NFL reviewing Jets for Tripgate

Updated: December 31, 2010, 8:20 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Tripgate isn't over for the New York Jets, who could be subject to sanctions by the NFL for using inactive players in an illegal wall and publicly accusing the New England Patriots of the same tactic.

"All of these matters are under review," league spokesman Greg Aiello said Thursday night in an e-mail to ESPNNewYork.com, responding to specific questions about the team's use of the wall and the Patriots-related remarks by special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff.

A league representative is expected to meet with Jets officials as part of the investigation, and that meeting may occur as soon as Friday.

The controversy stems from Sal Alosi, the Jets' strength and conditioning coach, tripping Miami Dolphins player Nolan Carroll in Sunday's game at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

The Jets suspended Alosi for the remainder of the season without pay, but they increased the penalty to an indefinite suspension after determining Alosi instructed five inactive players to stand shoulder-to-shoulder along the sideline. The wall formation was designed to act as a deterrent to Carroll, the Dolphins' gunner on punt coverage.

The NFL sent a letter to the 32 teams Thursday reminding them of the rules and restrictions for the bench area and sidelines.

Ray Anderson, the league's executive vice president for football operations, emphasized the responsibilities placed on each team to appoint a "get-back coach" to ensure that players, coaches and other staff are in compliance with league rules.

Both head coach Rex Ryan and Westhoff said they had no knowledge of the wall until they reviewed the tape, claiming Alosi acted alone. But Westhoff may have inflamed the matter Wednesday, telling Chicago sports radio station ESPN 1000's "Waddle and Silvy Show" that the Patriots also have used it.

The league is checking into whether Westhoff violated a league rule by publicly calling out the Patriots. A 2008 league memo from commissioner Roger Goodell, printed in the San Francisco Chronicle and brought to light Thursday by ESPNBoston.com, warned every team that making false claims against other clubs could result in penalties.

The memo read: "Any club or individual reporting a violation is expected to do so in good faith, to have a reasonable basis for believing a violation occurred, and to produce (or to identify) evidence to substantiate the claim. In the event I determine that a claim is made in bad faith, is frivolous or that the club or person making the complaint is unable to produce evidence to support the charge, I will impose appropriate sanctions."

A Jets spokesman deferred to the league for comment.

Westhoff, in his 28th season as an NFL assistant, spoke to the Chicago radio station on the same day the Jets announced they had discovered "new information" on the Alosi matter -- information that he had organized the wall. He was part of that formation and extended his left knee as Carroll sprinted by.

"If you watch carefully, there is a pretty good team up north that lines up their whole defense when they do it, so it's something that just kind of happened," Westhoff told the radio station, confirming that he meant the Patriots.

Later in the day, addressing reporters at the Jets' facility, Westhoff said, "I'm not accusing the Patriots of doing something wrong. Maybe they're doing something smart. That's up to you. Just watch the tape. You tell me. I know one thing, I don't teach it."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick doesn't meet with the media on Thursdays and was unavailable to comment.

Presumably, the league will investigate whether Alosi acted alone or whether he was instructed to organize the wall.

Ryan's old boss, Brian Billick thinks there's no way Ryan didn't no about the wall.

"Of course Rex knew about this," Billick, an NFL of FOX analyst, said Thursday on ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" radio show. "Players crowding the sideline, a gunner running down the sideline, has always been an issue, and I think what you're going to see with the league is the proverbial, 'We have a rule in place, it is going to be enforced.'"

One of the Jets inactive players, tight end Jeff Cumberland, said Alosi had been instructing them from the start of the season to form the wall on punts.

Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum said Wednesday he welcomed a league review.

"The league is going to look into this, as well they should," he said.

Tannenbaum also said he'd meet with Ryan and owner Woody Johnson for "a full and complete review of the facts." He didn't expect it to take long to determine Alosi's fate.

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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