|ESPN.com: NFL||[Print without images]|
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Four hours after fighting back tears at a news conference, New York Jets strength coach Sal Alosi was suspended without pay for the remainder of the season and fined an additional $25,000 by the team for tripping Miami Dolphins player Nolan Carroll Sunday on the Jets' sideline.
Alosi's ban, effective immediately, includes any playoff games. During the suspension, he will have no access to the team's practice facility and is prohibited from job-related interaction with players and coaches. He can return the day after the season is over. There will be no additional sanctions from the league.
The Jets, who decided on the punishment after consulting with the NFL office, considered termination.
Alosi, shaken and remorseful during a public apology, probably helped his cause by owning up to his mistake.
"Sal feels terrible for what he did, and yet he took ownership, which I respect," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said. "It's something we take very seriously here. We're extremely disappointed with what he did. There's no place for it in this game and he knows that. It's our job to hold him accountable."
The Jets haven't made a decision on whether Alosi, 33, will be allowed back on the sideline in 2011, according to Tannenbaum.
"I accept responsibility for my actions and respect the team's decision," Alosi said in a statement released by the team.
Alosi is paid bi-weekly, meaning he could lose two paychecks if the Jets advance one round into the playoffs. Between lost pay and the fine, Alosi stands to lose about $50,000, according to a person familiar with the situation
Earlier in the day, in a five-minute news conference, Alosi said his action was "inexcusable and irresponsible." Asked to explain why he tripped Carroll, a "gunner" who ran out of bounds while covering a punt, Alosi said, "You're asking me to give a logical explanation to an illogical act ... I wasn't thinking. If I could go back and do it again, I'd sure as heck take a step back [from Carroll]."
There was speculation that Alosi may have been instructed to form a human wall on the sideline, a show of force to deter the Dolphins' gunners. Early in the game, another gunner was penalized for running out of bounds by the Jets' bench.
A close examination of the TV replay shows Alosi, backup defensive tackle Marcus Dixon (inactive) and four others in Jets garb, side by side. Alosi, Dixon and an unidentified third person were almost in a wedge formation, their feet practically touching.
Curiously, none of them flinched as Carroll approached at full speed. Alosi leaned forward, extending his left knee as Carroll ran by. Carroll went flying and appeared to be hurt. He got up slowly, but returned to the game. Alosi is the Jets' "get-back" coach. In other words, it's his job to instruct the sideline personnel to stay a safe distance from the action.
Two coaches from teams outside the AFC East, the Jets' division, said such an alignment has been "coached" or "encouraged" by certain clubs. They did not specifically identify the Jets as a known culprit of such practice.
Alosi, Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan all maintained that there was no order to form a wall.
"No, that wasn't anything that was instructed," said Alosi, claiming he was so close to the sideline because he wanted to cheer on the players.
Said Tannenbaum, "We don't coach that. Coach [Mike] Westhoff doesn't coach that. Coach Ryan doesn't coach that. We try to follow those rules as closely as possible, the player-safety rules."
Ryan said players, coaches and staffers are told to be ready to scatter on the sideline when the gunner is double teamed -- a technique that often forces the gunner out of bounds. On that play, Carroll was doubled, but no one moved.
In the wake of the interference on Sunday, the NFL will send a memo to all 32 clubs as a reminder that they should adhere to league rules that require players, coaches and other personnel to remain the proper distance from the sidelines, according to league sources.
Ryan, commenting for the first time on the controversy, said he was "stunned" by the trip. A subdued Ryan issued a strong rebuke, saying, "That's a thing that has no business in this league or anywhere else. Sal made a huge mistake. He knows that. I can't remember anything like that ever happening."
Ryan offered a public apology to Carroll and the Dolphins' organization.
"I know I'll get killed for it -- it definitely has no place in football -- but he made a mistake and he admitted it," Ryan said, commending Alosi's remorse.
Alosi, a former football player at Hofstra, nearly choked up as he met with reporters. He read a brief statement and answered a few questions, including: What was going through your head?
"That's the problem; nothing was going through my head," he said. "Had I been thinking, I would've taken a step backward instead of going forward."
This was another blemish on the Jets' image. In September, the organization came under heavy scrutiny for Braylon Edwards' drunk-driving arrest and the Ines Sainz locker-room incident. The latter resulted in a public rebuke from Commissioner Roger Goodell, who said the Jets acted unprofessionally. As a penalty, owner Woody Johnson was required to subsidize a leaguewide training program for behavior in the work place.
Ryan said the Alosi incident is "a terrible thing," but refused to call it a pattern of bad behavior.
After the game, Carroll said he wasn't angry. But some of his teammates unloaded on Alosi and the Jets.
"They're cheaters," outspoken linebacker Channing Crowder said. "They do what they do. They cheat. They talk junk. But we beat the hell out of them today. ... I wish they'd tripped me. I'd have broken that old man's leg. I didn't see anything. He stuck his leg out and tripped him? He should be ashamed of himself. A grown man from the coaching staff? That's high character."
Running back Ricky Williams said: "It's the Jets right? We're not surprised."
Alosi was first with the Jets from 2001-05, then worked for the Falcons for one season before he was hired by then-New York coach Eric Mangini in 2007 to be the head strength and conditioning coach.
Now with the Cleveland Browns, Mangini described Alosi as "a good person."
"He made a dumb mistake," Mangini said. "If he could take it back, I'm sure he would. It's disappointing it happened. I'm sorry for the whole situation."
Alosi was a linebacker for Hofstra from 1996-2000, and even earned an award for sportsmanship and fair play both on and off the field during his college career.
Carroll twice broke his right leg while playing: once ending his senior season in high school and again in his senior season at Maryland.
"I'm extremely thankful that my actions yesterday didn't result in any significant injury to Nolan or any other players," Alosi said.
Carroll's mother, Jennifer, is Florida's Lt. Gov.-elect. She was disappointed to find out it was a strength and conditioning coach who did it.
"Here's a person that's on the team that understands the injuries of these players incurred day in and day out just from normal wear and tear," Jennifer Carroll said. "He's supposed to be healing these players and making them 100 percent to go out and execute and do their jobs."
She was also thankful her son escaped serious injury.
"It could have been a debilitating situation," she said. "If it were lower to his knee, he could have busted a knee cap. It could have put him out for the season or even for his career."
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter. Information from ESPN's Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press was used in this report.