Lombardi: 'Jets no strangers to tampering'

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi knows about tampering. He has done it. He admits it.

Lombardi, appearing on Wednesday night's episode of Showtime's "Inside the NFL," shared his thoughts about tampering charges the San Francisco 49ers filed against the New York Jets over unsigned rookie receiver Michael Crabtree.

The 49ers have accused the Jets of interfering with their efforts to sign the No. 10 overall draft pick by communicating with his agent, Eugene Parker.

"We know the Jets are no strangers to tampering charges," said Lombardi, a former personnel chief with the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns. "They go back a long way with Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. They have seen this before."

Parker also represented former Jets running back Curtis Martin, who defected from the New England Patriots in 1998. Parker worked closely with Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum to draw up a contract the Patriots couldn't match. Tannenbaum was director of player contracts at the time. Parcells was head coach.

"There is lineage between the Jets and Parker," Lombardi said. "Now [the 49ers] have charged him.

"One thing we do know is the 49ers have been convicted, if you will, of tampering with Lance Briggs, the Chicago Bears linebacker, when he was a free agent [in 2008]. They were convicted of that charge and had to pay a penalty. So they understand what it takes to prove a tampering charge.

"Now, the league said in a memo in May of 2008 if you file a claim against a team and it turns out to be frivolous, you are at risk."

But Lombardi explained that tampering is more common than you might think and often goes unpunished.

"It’s very difficult to prove," he said. "Trust me, I’ve been a tamperer. I’ve been in the NFL for over 20 years, so I have tampered my fair share of times. It’s hard to prove.

"But I will say this: They have to have specific evidence. If they do, they can convict the Jets. If they don’t, they are in jeopardy."