Just as it seemed Deflategate was ending, another old controversy surrounding the New England Patriots resurfaced.
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” released a detailed report Tuesday indicating the Patriots’ alleged “Spygate” activities went even deeper than previously thought. The report, which cited more than 90 sources around the NFL, said the Patriots actually videotaped hand signals of opposing teams on at least 40 occasions between 2000 and 2007.
According to the report, NFL investigators descended upon Gillette Stadium during the investigation and found something big.
“Inside a room accessible only to Belichick and a few others, they found a library of scouting material containing videotapes of opponents’ signals,” the ESPN.com report read, “with detailed notes matching signals to plays for many teams going back seven seasons. Among them were handwritten diagrams of the defensive signals of the Pittsburgh Steelers, including the notes used in the January 2002 AFC Championship Game won by the Patriots 24-17.
“Yet almost as quickly as the tapes and notes were found, they were destroyed, on Goodell’s orders: League executives stomped the tapes into pieces and shredded the papers inside a Gillette Stadium conference room.”
The NFL then handed out punishments: The Patriots were fined $250,000 and docked a first-round draft pick, and head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000.
Those punishments and the way the NFL handled the entire investigation irked some owners. So when the Patriots were accused of deflating footballs in the 2014 AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts, it gave Goodell and the NFL a chance to come down hard on New England.
“The widespread perception that Goodell gave the Patriots a break on Spygate, followed by the NFL’s stonewalling of a potential congressional investigation into the matter, shaped owners’ expectations of what needed to be done by 345 Park Ave. on Deflategate,” the ESPN.com report stated.
One owner told ESPN the over-the-top discipline for Deflategate was “a makeup call.”
The Patriots were fined $1 million and docked two draft picks, a punishment owner Robert Kraft begrudgingly accepted. Quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games, but that suspension was vacated by a federal judge last week.
The Patriots released a statement on the ESPN report: “The New England Patriots have never filmed or recorded another team’s practice or walk-through. This type of reporting over the past seven years has led to additional unfounded, unwarranted and quite frankly unbelievable allegations by former players, coaches and executives.”
Goodell offered little comment on the matter.
“I have not seen this report in any way, but I’m not aware of any connection between the Spygate procedures and the procedures we went through here,” he said on ESPN Radio. “… There’s no connection in my mind.”
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