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NFL Denies Reports Pats Violated Rules By Taping Sideline Signals

NFL Looking At Alleged Spying
Incident In Patriots-Jets Game
NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello denied ESPN and NFL Network reports that the Patriots had violated league rules by taping Jets defensive signals during their game Sunday, according to Shalise Manza Young of the PROVIDENCE JOURNAL. Aiello indicated that there had been “no official determination made and that the Patriots had not been notified of any decision, nor has head coach Bill Belichick been summoned to league offices" for a Friday meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 9/12). ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen cited sources saying that Goodell has determined the Patriots violated league rules.  Goodell is considering “severe sanctions, including the possibility of docking the Patriots ‘multiple draft picks,’” because the violation comes “in the wake of a stern warning to all teams since he became commissioner.” The sources added that the team will be given an “opportunity to present their case by Friday ... most likely via the telephone.” Goodell is “expected to have a decision no later than Friday but that is not set in stone” (ESPN.com, 9/11).  Responding to the accusations, Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said, “When you’re successful in anything, a lot of people like to try to take you down and do different things” (Mult., 9/12).  In Boston, Mike Reiss reports in a front-page piece that NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson sent a memo to all head coaches and GMs last September “reiterating the policy and stating that ‘video taping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent’s offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited.’”  The Patriots were first accused of taping signals during a 35-0 win over the Packers last November (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/12). A source said that the NFL “has never punished anyone for spying on opponents” (NEWSDAY, 9/12).

BELICHICK APOLOGIZES: Belichick released the following statement about the situation this morning: "Earlier this week, I spoke with Commissioner Goodell about a videotaping procedure during last Sunday's game and my interpretation of the rules. At this point, we have not been notified of the league's ruling. Although it remains a league matter, I want to apologize to everyone who has been affected, most of all ownership, staff and players. Following the league’s decision, I will have further comment." Prior to a press conference for this week's game, he referred to the statement and said, “Until we get a ruling from the league, there isn’t anything more that I have to add to that” (THE DAILY).

Did Mangini Help Tip Off NFL To
Patriots' Videotaping Incident On Sunday?
SPILLING THE BEANS: In N.Y., Rich Cimini cites a source as saying that Jets coach Eric Mangini, an assistant under Belichick from '00-05, possesses "an insider’s knowledge of the Patriots’ sign-stealing surveillance tactics and he shared the ... secret with members of the Jets’ organization.” Acting on a tip from the Jets, an NFL security official “confiscated a video camera and tape from a Patriots employee at the Meadowlands, and the evidence is believed to be damning” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/12).

Xs & UH-OHs: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of the reports about the Patriots, “Usually where there’s smoke, there’s fire, so those rumors are founded on something” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/12). Other Steelers coaches who did not want to be identified said that they “have suspected for a long time that the Patriots used such a device to gain an illegal advantage, although they did not file a complaint with the league” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/12). Former NFL and current Univ. of Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said, “It didn’t surprise me ... We had a couple incidents when I was the head coach with the Dolphins that later on guys told us stories about things happening in the locker room at their facility, and Mickey Mouse stuff that I couldn’t believe” (“Fox GameTime Live,” Fox Radio, 9/11).

POSSIBLE PENALTIES: In N.Y., Gary Myers writes Goodell "must not play favorites with a three-time, Super Bowl-winning coach. Forget about taking away a couple of draft picks. Goodell should suspend [Belichick] for one game - the rematch against the Jets in December - for cheating."  One source said, "If they prove they were doing it, a suspension for Belichick would not be too strong.  I think more than likely the Patriots would be fined or lose a draft pick. A suspension would be pretty tough, but I wouldn't argue against it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/12). On Long Island, Bob Glauber writes while the league will not force the Patriots to forfeit the game, Goodell should “threaten a forfeit to any team that does it in the future” (NEWSDAY, 9/12). In N.Y., Steve Serby writes the “impending loss of a high draft choice, another pick and a prohibitive club fine doesn’t go far enough.” Serby: “Goodell needs to send NFL coaches the same kind of stern message he sent NFL players when he suspended Pacman Jones for a year” (N.Y. POST, 9/12). In Las Vegas, Ed Graney: “The Patriots should not be allowed to use any game film from the press box area or stadium/end zone views ... for the next seven weeks.” Also, all assistants during that time “must vacate the press box during games and work from the sidelines” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 9/12). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "Money is not the issue here. If you want to get at players, you take away games from them; if you want to get at teams, you take away players from them. I believe you do take away a draft choice, I believe you start at (a seventh-round pick), because this is unprecedented" ("PTI," ESPN, 9/11).  But FSN’s Rodney Peete, a former NFL QB, said the Patriots' penalty "really shouldn’t be anything. … You’re going to get an edge whenever you can. Everybody films and gets scouting reports on everybody, whether it’s players, whether it’s coaches. … If there’s a coach that’s on the sidelines -- defensive coach who’s giving signals -- that’s not smart enough to have two guys next to him giving dummy signals, then it’s their fault” ("BDSSP," FSN, 9/11). 

DEFENSIVE HEADSETS TO COME? ESPN.com’s John Clayton notes the incident “will probably lead to” one defensive player on each team having a radio installed in his helmet to recieve signals from the sideline. While many owners feel Belichick “beat them by cheating ... what is going to upset them even more is this incident could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars [for the equipment]” (ESPN.com, 9/12). NEWSDAY's Glauber notes before the NFL Owners meeting last March, a measure for defensive helmet communications systems failed by two votes, but a source said fans “can count on it” changing next year (NEWSDAY, 9/12).

Pundits Feel Spying Scandal
Could Mar Patriots' Image
LOSING THEIR SHINE: In Providence, Jim Donaldson writes, “You have to wonder how this latest episode will affect the until recently squeaky-clean image of the Patriots, which has become increasingly tarnished of late.” Belichick last season was named as the “other man” in a divorce proceeding, QB Tom Brady has fathered a child out of wedlock with actress Bridget Moynihan and S Rodney Harrison has been suspended four games for using HGH (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 9/12).  The DAILY NEWS' Myers: "Imagine what a public-relations disaster the Patriots and the NFL face if the coach who is considered the best in the league had to resort to illegal means to beat the Jets and his estranged protégé, Eric Mangini" (N.Y, DAILY NEWS, 9/12).  CNBC's Darren Rovell said the controversy "might be the most major out of all the summer scandals, including Michael Vick. … This is a very big deal. This is a team that has won three out of the last six Super Bowls" (CNBC, 9/12).  Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti: "Why do the Patriots, a classy organization, even have to think about doing this sort of thing?" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 9/11).

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