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Report: Jets Tampered With Darrelle Revis Using Private Cell Phones, Leaving No 'Paper Trails'

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Public confidence in investigations led by the NFL is falling at a perpetual rate. And with good reason.

On Monday, the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta provided the latest example why.

According to Mehta, the tampering committed by the Jets which we all believed to be one simple public statement from team owner Woody Johnson was far from the only offense committed by a team hell-bent on getting back their former superstar in the spring of 2015.

"Back-channel discussions with the Jets in February [2015] set the foundation for a Revis reunion," Mehta wrote. "Team officials in stealth mode communicated with Revis, Inc., through private cell phones and face-to-face covert meetings at the 2015 Scouting Combine rather than make calls from the team's landlines at their Florham Park facility. No paper trails were a must."

Adding to the charges is this: Mehta claims that Woody Johnson was not only aware of this clandestine recruiting effort but also "endorsed all of it."

These revelations are a bit late, sure, but the information is all new. Back when the NFL announced that the Jets would be fined $100,000 for tampering with Revis when he was still a member of the New England Patriots, the only explanation of any wrongdoing referred to Johnson's public comments in December 2014, in which he said, "I'd love for Darrelle to come back."

The NFL investigated. Johnson apologized directly to Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

"I would never interfere in the contractual relationship of a player with another team and should not have used those words," Johnson claimed. "I called Robert Kraft this afternoon to emphasize those points."

Well, if Mehta's claims are true, then the next conversation between Kraft and Johnson might be a wee bit uncomfortable.

Personal relationships of billionaires aside, the revelations in Mehta's story bring to light one important question: What in the world are NFL investigators doing?

It won't be hard for you to remember NFL commissioner Roger Goodell going to the mat with Tom Brady and using an unseen cell phone as the basis of an unprecedented and overreaching level of punishment. Even though NFL investigators had access to the phones of every person who may have been the recipient of a surreptitious text message, and even though they had access to Brady's phone record, the fact is they didn't have his physical phone in their hands and so Goodell came down with a hammer.

So ... did they look into the private phones of everyone in the Jets front office when investigating the tampering charge? Did anybody have to turn over their phones?

Obviously, they did not.

And wait -- there were "face-to-face covert meetings at the 2015 Scouting Combine"? Well then, have we reviewed the security footage from inside of Lucas Oil Stadium to see which conversations might have taken place? Did anybody suspiciously duck into a bathroom? How long were they in the bathroom? If it was 90 seconds, then we may have blown this case wide open.

Again, obviously, this footage was never reviewed.

If they had turned over their phones and if security footage had been reviewed, then the punishment surely would have been more severe than just a $100,000 fine.

On the other hand, maybe NFL investigators did in fact discover all of this information and, knowing that the public wouldn't everhave any clue about it, decided to go with the light wrist slap anyway.

(Option three states that perhaps some of Mehta's information is inaccurate. That may be the case, but the man presents it all quite confidently in his story. So let's continue the mental exercise, at the very least.)

In the long run, we know by now that the Patriots were not harmed in any way by losing Revis. The two parties used each other to win a Super Bowl, then the Patriots declined to pick up his option for 2015 in March, and then the Jets signed him. The Jets have since lost more games than they've won since guaranteeing Revis $39 million. Revis' skills and abilities have since sharply declined, and just this past weekend Revis had to turn himself in to Pittsburgh police after being involved in a physical altercation there earlier in the week. The Patriots, meanwhile, have gone 30-7 since losing Revis. They just won the Super Bowl. The tampering didn't cause any damage for the Patriots, and it didn't provide any benefit for the Jets.

But that's beside the point. If everything Mehta reported is true -- or even if half of what he reported is true -- then the Jets got away with some serious violations, the likes of which are worthy of earning scandal status in their own right. (How about "Spygate"? That could be catchy.) The NFL either knew about these brazen violations of protocol and nevertheless allowed them to go unpunished, or NFL investigators did a terrible job and could not uncover the information that a newspaper reporter was able to find.

Whichever part of that is true, the picture of the NFL front office is one of disorder, inequity, and incompetence -- a common theme found in similar situations throughout the the Goodell administration.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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