Last Spygate video is nothing to ‘cheer’ for doubters of Pats
By: By RACHEL COHEN, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — A murmur rippled across the room as the NFL revealed the tapes provided by former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh.
The cause was not some new revelation of wrongdoing by New England, which was caught last September recording opposing coaches’ signals in violation of league rules.
No, the most scandalous tidbit that emerged Tuesday after Walsh spent more than six hours meeting separately with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Sen. Arlen Specter?
A snippet of tape that showed not football but close-ups of San Diego Chargers cheerleaders performing during a 2002 game.
Otherwise, little fresh information surfaced.
Asked if he considered the Spygate investigation closed, Goodell said, “As I stand before you today, and having met with Matt Walsh and more than 50 other people, I don’t know where else I would turn.”
No new fireworks came from Specter, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has criticized the league’s handling of the case.
When his afternoon meeting with Walsh in Washington ran long, he postponed his news conference until today.
Walsh did not comment after his morning meeting with Goodell and left through a different exit to avoid the media gathered outside his session with Specter.
Walsh provided some closure — and a new nugget — about one of the most serious allegations made against New England. He had no knowledge of anybody with the Patriots taping the Rams’ final walkthrough leading up to the 2002 Super Bowl, Goodell said.
The Boston Herald reported in February that an unidentified employee illegally recorded the walkthrough before New England, a two-touchdown underdog, upset St. Louis 20-17.
But Walsh did claim a New England assistant asked him what he saw during the walkthrough.
“For the past three-and-a-half months, we have been defending ourselves against assumptions made based on an unsubstantiated report rather than on facts or evidence,” the Patriots said in a statement.
They added: “We hope that with Matt Walsh’s disclosures, everyone will finally believe what we have been saying all along and emphatically stated on the day of the initial report: ‘The suggestion that the New England Patriots recorded the St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 is absolutely false. Any suggestion to the contrary is untrue.”’
The Spygate investigation began after the NFL confiscated tapes from a Patriots employee who recorded the New York Jets’ defensive signals during the 2007 opener.
New England coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, while the team was fined $250,000 and forced to forfeit its 2008 first-round draft choice.
The tapes Walsh provided confirmed what was already known.
The clips cut between shots of opposing coaches sending in signals and the play that followed. Walsh did not shoot the footage of the cheerleaders, NFL officials said.
Goodell said Walsh had no information about any other spying by the Patriots.
“There was no bugging of locker rooms,” Goodell said. “There was no manipulation of communication systems. There was no crowd noise violations anywhere that he was aware of. No miking of players to pick up opposing signals or audibles.”
During the Rams’ pre-Super Bowl walkthrough in 2002, Goodell said, Walsh was in the stadium in his Patriots gear setting up equipment. NFL officials noted that it’s common for personnel not connected to the team to be present on that day.
Walsh told Goodell that then-New England assistant Brian Daboll approached him later, said NFL attorney Gregg Levy, who attended the meeting. Walsh said he told the coach that running back Marshall Faulk was returning kicks and described the Rams’ use of tight ends in their formations. Daboll did not mention the conversation when he was interviewed by NFL officials about the walkthrough, Levy said.
Rams spokesman Rick Smith declined comment.
Goodell made no mention of the incident during his news conference.
He realized the oversight later, Levy said, and asked Levy to share the information with reporters.
The NFL is looking into the allegation, Levy said.
Daboll, now the Jets quarterbacks coach, said in a statement: “I have cooperated with the league’s investigation and was completely truthful and forthcoming. The league has requested to speak to me again. In light of this request, I will not comment further other than to say that I have been and will continue to be completely truthful, cooperative, and forthcoming with the league.”
Walsh shared two potential violations of league rules unrelated to Spygate, Goodell said: A player on injured reserve practiced when he wasn’t allowed to in 2001, and Walsh scalped eight to 12 Super Bowl tickets for Patriots players over two seasons.
The NFL will investigate both claims.
Last week, Walsh sent the NFL eight videotapes of the Patriots recording playcalling signals. The tapes included signals by coaches of five opponents in six games from 2000-02.
Walsh worked for New England from 1997 to 2003. His name surfaced just before this year’s Super Bowl, nearly five months after the Patriots were sanctioned.
After more than two months of negotiations, lawyers for the league and Walsh agreed April 23 to terms that would allow him to talk with Goodell.
Specter, from Pennsylvania, met with Goodell in February after raising the possibility of congressional hearings if he wasn’t satisfied with the commissioner’s answers about the handling of the investigation. Specter has criticized the NFL’s decision to destroy the tapes it initially confiscated.
Why did Goodell show Walsh’s tapes Tuesday but not do the same with the others last fall? He said releasing them during the season could have put some teams at a competitive advantage or disadvantage.
AP Sports Writers Joseph White in Washington and Dennis Waszak contributed to this story.