Goodell, Specter won't meet until after Pro Bowl

Updated: February 5, 2008, 1:23 PM ET
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

A spokesperson for Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said Tuesday that Specter's staff is working to finalize a meeting early next week with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the Spygate controversy.

Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been critical of the league's handling of the controversy and wants to question Goodell about the destruction of tapes turned over by the New England Patriots as part of a spying probe last September. He has also expressed frustration over the NFL's slow response to his Nov. 15 letter inquiring about the league's investigation.

Specter told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio on Sunday, "The commissioner's explanation as to why he destroyed the tapes does not ring true."

Goodell, who is headed to Hawaii for Sunday's Pro Bowl, has said he welcomes the opportunity to sit down with Specter and explain his handling of the situation.

Specter also has said he might be interested in speaking with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to determine if Brady benefited from any illegally gathered material. Specter's spokesperson indicated Tuesday that the first step will be the session with Goodell, adding that Brady could be contacted depending on the outcome of the first meeting.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Patrick Leahy [D-Vt.] said the Democratic leader of the committee has not commented publicly on the Spygate situation, adding that no hearings on the matter are scheduled before the committee takes a brief break in two weeks.

"[Specter] raises some interesting questions, I guess, but I don't know if he has spoken to the chairman yet about wanting to schedule anything in an official committee capacity," said Erica Chabot, the committee spokeswomen for Leahy.

Chabot said she was aware of a proposed Specter-Goodell meeting, but noted that was being arranged by the senator and not the committee.

"I say there haven't been any hearings scheduled as of right now," Chabot said. "That is the caveat I'll put out there, because who knows what we might do in the coming weeks? But there haven't been any hearings scheduled yet."

A spokesperson for Specter also told ESPN.com that Specter's staff reached out Monday to Matt Walsh, the former Patriots video assistant who has suggested he has information about the team's videotaping practices that could potentially be embarrassing to the Patriots and the league. The staff spoke with Walsh's attorney, but a meeting has not been scheduled. The spokesperson said the discussions are continuing.

Meanwhile, according to USA Today, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league's security arm wants to talk to Walsh about a recent Boston Herald report that a member of the team's video staff taped the St. Louis Rams' pregame walk-through before Super Bowl XXXVI,

"We will seek to speak with him, so our security people are in the process of trying to make that happen," Aiello said, according to USA Today. He said the NFL wants to see if Walsh has new information. Previously, Walsh expressed a willingness to tell league officials what he knows, should they call.

Walsh, an assistant golf pro on Maui, has refused to provide ESPN.com with any evidence of wrongdoing by the Patriots, or to confirm that he has damaging tapes in his possession. He declined to discuss the potential wrongdoing without an agreement from ESPN to pay any legal fees related to his involvement in the story, as well as an indemnification agreement that would cover any damages found against him in court. ESPN denied his requests.

Last week, Walsh told ESPN.com that, in the wake of the spying scandal that erupted after the Patriots' season-opening game against the New York Jets last September, he was not contacted by NFL officials to inquire about his insight into the Patriots' questionable taping practices, which he says date back to before he was fired in 2003.

At his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference on Friday, Goodell said the six tapes turned over by the Patriots and destroyed shortly afterward by the league were from the 2006 season and the 2007 preseason. Specter has described what the league undertook as a "very incomplete investigation," noting that it failed to go back beyond the 2006 season and didn't include the former video assistant.

Walsh could not be reached for comment Tuesday on Specter's invitation to speak with him. On Friday, Walsh told ESPN that he is uncertain whether he will meet voluntarily with a Senate committee, if asked.

During a Sunday appearance on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning,'' Goodell said he reserved the right to reopen the investigation if new information surfaced, saying that if Walsh "has information inconsistent with what we have, we want to talk to him."

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at michaeljfish@gmail.com.