Patriots’ Latest Controversy Is Complicated Situation For NFL To Penalize

The New England Patriots officially are repeat offenders.

Whether you believe their statement or not, the Patriots have filmed things they weren’t supposed to film on multiple occasions now.

The Patriots say they sent a video production crew to Cleveland this weekend to document a pro scout working the Bengals-Browns game for their “Do Your Job” documentary series. The Patriots acknowledged during the course of that shoot their videographer, an independent contractor, “unknowingly violated a league policy by filming the field and sideline from the press box.”

The Patriots play the 1-12 Bengals on Sunday in Cincinnati.

New England clearly should have informed its production crew of the NFL rules if this was purely accidental. The Patriots said in their statement, “We accept full responsibility for the actions of our production crew at the Browns-Bengals game.”

Some punishment likely will be levied against them, whether that’s a fine, loss of draft picks or a suspension. The Patriots lost a first-round draft pick, and the team and head coach Bill Belichick were fined for Spygate. If the league determines this infraction was intentional, then this punishment could be worse. If the NFL believes the Patriots, then maybe the team will get off with a fine. But how will the NFL actually decide whether it was accidental or intentional? One step would be to find out if this is the first non-Patriots game in which New England’s Kraft Sports Productions has been credentialed.

The NFL has the tape, so they’ve already started reviewing it. This investigation could take time if the league determines they need to review contact between the Patriots’ football staff and the video crew, however. The Patriots said the video crew is independent of the football program. If that’s the case, then there should be little to no contact between the two sides.

It’s also important for the NFL to decide if the videographer was either an independent contractor or Kraft Sports Productions employee rather than someone who works on the Patriots football staff. That should be easy to determine.

Some various notes on this incident:

— A pro scout would really only attend a game of the Patriots’ next opponent during the regular season. If it seems at all fishy this went down at a Bengals game with Cincinnati next on the schedule, that’s why.

— Part of the advance scout’s job is to watch the sideline of the team they’ll be playing. There’s some logic to shooting the sideline if the videographer believed he could use it as B-roll to show a scout’s role for the docuseries. Clearly, that footage could not have been shown in the docuseries.

— The scout featured in the documentary obviously was on hand for the game. He also should have informed the video crew of their misdeed while it was occurring if he was aware.

— The Patriots were shooting in the press box in front of media and reportedly Bengals scouts. That seems excessively reckless to knowingly break rules in front of the team being filmed and in front of media members who could report on the act. It doesn’t necessarily pass the smell test that the Patriots would be so brazen in breaking the rules.

— It also seems odd that the football staff would trust their production team, which included independent contractors, to assist them in cheating without eventually spilling the beans. A football staffer could fear repercussions for snitching. A production staffer eventually could move out of football and hold no loyalty to the Patriots. That also doesn’t pass that smell test.

It will be fascinating to see how this plays out and how long it will take to find a resolution.