Jets fight through turbulence to reach the playoffs

By Larry Fine

FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - Controversy is once again swirling around the New York Jets, who despite a season of sordid soap-opera sagas have thrived on the gridiron and were preparing for a first-round playoff game.

As Jets players gathered Tuesday in their training facility to get ready for Saturday's game against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, team lawyers and officials were handling the latest installment of off-field drama.

A team statement was issued deflecting another sexual harassment accusation against ex-Jets quarterback Brett Favre by two female massage therapists who claimed in a lawsuit that he repeatedly propositioned them when he played for the team in 2008.

The lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court also claimed the Jets stopped offering the massage therapists work after they complained.

"Unfortunately, the plaintiffs never reported the allegations to the Jets, either during or after the conclusion of their work," the team said in their statement.

"The case against the Jets is completely without merit, and we look forward to defending the matter in court, where we are confident that the Jets will prevail."

The NFL last week fined Favre $50,000 for what it said was a failure to cooperate with an investigation of a separate alleged incident involving another female Jets employee.

Favre was accused of sending that woman, Jenn Sterger, lewd photos and suggestive text messages in 2008.

After playing the last two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, the 41-year-old Favre, one of the most decorated quarterbacks ever in the NFL, said he was retiring.

While the festering Favre storyline dated back a couple of seasons there was fresher material for the Jets to deal with on their way to an 11-5 season.

JETS FINED

The Jets were fined $100,000 by the NFL for an incident where their fitness coach tripped a Miami Dolphins player on the sideline in a game earlier this month and a probe found he had instructed others to form a wall alongside him.

"This is both a competitive violation as well as a dangerous tactic," the NFL said in a statement.

Shortly after that, videos and photographs surfaced on the Internet featuring a woman strongly resembling coach Rex Ryan's wife showing off her feet in a provocative manner. Ryan said the subject was strictly a personal matter.

"My wife's beautiful," he told reporters when asked about the videos. "We've been married for 23 years. She's awesome."

In September, a female reporter from a Mexican television network complained about the way she was treated in the Jets locker room and at the practice field, saying she was made to feel uncomfortable by the attention paid to her.

The NFL investigated and said it would implement a training program for conduct in the workplace after determining that there had been unprofessional conduct by players and staff.

Before the season started, Ryan raised a fuss with Super Bowl predictions for his team during training camp captured on camera for HBO's "Hard Knocks" series.

The confident Jets coach also hit the back pages of New York's tabloids this past off-season when he was pictured making an obscene gesture to a Miami Dolphins fan at a mixed martial arts event in Florida after getting heckled.

"We don't want our season to end," quarterback Mark Sanchez told reporters crowded around his locker Tuesday. "Hopefully we can get on a four-game win streak and take it right into Super Bowl Sunday."

(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)