaking his head. "I'm just trying to watch TV. I can't get away from it."

The contact of the trip did cause a muscle spasm in Carroll's right leg, which he broke last year, but he later returned to the game.

The Dolphins reserve said he has received lots of text messages and phone calls from concerned friends in the wake of the incident. He's trying to put the incident behind him and isn't worried about what the Jets do to Alosi.

"It's their problem," Carroll said. "It's not my problem. I've moved on from it. What they do in New York, they've got to deal with that."

Shortly after the game, Alosi apologized by phone to Carroll and Dolphins coach Tony Sparano.

"I'm glad he called me," Carroll said. "He admitted it to me, like a man. He was sorry."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Jane McManus, ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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