NFL: Dolphins did no wrong vs. Patriots

Updated: December 13, 2006, 12:42 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Without convening a congressional hearing or hiring an independent counsel to investigate the incident, the NFL has ruled that the Miami Dolphins violated no league rules in the Tapegate affair associated with the team's 21-0 victory over the New England Patriots last Sunday.

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The incident spawned considerable attention on Tuesday after some Dolphins players suggested to the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post that the team "purchased" tapes of the New England offense that provided audio of quarterback Tom Brady making audible and line-blocking calls.

Those players strongly hinted that the tapes were critical in preparing for the game and provided the Dolphins inside information about New England's offensive audible system.

"I've never seen [Brady] so flustered," middle linebacker Zach Thomas said.

The league's response? Pretty much a stifled yawn, since there is no rule prohibiting such film study.

"Reaction around the league office was, 'That's football,' " AFC spokesman Steve Alic said.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, speaking Wednesday at his news conference, doubted that Miami gained an advantage.

"I stand out on that field every day, as do our defensive players -- who are pretty smart players -- and I don't see it," Belichick said. "If I can't pick it up and our players can't pick it up, with what we know and the opportunity to see and work against each other, I have a hard time thinking somebody else [could]."

Even with the contentions of the Miami defenders, there remains uncertainty over just what measures the Dolphins took in their surveillance of the New England offense. While players said the team "purchased" the tape, coach Nick Saban said his club simply watched TV replays of Brady in an attempt to decipher the calls.

One Miami defender said it is common practice to take a TV tape of a game and enhance the volume to try to hear the quarterback's signals. The so-called "coaching" tapes supplied by the league to teams do not include audio. Television tapes often capture a quarterback's calls at the line of scrimmage because of the parabolic microphones used on the sideline.

Despite the attention garnered by the story, most league observers dismissed the importance of whatever the Dolphins did and chose to attribute the shutout victory to superior execution.

The Dolphins limited the Patriots to 12 first downs and 189 yards and held Brady to 78 passing yards and a passer rating of 55.1 while sacking him four times.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.