Brian Billick says Rex Ryan knew

Updated: December 18, 2010, 3:55 AM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- As New York Jets coach Rex Ryan reiterated Friday that he had no knowledge the Jets had been using a wall tactic on the sideline during punt returns, the NFL showed up at the team's practice facility to investigate.

Ryan was reacting to former Ravens coach Brian Billick, who said that Ryan must have known about the wall.

"I just wish he would have asked me, I would have told him the truth," Ryan said. "I think he made an assumption there. He's wrong."

Billick, an NFL on Fox analyst, made the comments Thursday on ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" radio show.

"Of course Rex knew about this," Billick said. "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.'"

Meanwhile, according to a league source, NFL representatives were at the Jets facility in Florham Park, N.J., on Friday to interview members of the Jets organization about the sideline wall. NFL investigators have been there before this season -- to interview Jets staffers about the potential harassment of a female TV Azteca reporter and to look into claims that Brett Favre harassed former Jets game-day host Jenn Sterger.

The NFL issued guidelines on where team personnel can stand in the wake of last Sunday's game against Miami, when Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripped Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll as he was running near the sideline on a punt return. Alosi was suspended indefinitely after the team found he had instructed players to stand tightly in a line to deter players acting as gunners.

The Jets have maintained that Alosi was acting alone.

Billick isn't the only person to express doubt that Ryan and special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff weren't aware of the tactic, which tight end Jeff Cumberland said has been going on all season.

"The facts are the facts," Ryan said. "I never knew so it's easy for me to stand up here and tell you that. I'm not a guy that lies about anything. I'm just speaking the truth. If that amazes people or whatever, it amazes people. The fact that I was standing there and [Carroll] fell by me, I said that day one. I also said that I [waved to the medical staff] trying to get the guy over."

Ryan was asked if his attention was more focused on the field.

"Quite honestly it's the only thing that concerns me."

The league said in an e-mail to teams that "flagrant violations after two warnings could result in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty."

"Our team will be way back, I think that's pretty safe to say," Ryan said. "We will be the leaders in that."

Ryan did say that he, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and owner Woody Johnson had discussed the situation in the wake of revelations that Alosi was ordering players to stand in a line.

"We've talked about some things," Ryan said. "I'm going to leave that private."

Jane McManus is a reporter and columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow her on Twitter.

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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