FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Bill Belichick once got busted for illegally spying on the New York Jets. Now there's a story that says the New England Patriots coach may have obtained a copy of the Jets' playbook from Alabama coach Nick Saban, a close friend -- and an acquaintance of Rex Ryan.
The latest chapter of skullduggery between the two rivals was hatched by Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine, the Jets defensive coordinator from 2009 to 2012. In an interview with Sports Illustrated's themmqb.com, Pettine suggests that Belichick might have obtained the Jets' playbook through Saban.
At Wes Welker's wedding, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady bragged to Mike Smith, another former Jets assistant, that they may have a copy of the Jets' playbook, according to Pettine. Smith and Welker were college roommates at Texas Tech, where Smith currently serves as co-defensive coordinator.
"It didn't shock me because Rex would give them out like candy anyway," Pettine told the website. "He gave one out to Saban, and I was like, 'Don't you know Saban and Bill are pretty good friends? I have a feeling it's going to end up in New England.'"
Saban denied Pettine's insinuation Thursday. Saban, who is on vacation, told Alabama's sports information director that the playbook Ryan gave him is still in his office and that he didn't send Belichick a playbook and wouldn't in any situation. Saban also said he considered both Ryan and Belichick friends and wouldn't do something like that to either of them.
Ryan has always spoken highly of Saban, and he has spoken on at least one occasion at a coaches' clinic at Alabama. But Saban and Belichick are extremely tight; Saban was Belichick's defensive coordinator with the Browns from 1991 to 1994.
What would possess Pettine to reveal such sensitive information? In the profile, he explains why he prefers not to have a thick playbook, saying he doesn't like to include "graduate-level information" because of the possibility of it ending up in enemy hands.
"We know in places like New England, it's only a matter of time that they somehow mysteriously end up with our playbook," Pettine said.
When Belichick was asked about the story, he replied, "Talk to Mike Pettine. I don't know."
Ryan wasn't immediately available for comment. He is scheduled to address the media later Thursday after the Jets' final minicamp practice.
Information from ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss and ESPN.com's Chris Low was used in this report.