PHOENIX—The relationship between the New York Jets and New England Patriots continues to regress.
The latest imbroglio, which follows such past spats as Spygate and Bill Belichick defecting from the Jets to the Patriots after one day as New York’s head coach, between the two clubs involves cornerback Darrelle Revis. Revis played for the Patriots last season, but signed with the Jets as a free agent on March 10. Revis came into the league with the Jets in 2007 as a first round draft pick.
On January 18, the Patriots filed tampering charges with NFL due to a comment by Jets owner Woody Johnson on December 29, 2014 in a press conference. He was asked myriad questions about Revis, who was a member of the Patriots at the time, but likely going to be a free agent after the season, due to a $20 million option in 2015 that the Patriots clearly weren’t going to pick up.
After one query, Johnson said something he should have avoided.
“Darrelle is a great player, and if I thought I could have gotten Darrelle for [what the Patriots paid], I probably would’ve taken him,” Johnson said. “And it was our best judgment to do what we did. Darrelle is a great player. I’d love for Darrelle to come back.”
That last sentence led to the tampering charge. According to the NFL rules, teams can’t express interest in players under contract to another club. Johnson probably wasn’t looking to tamper. He just didn’t chose his words particularly well.
Then, shortly after Revis signed with the Jets, the Patriots filed another tampering charge against their bitter rivals, this time accusing them of starting negotiations on Revis’s current contract before free agency officially began on March 10 at 4 p.m. ET.
“I’m not worried about anything,” Johnson told reporters at the NFL owners meetings this week about the tampering charges. “I’m worried about getting better.”
And this week, Johnson’s Jets fired back. They filed tampering charges over a statement that Patriots owner Robert Kraft made at the NFL’s owners meeting on Monday, during a press briefing.
“I speak as a fan of the New England Patriots,” Kraft said at the Arizona Biltmore on Monday. “We wanted to keep [Revis]. We wanted him in our system. We have certain disciplines and we had hoped it would work out. It didn’t.”
So how would Kraft’s statement qualify as tampering?
NFL tampering rules prohibit “public or private statement of interest, qualified or unqualified, in another club’s player to that player’s agent or representative, or to a member of the news media.” The rule disallows statements like this: “He’s an excellent player, and we’d very much like to have him if he were available, but another club holds his rights.”
Asked about “Tamper-Gate” on Monday in Phoenix, Johnson said: “I will let the NFL answer that. I’m not going to comment on the tampering charge. I really can’t comment on it right now.”
Right now the relationship between the Jets and Patriots might be worse than the one between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu.