The NFL suspended New York Jets strength coach Sal Alosi for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs without pay for his intentional tripping of Miami Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll(notes) on Sunday. He was also fined $25,000. The announcement, first reported by Jay Glazer, came hours after an apologetic Alosi met with the New York media to reiterate his regret for the incident.
In a brief statement at Jets headquarters in New Jersey, Alosi told reporters that he had apologized to Carroll, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, Jets owner Woody Johnson, team general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan. He said he didn't offer his resignation and would be accepting of any punishment that was handed down.
That ended up being three games, and any potential Jets playoff games, without salary, an essential ban for the rest of the season. The decision was jointly decided upon by the Jets and the NFL. That, plus the fine, is a severe penalty for a coach who makes a working-man's salary, not the millions of dollars earned by the players he trains.
[Photo: See Sal Alosi]
The 33-year-old coach looked nervous in front of the assembled media earlier on Monday, but his words and mannerisms seemed sincere.
There were calls to fire the coach for the bush-league maneuver, but the league was wise to resist that mob mentality. A severe sanction was in order and this punishment was justified. A termination was not. How could Roger Goodell rationalize getting rid of a coach while giving players repeated chances to come back from far more heinous offenses? The biggest story in the NFL this year involves a player given a second chance. Alosi deserved the same chance.
This is no defense of Alosi; the tripping was a heinous offense. The NFL has a hard enough time keeping players safe from other players, let alone from coaches standing on the sideline. But it was a momentary lapse in judgment and one that isn't apt to be repeated by anyone else. There isn't going to be a rash of assistant coaches with happy feet trying to tangle up opponents. It was an isolated incident, which means Alosi's punishment didn't need to send a message to anyone else but Alosi.
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Rex Ryan acknowledged that his assistant messed up but defended him. "Sal made a huge mistake," he said. "I can't remember anything like this."
He's right. The scene late in the third quarter was one of the most bizarre sequences you'll see on a football field:
If anything, the NFL might have gone too far. Players who pocket millions every year get $25,000 in fines for potentially paralyzing hits. Carroll get suspended for three games, losing almost one-fifth of his yearly salary and gets fined 25 grand? That's stunning. He just stuck his foot out! I guess that's what happens when you're the low man on the totem pole in Roger Goodell's NFL. It's easier to play tough with someone who isn't in a position of power.
The sincerity of Alosi's apology should have affected his eventual punishment and at least allowed him to coach in any Jets playoff games (although, at this rate, who knows if the Jets will have any playoff games). The coach got out in front of the story, acknowledged his mistake and made the appropriate calls to everyone involved. That didn't absolve him of his actions, but it deserved to make the penalty for them a bit less severe.
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