- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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The NFL fined the New York Jets $100,000 in the wake of discoveries involving strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi, who instructed inactive players to stand in a wall in a prohibited area on the sideline to deter opposing teams' players during special-teams plays.
"This is both a competitive violation as well as a dangerous tactic," read the NFL statement to announce the fine.
The issue came to light when Alosi was caught on camera putting his knee forward as Miami gunner Nolan Carroll ran toward the Jets sideline and was tripped. Carroll was not injured. Alosi was suspended until the end of the season by the Jets for the trip.
On video replays of the moments before Alosi's knee made contact with Carroll, it was apparent the Jets players were standing very close together. Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said Alosi hadn't been fully truthful initially, and when the Jets learned he had instructed players to stand that way, they suspended him indefinitely.
"We will comply with the league's decision," said a Jets spokesperson.
Both Jets coach Rex Ryan and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said they were unaware of the tactic. Tight end Jeff Cumberland, who was inactive during the Miami game, said he had been told to stand that way all season without being told why.
"[Alosi] never really just gave a reason," Cumberland said after Alosi's suspension. "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."
The NFL's fine also included a penalty due to Westhoff's statements to the media that he had seen similar tactics used by other teams, and he specifically named the AFC rival New England Patriots. Westhoff said he noticed it when he watched film of past games to see if Alosi had the Jets stand in the wall formation during earlier games.
"Were [the Patriots] teaching it?" Westhoff said at the time. "I have no idea. When they punted were they back? Yes. When the other team punted were they up tighter? Yes. Absolutely. You can look at it -- look at the tape. I'm not accusing the Patriots of doing something wrong, maybe they are doing something smart. That's up to you. Just watch the tape. You tell me. I know one thing, I don't teach it, I don't coach it and I'm not aware that it happened."
Jets owner Woody Johnson has since apologized to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, as well as Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
The NFL's statement said the NFL constitution and bylaws require teams to report suspected violations to the NFL, not to accuse another team publicly.
"The fine has been imposed on the Jets to emphasize that clubs are accountable for the actions of their employees and have the obligation to ensure that all members of their organization comply with league rules," read the statement.
A few days after the incident, the NFL sent a letter to all 32 teams reminding them of the rules and restrictions for the bench area and sidelines.
Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president for football operations, emphasized the responsibilities placed on each team to appoint a "get-back coach," who must be aware of all sideline restrictions and is responsible for ensuring that the team and staff are in compliance. Anderson added that "violations could subject your team and/or individuals to both in-game penalties and other disciplinary action. Flagrant violations after two warnings could result in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty."
He said fines and suspensions could be imposed by the league, as well.
The Jets suspended Alosi without pay for the rest of the season after the Dec. 12 incident and fined him $25,000.
Last week, Johnson defended his team, saying he is "very proud of the organization," and even disagreed with the notion that the Jets have made an inordinate amount of negative headlines.
"We're going to work on things like our culture," Johnson said last Thursday. "We're going to work on trying to make ourselves an organization that doesn't have, preferably, any incidents, but we know that we're going to have some."
Jane McManus is a reporter and columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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