Tape runs out on Patriots; Dungy calls incident 'sad'
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When he stands on an NFL sideline for 16 Sundays and a few more each year, Bill Belichick is an undisputed master, with a single-minded and cerebral approach that helped him win three Super Bowls during what might still be a Hall of Fame career.
It's everywhere else that he's had trouble.
The New England Patriots coach tried again Friday to move on from the sideline spying scandal in which he was fined $500,000 and ordered to forfeit a top draft choice -- the latest misstep in a year of distractions for the coach who preaches about avoiding them.
"It's over, and we're moving on," Belichick said. "Right now, all of my energy and focus and attention is on the San Diego Chargers and our game Sunday night. So, that's where we're at."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Thursday night that he would fine Belichick the maximum amount and dock the team $250,000 and a first-round draft pick next year (or a lesser pick if the Patriots miss the playoffs). It was the biggest fine ever for a coach -- it represents 12 percent of Belichick's scheduled 2007 salary, which is believed to be $4.2 million -- and would be the first time in NFL history a first-round draft pick has been confiscated as a penalty.
In doing so, Goodell branded the Patriots as cheaters.
Belichick did say that video assistant Matt Estrella, whose camera was confiscated while he was on the Jets' sideline, will not be on the sideline for Sunday night's game. Estrella will not be punished, the NFL said.
"This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field," the commissioner wrote in a letter to the team.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft issued a statement Friday.
"I believe that Coach Belichick always tries to do what is best for the team and he is always accountable for his decisions,'' Kraft said. "He has been a very important part of what our organization has accomplished over the last seven years. In this case, one of his decisions has resulted in a severe penalty for our franchise. He has paid a heavy price and so has our organization. He has apologized for his actions. I accept his apology and look forward to working with him as we move forward."
Belichick was peppered with questions on the scandal again Friday. But this time he seemed bemused by the repeated attempts to get him to expand on his earlier statement in which he accepted "full responsibility for the actions" that led to the punishment.
"It doesn't matter," he said. "It already happened. So right now, we're focusing in on what's in front of us, and that's the Chargers."
For Belichick, it is what it was.
Others weren't ready to put it in the past.
"Really, a sad day for the NFL," Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy said after practice Friday. "It's another case of the 99 percent good things that are happening being overshadowed by 1 percent bad. Again, people aren't talking about our product, they're talking about a negative incident."
It's been that way all year for Belichick.
His marriage broke up after he was named as the other man in a New Jersey divorce that set the gossip columns atwitter. Former linebacker Ted Johnson accused Belichick of overruling the doctors and sending him back onto the field too soon after a concussion.
And that's not to mention the loss to the Colts in the AFC championship, a game in which the Patriots had a 15-point lead at halftime. The Colts went on to beat the overmatched Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl, a victory that could have given Belichick his fourth NFL title in six years.
"All I know is there better not be an asterisk by any of the Super Bowls I was with them," said Christian Fauria, a tight end on the 2003 and 2004 title teams, who is now with the Carolina Panthers. "I better call my wife and tell her to put [my rings] in a safe."
The Patriots locker room was busy Friday with players at the dominoes table or shooting baskets with balls made of athletic tape. Fullback Heath Evans joked about taking up a collection to pay Belichick's fine, but turned serious when asked whether the scandal would tarnish the team's accomplishments.
"This organization's success speaks for itself," Evans said. "I view Bill in my own way, and that's as my head coach and a man I really respect."
Most insisted that the scandal has not affected their preparation for Sunday night's game against San Diego. Some refused to discuss anything but football. "I am looking forward to playing the Chargers," quarterback Tom Brady said when offered the chance to weigh in. "But thank you for asking."
Belichick did say that video assistant Matt Estrella, whose camera was confiscated while he was on the Jets' sideline, will not be on the sideline for Sunday night's game. "We will change our procedure on that," the coach said.
Estrella will not be punished, league spokesman Greg Aiello said, adding that there is no investigation into claims that the Patriots have been doing this for years.
"Our goal is to stop this type of conduct going forward and level the playing field," Aiello said.
The Patriots have been caught spying in the past. Last November, during their 35-0 victory in Green Bay, the Packers caught Estrella shooting unauthorized video and told him to stop.
Meanwhile, in a story on Sports Illustrated's Web site Thursday, Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli said he suspected the Patriots of using a videotaper for similar tactics during their game last season. Marinelli reportedly made an in-game phone call to the press box and told his staff, "There's a camera pointed right at our defensive coach making his calls. Is that allowed?"According to the report, a Lions employee called the league's booth and the videotaper was stopped, but not for long. "You don't really know for sure," Marinelli was quoted as saying on the Web site. "I mean, you don't know whether he might be doing something for NFL Films or a coaches' show or whatever." In the same story, an unnamed Lion said: "At one point, we had a good drive going against the Patriots. Mike Martz really had 'em going. They were getting fouled up, lining up wrong, we were moving the ball. Then boom, the headset from the sidelines to the coaches' booth goes out."
In a statement issued two hours after the punishment was announced Thursday, Belichick said he misinterpreted the league's rules but acknowledged that "part of my job as head coach is to ensure that our football operations are conducted in compliance of the league rules and all accepted interpretations of them."
"I accept full responsibility for the actions that led to tonight's ruling," the statement said. "Once again, I apologize to the Kraft family and every person directly or indirectly associated with the New England Patriots for the embarrassment, distraction and penalty my mistake caused. I also apologize to Patriots fans and would like to thank them for their support during the past few days and throughout my career."
But Miami Dolphins quarterback Trent Green was among those doubting the sincerity of Belichick's apology, comparing the coach to the megalomaniacal Marine played by Jack Nicholson in the movie "A Few Good Men."
"Belichick is sitting there, and you know he is getting peeved that he is even in there -- the audacity to bring him in and question him," Green said, laughing. "The visual I have is that eventually Belichick kind of snapped and said, 'You're darn right I [did].' "
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton was used in this report.
Former Patriots employee Matt Walsh met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Sen. Arlen Specter to discuss Patriots' illegal videotaping. Story
More News• Belichick says he made 'mistake'
• Herald reporter: Sources never saw tape
• Walsh admits he knew it was wrong
• Senator wants inquiry | Read it (pdf)
• Fish: Would Congress investigate Pats?
• Boston Herald apologizes for false report
• Clayton: Five things we learned from Spygate
• Walsh sends eight tapes to NFL
• Fish: Pats stole offensive signs | Timeline
• Clayton: Spygate will expire quietly
• Former Pats employee sends tapes to league
• Fish: NFL faces serious questions
• Goodell to punish Pats, depending on evidence
• Walsh, NFL to finally talk | Agreement
• Goodell growing impatient with Walsh stalemate
• Kraft, Belichick apologize to owners
• Walsh still working on deal for testimony
• Rams player, fans withdraw lawsuit
• Spygate revelations might not be imminent
• NFL, Walsh close to deal to turn over tapes
• Report: Specter calls on Goodell to release letters
• Report: Goodell proposes crackdown on cheating
• Specter says Pats 'stonewalling' Spygate probe
• Committee lauds Goodell's handling of Spygate
• Goodell hoping deal to talk to Walsh close to done
• Report: Belichick denies Pats taped Rams' drills
• Walsh's attorney: NFL indemnity offer falls short
• Specter prepared to extend Spygate investigation
• Goodell has no regrets about destroying tapes
• Source: Specter wants NFL indemnity for witness
• Goodell, Specter to discuss Spygate Wednesday
Commentary• Mortensen: What were Rams thinking?
• Yasinskas: Spygate stench won't go away
• Paolantonio: Goodell's Spygate responsibility
• Clayton: Spygate closing with a whimper
At The Pro BowlNews
• Ex-Pats video assistant mum on Spygate probe
At The Super BowlNews
• Goodell willing to give Pats' Walsh indemnification
• Goodell, Specter won't meet until after Pro Bowl
• Vermeil doubts spying made difference for Pats
• Goodell to meet with Sen. Specter about Spygate
• Report: N.E. taped Rams before XXXVI
• Fish: Ex-Ram Warner suspicious of Pats
• Specter to Goodell: Let's talk
• Fish: Possible 'Spygate' witness surfaces
• Once burned, Goodell turns fireman
• Munson: Congressional interest is serious business
• Pasquarelli: Specter should stick with politics
• Clayton: Spy saga won't distract Patriots
• Hashmarks at Goodell's news conference
• Specter to Goodell (.pdf)
• Goodell to Specter (.pdf)
• NFL has all materials from Pats in spying scandal
• NFL reviews how tape leaked to Fox
• Belichick to turn over materials in spying probe
• Pats owner perturbed by Belichick's spy games
• Goodell orders Pats to turn over all video
• Sources: Patriots give Belichick extension
• Wilson spies inconsistencies in Belichick case
• NFL fines Belichick $500K, Pats $250K for spying
• Bill Belichick's apology to Patriots community
• Clayton Q&A: Patriots can survive this penalty
• Two days later, Belichick still won't comment
• Some Eagles question Pats' tactics in Super Bowl
• Belichick issues apology amid accusations
• Sources: Goodell determines Patriots broke rules
• Clayton: NFL penalty for Belichick, Pats too light
• Mosley: Pats lose first-rounder? Roger that
• Scouts Inc.: What the Pats will miss in '08 draft
• Chadiha: Legal spying widespread in NFL
• Sando: What's legal, what's not in spy game
• What they're saying: Players, coaches, pundits
• Luksa: Spy stories once had comedic value
• Bryant: Belichick deserves two-week banishment
• Clayton: Goodell to treat breech seriously
• Simmons: The camera doesn't lie
• Simmons: Cheating not necessary to win opener Video
• What should happen to the Pats?
• Belichick deflects videotape-related questions
• Former Patriot thinks team should be punished
• Reactions from around the league
• Mike Vrabel, Pats linebacker: Don't criticize the players
• Chris Mortensen: Situation might motivate the Patriots
• Keyshawn: It was 'scouting,' not cheating
• Salisbury: Story blown out of proportion SportsNation
• Vote: Was New England's punishment fair?
• Mixed reader results on NFL spying