FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- This videotape needs no interpretation:
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick walked out of his news
conference on Wednesday when pressed repeatedly about the sideline
spying scandal that landed him on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's
Ten minutes before his regular availability, Belichick issued a
one-paragraph statement apologizing to his team and confirming that
he has spoken to Goodell about an "interpretation" of league
rules that ban videotaping of the opposing sideline.
"Although it remains a league matter, I want to apologize to
everyone who has been affected, most of all ownership, staff and
players," Belichick said. "Following the league's decision, I
will have further comment."
Belichick reiterated his statement Thursday about not commenting until after Goodell makes a decision.
"I'll make a comment when it's over," he said.
It was not clear whether Belichick was apologizing for his
actions or the distraction it has caused his team as it prepares
for Sunday night's marquee game against San Diego. But if he
thought -- or even hoped -- that the standing-room crowd of media was
there to talk about the Chargers, he failed to prepare in the
manner that has made him one of the most successful coaches in the
history of the league.
Never one to relish his interactions with the media, Belichick
grimly refused to respond to a half-dozen questions about the
scandal, possible punishments and the potential effect on his team.
Begging for a football question, he seemed ready to abort the news
conference after just a few minutes at the podium.
"Any questions about the Chargers?" he pleaded in his
standard, other-things-to-do monotone. "Want to talk about the
football game? If not, I think that statement pretty much covers
It appeared that there were none, before one reporter asked
about Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
The prospect of defending against the reigning NFL offensive
player of the year is not the sort of thing that usually cheers up
But Belichick smiled.
"I think the Chargers are a concern. Their football team is a
concern. That's what we're concerned about," he said. "Whatever
happens out there Sunday night, out there on the field, that's when
everybody will make their statement."
After another 15 minutes of football questions, though, the
subject returned to the spying scandal.
"Is there any other question on the Chargers?" Belichick said
before walking out. "OK. Yep. That's all. OK. Thank you."
NFL security confiscated a video camera and tape from Patriots
video assistant Matt Estrella on Sunday when he was working on the
New York Jets' sideline during New England's 38-14 victory. The
league has confirmed that it is investigating whether the Patriots
were taping the Jets' defensive coaches as they signaled to players
on the field.
However, league sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that Goodell has already determined that the Patriots have violated league rules when they videotaped defensive signals by the Jets' coaches.
Goodell is considering severe sanctions, including the possibility of docking the Patriots "multiple draft picks" because it is the competitive violation in the wake of a stern warning to all teams since he became commissioner, the sources said. The Patriots have been suspected in previous incidents.
"It's really hard to say [they should] forfeit games,"
Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward said. "Draft picks would hurt a lot
of teams; take away their first or second-round pick -- that would
be a stiff penalty to make sure nobody does it again.
"You would hope that, during their run, when they were winning
all their Super Bowls, all that stuff wasn't going on. You look
back in the past, and we played them in the championship games, and
you kind of wonder. It seemed like they were a step ahead of us at
all times, but those games are behind us. There's nothing we can do
about it. You just look forward and see what the commissioner will
Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, a co-chairman of the NFL's
competition committee, said the league is trying to keep technology
from overtaking the game.
"If they are in fact found guilty of this, it only shows that
the steps the league has taken are good steps," Fisher said.
"There's no place for it. Everybody clearly understands the rules.
The competition committee's responsibility is to protect the
integrity of the game. With technology the way it is right now,
things could get out of hand in a matter of weeks if we don't
protect the integrity of the game."
Jets coach Eric Mangini, a former Belichick assistant, also
declined to comment. Asked if he had any knowledge of such
shenanigans while he was in New England, he followed the form of
"As I said with this whole issue, it's a league issue and they
are handling it," Mangini said. "And we are really focused on the
Patriots players also tried to focus on their game.
"I'm the last person in the world to know any of that stuff,
anyway," offensive lineman Matt Light said. "I could care less
what happens outside of my little world."
But Goodell doesn't have that luxury.
In a busy year for his misbehaving minions, the commissioner has
already banned Tennessee cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones for the
entire season after repeated run-ins with police. Atlanta
quarterback Michael Vick has been suspended indefinitely while he
faces a likely jail term for his role in a dogfighting ring.
The Bengals had 10 players charged with crimes during a 14-month
span, and both receiver Chris Henry and linebacker Odell Thurman
are currently suspended. Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer wants
Goodell to be consistent with his punishment, whether the offender
is wearing a uniform or not.
"Hopefully there's a harsh enough penalty that it's not worth
it to try to cheat and try to get any advantage that you're not
allowed to get," Palmer said. "I hope the commissioner is just as
harsh on them as he's been on individual players for making
Other players reacted strongly.
"It just makes you wonder how long they've been doing this and
has it really helped them win some games?" Giants defensive end
Michael Strahan said on a conference call with Wisconsin media. "That's no different from the cheating ref in basketball."
Last November during New England's 35-0 victory in Green Bay,
the Packers caught Estrella shooting unauthorized video told him to
"When you look back, it's scary," Packers cornerback Al Harris said. "I don't want to say anything wrong towards their
organization, because I think highly of their coaching staff and
their personnel, but if that's the case, that's not right. I would
consider it cheating. I honestly would."
Belichick sidestepped questions about the commissioner's
timetable and about whether he had any contingencies in place
should he get suspended -- the most drastic of the potential
penalties Goodell could consider. The coach also refused to discuss
whether he worried that the scandal -- dubbed "videogate" in the
press room, of course -- would distract his players.
Also at stake is the legacy of the NFL's latest dynasty, one
that memorably rejected individual on-field introductions before
its first Super Bowl victory, instead "choosing to be introduced
as a team." Stressing individual discipline and salary cap
selflessness in a league where they tend to be in short supply, the
Patriots won three NFL titles in four years and held themselves up
as a model organization.
Now, they're being accused of cheating.
"That's not going to tarnish this team," running back Kevin Faulk said. "We know what we do and how hard we work."
Linebacker Chad Brown, who re-signed for a second stint with the
team this week and landed in the middle of the tumult, acknowledged
it would be embarrassing if the allegations turn out to be true.
But he also said the videotaping is an offshoot of the gamesmanship
all teams indulge in.
"I think that all the facts should come out before people judge
this organization," Brown said. "I think we do things the right
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN's Chris Mortensen was used in this report.