FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The Jets further distanced themselves from Sal Alosi Wednesday, suspending him "indefinitely" after obtaining more information about Sunday's tripping incident.
But the team's story - that of a rogue head strength and conditioning coach acting on his own - only raised more questions about the inner workings of the organization and the rules dictating where players should stand and how they should act on the sideline.
General manager Mike Tannenbaum, in an impromptu conference call from the NFL owners' meetings in Dallas, said the decision was made after learning Alosi had instructed five inactive players to form a wall on the sideline to obstruct Miami "gunners" on the Jets' punt returns during Sunday's 10-6 loss to the Dolphins. Alosi did not volunteer that information Monday.
The Massapequa native and former Hofstra player was caught on film intentionally tripping Nolan Carroll. Alosi was suspended Monday without pay for the rest of the season and playoffs and fined $25,000.But in light of the new information, which Tannenbaum said was provided Tuesday by players involved and later corroborated by Alosi, the Jets decided a stiffer penalty was in order.
"More information came out and that really doesn't sit well with us," Tannenbaum said. "That's why we felt that this additional step was necessary."
Tight end Jeff Cumberland was one of the five inactive players standing with Alosi at the time of the incident. He said Alosi had told the five "to step in front of the line" during punt returns since the season began.
"We were just following instructions," Cumberland said.
Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff Westhoff said he reviewed every return by the Jets this season with his assistant Ben Kotwica, "and for the most part, we saw absolutely nothing 'til the very end."
Ray Anderson, vice president of NFL operations, said where the Jets' inactive players were lined up was "improper." Only coaches and substitutes are allowed to stand within the six-foot space behind the white area of the sideline. In an e-mail to Newsday, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Anderson and his staff will send a memo to NFL teams this week.
Dixon, who said he was beside Alosi when he tripped Carroll, insisted the players were never told to harm anyone.
"We're standing there because the gunners always try to use that as free access to get downfield, so you want them to run around you," Dixon said. "Don't take it as like he's gathering us out there to hurt somebody, cause it's not like that at all. Sal's a great guy."
Asked why the Jets didn't fire Alosi, Tannenbaum said: "We just want to leave all the options on the table. We want to review everything thoroughly and then we'll make the best decision."
Ryan and Westhoff denied having prior knowledge of Alosi's instructions. "I don't believe in it. I don't do it," Westhoff said. "If I saw it and knew we were doing it for a particular reason, I'd say, 'Hey, give me a break, guys, that doesn't help anything. Cut it out.' "
Westhoff also clarified his comments on ESPN radio in Chicago about New England's tendency to also line up players on the sideline. "I'm not accusing the Patriots of doing something wrong,'' he said. "Maybe they're doing something smart."