NFL players, coaches weighing in on Patriots spying case

Updated: September 13, 2007, 4:58 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

"Although it remains a league matter, I want to apologize to everyone who has been affected, most of all ownership, staff and players. Following the league's decision, I will have further comment."
-- Bill Belichick, New England Patriots head coach

What Columnists Think

You are recognized as the best coach in the National Football League. You have won three Super Bowls and the Patriots have been anointed as the model of how to run a successful franchise.

You have staked your reputation on being a shrewd, relentless competitor who never -- ever -- lets emotions cloud your judgment.

You are usually one step ahead of the pack.

And that's why I don't understand why you authorized one of your staff members to videotape the early moments of last Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

C'mon, Bill Belichick. You are smarter than that.

     -- Jackie MacMullen, Boston Globe
On June 1, 1972, a Gallup poll revealed that President Richard M. Nixon had an approval rating of 59.3 percent, one of the highest numbers an incumbent had that late in his first term. Another poll released that week showed that if the election were imminent, Nixon would beat George McGovern, his likely, though not-yet-nominated opponent, by roughly 62-38 percent.

Armed with that information, fortified by the certainty of a coming landslide (he wound up winning 60-37), it still wasn't enough for Nixon or for the men advising him. Sixteen days later, five men broke into the Democratic National headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, and they were caught red-handed. Nixon didn't need to cheat to win the election and secure a scandal-free place in American history.

He cheated anyway.

So Bill Belichick isn't the first person to be handed a sure thing, look at it, shake it around a little bit, and wonder: Is this all there is?

But Belichick's apparent decision to audaciously flout NFL rules -- and his supremely Belichickian statement yesterday might not have been a true admission of guilt, it also wasn't much of a Nixonian non-denial denial -- is one of the more shocking developments in recent football memory.

     -- Mike Vaccaro, New York Post


"It's a league issue, and they are handling it."
-- Eric Mangini, New York Jets head coach


"It's really hard to say [they should] forfeit games. 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 do."
-- Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver


"If they are in fact found guilty ... the rest of the member clubs are confident the league will take punitive action against it ... 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."
-- Jeff Fisher, Tennessee Titans


"Can it cross the line? I'm sure it can. It can give you a huge advantage."
-- Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers quarterback


"You look at that situation and go, 'How much did it help, and if it did help, in what situations and what games did it help?' Because that team has won some big games. I'm not saying that stealing signals definitely did it, because they have extremely talented players. But obviously it didn't hurt if they were doing it."
-- Michael Strahan, New York Giants defensive lineman


"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. I hope the commissioner is just as harsh on them as he's been on individual players for making mistakes."
-- Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback


"When you look back, it's scary. 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."
-- Al Harris, Green Bay Packers cornerback


"What the league has to do now is monitor the number of people on the sidelines who operate cameras. I bet a few people disappear this weekend."
-- Carl Banks, former New York Giants linebacker


"I think the Patriots actually live by the saying, 'If you're not cheating, you're not trying.' They live off that statement. Nothing surprises me really.

"You keep hearing the different stories about stuff that they do."
-- LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers running back


"It's quite obvious that when you're signaling defensively, the other bench is like a guy on second base. If the pitcher or catcher is giving away signals, then he can relay things. But that's part of the game. You're not talking about having a camera set up on the center field fence that you're looking and shooting the catcher's signals and then studying that before you go play that opponent."
-- Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach