The hostile rivalry between the New England Patriots and New York Jets took another bizarre turn on Tuesday, when the Jets filed a retaliatory tampering charge against the Patriots based on owner Robert Kraft's comments Monday about Darrelle Revis, league sources confirmed.
Kraft, speaking to reporters at the league meetings in Phoenix, commented for the first time on the star cornerback's departure. The remark that caught the Jets' attention was Kraft saying, "I speak as a fan of the New England Patriots, we wanted to keep him."
This apparently was a tit-for-tat move by the Jets, who were irked in January when the Patriots slapped them with a tampering charge.
That accusation stemmed from owner Woody Johnson, in an end-of-the-season news conference, telling reporters, "I'd love for Darrelle to come back."
Although Johnson's comments may have violated the league's anti-tampering rule, based on the letter of the law, the Jets felt it was a baseless charge because there was no malicious intent.
In fact, Johnson called Kraft immediately after the news conference, saying he "misspoke." The Patriots refused to let it slide, leading to Tuesday's counter move.
While the Jets' filing might be considered frivolous, it may have been done to highlight what they believe was a trivial accusation by the Patriots in January.
Revis, who played with the Jets from 2007 to 2012 and the Patriots in 2014, ended up signing a five-year, $70 million contract with the Jets on the first day of free agency. In fact, the deal was announced only five hours after he became a free agent.
The Patriots owned the rights to Revis until March 10, but they declined to exercise a $20 million option that was included in the two-year, $32 million contract he signed with them last year.
"Even though my name is involved in it, nobody is calling me about it," the star cornerback said during a phone interview on SportsNet New York's "Loudmouths" show. "I'm not really involved. Even when I was in New England and this stuff came up ... the only thing I can do is wait, wait until it all pans out and see how it goes and just continue to play football."
Revis added, "The tampering charges, I really don't know the whole story or the details. As of right now, both owners are going to do what they have to do, what's best for their organization. For me, at this point, it's to get ready for the 2015 season, just focus on ball."
Johnson's original comment, combined with published reports of the Jets' interest in Revis, raised suspicions of tampering. On March 8, the league dispatched an investigator to the Jets' facility to question team officials to see whether they tampered with Revis.
On Monday, Johnson declined comment about the pending charges.
"It's just something the league is looking at," Johnson said. "So, I'm not worried about anything. I'm worried about getting better."
Any team found guilty of tampering could be fined and/or stripped of a draft pick.
Pro Football Talk was the first to report the Jets' charge against the Patriots.