Pats Admit To NFL Rules Infraction, But Belichick Denies Wrongdoing
Patriots coach Bill Belichick "strongly denied allegations that the team's football operations may have been stealing signs from the Bengals sidelines" during their game against the Browns on Sunday, but hours later the team "took full responsibility for the actions of their production crew," according to Karen Guregian of the BOSTON HERALD. The Patriots, who play the Bengals this week, last night "acknowledged one of the crew members unknowingly broke NFL rules by filming the field and the sidelines" at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Patriots in a statement said they "sent a three-person crew to tape the latest installment of the team's behind-the-scenes online series, 'Do Your Job,' which features various departments within the organization." The team added the production crew is "independent of our football operation." During his weekly appearance on WEEI, Belichick said that he had "heard about the accusations, and acknowledged members of the Patriots' media department were on hand." However, Belichick "insisted there was no wrongdoing" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/10). In Boston, Jim McBride notes the "Do Your Job" series, which can be seen on Patriots.com, "includes episodes on the equipment staff, the training staff, and the video department." Belichick: "As I understand it, they were videotaping him to show kind of what an advanced scout does or something like that." He added that his scouting department is "aware that filming an opponent is not allowed" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/10).
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS? THE ATHLETIC's Paul Dehner Jr. cites sources who have seen the tape and say that it "shows about eight minutes of footage focusing on recording the Bengals' sideline." It is a "direct view of the sideline as players run on and off the field and coaches make signals for plays" (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/10). In Cincinnati, Clark & Dragon note a Bengals scout "noticed the videotaping in the Browns press box and alerted Bengals executives." Bengals employees in the press box claimed at the time the Patriots' video crew was "filming Cincinnati's sideline." NFL security was "notified and spoke to the Patriots employee and obtained the video" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 12/10).
RULES ARE RULES: ESPN's Dan Graziano said if the Patriots are "admitting in their statement that they violated a rule even inadvertently then you would think that the league has to do at least something" ("GMA," ABC, 12/10). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes, "Even if you believe the not-always-so-forthcoming Bill Belichick and buy his contention that the football department has no fingerprints on another video kerfuffle involving the New England Patriots, it is not enough." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "needs to drop the hammer." Even if this latest snag is "proven to be nothing like the sign-stealing Spygate episode" in '07, it is still a "repeat violation of an NFL policy that deserves admonishment -- not benefit of the doubt." Pleading ignorance "doesn't cut it as a defense." Bell: "If you are functioning at an NFL game with a video camera while wearing Patriots gear, there are some ground rules that should have been explained by somebody in that smart organization" (USA TODAY, 12/10). NBCSN's Mike Florio said, "If you're going to be operating a video camera for the New England Patriots, it's safe to say you should never be videotaping the sideline of a team that is on you schedule in the coming weeks." He added, "What happened here is they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar and their defense is, 'We didn't know it was a cookie jar'" ("PFT," NBCSN, 12/10). ESPN Radio's Will Cain: "The Patriots, of anybody, have not earned the benefit of the doubt on these situations" ("The Will Cain Show," ESPN Radio, 12/9).
RISK & REWARD: In Boston, Tom Keegan writes, "Now most football fans will prefer to think this was a miniature version of Spygate because a video crew either didn't know the rules or figured they didn't apply to them because they do work commissioned by the team." Keegan: "Go ahead and believe that the Patriots' coaching staff was going to be shown the video, if you choose, but realize to do so means you believe that the Patriots think they need to cheat to beat a 1-12 football team and are such sloppy cheaters that they pointed a camera at the sidelines in plain sight of Bengals personnel. Believing that makes no sense" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/10). ESPN's Scott Van Pelt said, "I'm just unable to buy that level of completely unnecessary hubris. The Patriots can't be that desperate, that dumb and spying on the one-win Bengals sideline would be both of those things" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 12/10). In Massachusetts, Matt Vautour writes, "Even people who think the Patriots are sketchy have to believe they aren't stupid." It would be "monumentally dumb to risk NFL punishment to get an advantage" over the Bengals. The "fact that it came against the Bengals makes the explanation that it was all for the 'Do Your Job' show believable" (Springfield REPUBLICAN, 12/10).