Four days after the trip heard ’round the NFL world, the story continues to grow, well, legs.
On Wednesday, the Jets announced that strength coach Sal Alosi’s suspension through the end of the 2010 season would be converted to an indefinite suspension, given the conclusion that Alosi had been aligning players on the edge of the field to impede gunners from opposing punt teams. Then, Jets special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff accused the Patriots of doing the same thing, via confusing comments in which Westoff simultaneously seemed to suggest that the Patriots were doing nothing wrong while insisting that his own name not be attached to such dastardly deeds.
In subsequent remarks, Westhoff further clouded the issue. “I’m not accusing the Patriots of doing something wrong,” Westhoff said at a press conference. “Maybe they’re doing something smart.” Fine, so why has Westhoff vehemently distanced himself from the apparently legal practice of lining up personnel on the white stripe that lines the field?
Setting aside (for now) the question of whether Alosi truly was acting alone or whether he’s merely taking the fall for Westhoff and/or others, a league source pointed out to us on Wednesday night that Westhoff’s decision to publicly point a finger at the Patriots potentially violates separate rules regarding the procedure for making complaints about other teams. Put simply, if one NFL team has a beef with another NFL team, the grievance must be aired privately and through proper league channels.
The issue last came up in 2008, when Raiders owner Al Davis strongly implied that the Patriots had tampered with receiver Randy Moss before swinging a trade for the player who went from underachiever in Oakland to superstar in Boston. The league fired off a letter to Davis reminding him of the prohibition against making such public claims, and essentially instructing him to either file tampering charges with the league office or drop it.
It remains to be seen whether the league office reminds the Jets of this provision, or whether any punishment will be imposed. Multiple league sources have suggested that nothing will happen; accurate or otherwise, there’s a perception in league circles that the Jets receive special treatment from the league office.
That perception has been bolstered by the fact that Alosi’s actions were deemed to be sufficiently egregious to justify an indefinite suspension by the Jets, but that the league has imposed no penalty on the Jets. Compare that with last month’s Spygate II episode, in which the Broncos were fined $50,000 simply by virtue of the fact that they employed a video operator who (supposedly) videotaped a 49ers’ walk-through practice as a rogue act.
The league can’t have it both ways, no matter how badly the league wants to see this situation go away quickly and as quietly as possible.