Jets paying lockout lost wages

Updated: July 25, 2011, 9:51 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

With the NFL lockout on the verge of ending, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson assembled the entire organization Monday morning in the team's auditorium and told about 150 employees that all lost wages from the lockout would be returned to them by the time they returned to their desks, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

"At the beginning, we realized that asking people to take 25 percent pay cuts at this time would be a tremendous hardship. It was a shared sacrifice in a period where we had unknown financial conditions," Johnson said, according to the team's website. "I don't think anybody was happy about it. I wasn't happy that I had to ask people to do this. But now that the agreement is in place, we're living up to our end of the bargain, and we're all moving forward."

Coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum also spoke at the assembly, the person said, with Ryan delivering a fiery, training camp-style pep talk to the coaches and staffers in the room. Basically, his message was, "The Jets are ready to get down to business."

In the early March, at the start of the lockout, the Jets slashed salaries of all employees in the football operation by 25 percent, with the provision that they would recoup the money if no games were lost due to the lockout. Ryan and Tannenbaum were included in the cuts. Non-contract employees were ordered to take unpaid furloughs.

Johnson delivered on his promise. In fact, one employee said his lost salary was already direct deposited into his account by the time he returned to his desk.

A 25 percent cut, across the span of four months, can add up to a considerable amount of money. For a coach making $500,000, that's roughly $40,000.

Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins also have decided to restore employee pay that was reduced because of the labor dispute, The Associated Press reported.

The team also sent an email from Johnson and a 35-second video from Ryan to all Jets season ticket holders, suite holders, fans and corporate partners announcing that the owners and players had come to terms on an agreement.

"It all starts now," Johnson said in the email. "The players are returning, Mike and Rex have never been more ready, and Jets football is officially back. I hope you're ready for what I'm confident will be a memorable 2011 season."

A 40-second recorded voicemail from Ryan was left for all Jets season ticket holders, with the brash coach telling fans: "I need you in those seats, and let's have at it. Let's make this a super season. Let's get it on!"

Ryan said he plans to let quarterback Mark Sanchez "fly a little more than we have in the past," and told fans in the voice mail to "get ready to have an unbelievable season."

The Jets, who have made it to the AFC Championship Game the last two years, are scheduled to open the preseason at Houston on Aug. 15. They begin their regular-season schedule in front of a national television audience on Sept. 11 against Dallas.

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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