FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) - The New York Jets are paying for their sideline shenanigans. The team was fined $100,000 by the NFL on Thursday for violating league rules when assistant coach Sal Alosi ordered players to form a sideline wall, then tripped Miami’s Nolan Carroll during a punt return earlier this month.
The discipline was in response to the actions of Alosi, the Jets’ strength and conditioning coach, and comments made by special teams coach Mike Westhoff, who accused other teams of employing similar sideline wall tactics.
“We will comply with the league’s decision,” the Jets said in a statement.
Alosi “placed players in a prohibited area on the sideline to impede an opposing team’s special teams players and gain a competitive advantage,” according to a statement by the league. The NFL called it “a competitive violation as well as a dangerous tactic.”
Five inactive players were ordered by Alosi to stand together nearly shoulder-to-shoulder on the sideline in New York’s 10-6 loss to Miami on Dec. 12. Tight end Jeff Cumberland, one of the inactive players, said Alosi had told them to do that all season.
Alosi was first suspended without pay for the remainder of the season and fined $25,000 by the Jets for tripping Carroll, before being suspended indefinitely by the team after acknowledging he ordered the players to form the wall.
The league fine caps one of several incidents for which the playoff-bound Jets have made negative headlines during a wacky season.
From coach Rex Ryan’s foul language on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” to another NFL investigation by the league in September after reporter Ines Sainz, of TV Azteca, said she felt uncomfortable in the team’s locker room, the Jets seemingly have been in the news constantly.
As a result of the Sainz incident, the NFL developed a workplace conduct program, underwritten by Jets owner Woody Johnson. A few weeks later, wide receiver Braylon Edwards was arrested and charged with drunken driving, a case that is still pending.
Last January, Ryan was fined $50,000 by the team after he was caught on a cell phone camera flipping his middle finger at a fan during a mixed-martial arts competition in Sunrise, Fla.
An embarrassed Ryan also had to answer questions about a foot-fetish report posted by the sports website Deadspin last week, saying repeatedly it’s “a personal matter.”
The Jets also have been involved with the Brett Favre scandal. The Minnesota quarterback was fined $50,000 by the league on Wednesday for failing to cooperate with its lengthy investigation of inappropriate messages and lewd photos he allegedly sent to former Jets game-day employee Jenn Sterger in 2008, when both were employed by the team.
Both Ryan and Westhoff have previously denied any knowledge of the wall tactic set up by Alosi, despite some media and fans speculating that they both must have been involved.
“I wasn’t aware that was going on,” Ryan said at the time. “It’s easy for me to stand here and tell you that.”
Carroll, a rookie, fell to the turf after being struck by Alosi, and lay there for several minutes before walking off.
Alosi apologized to Carroll and Dolphins coach Tony Sparano that night. During a news conference the next day, a tearful Alosi took full responsibility for what he did.
“I let everybody down yesterday with my actions,” he said. “My actions were inexcusable and irresponsible.”
The NFL recently met with the team to investigate the incident and spoke with Westhoff about his comments, when he said other teams employ sideline walls, including the New England Patriots.
“I’m not accusing the Patriots of doing something wrong,” Westhoff said. “Maybe they’re doing something smart. That’s up to you. Watch the tape, you tell me.”
In its statement Thursday, the NFL said the fine was imposed 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.” It also stated that the league policies require teams to report “actual or suspected violations of competitive rules” by other teams to the NFL office only, and not to publicly criticize them.
Johnson has since apologized to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, as well as Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
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.
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.”
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