Specter: Goodell's Spygate explanations don't pass scrutiny
A day after meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in Washington, Sen. Arlen Specter said he continues to be troubled by a number of issues surrounding the league's handling of Spygate and will continue his investigation.
Specter, R-Pa., told ESPN.com that Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., offered support Thursday for his inquiry into the New England Patriots' questionable videotaping practices, saying Leahy is "prepared to have the committee pay for people who travel and investigate." Leahy sat in on a part of Wednesday's session with Goodell and league counsel, Specter said.
"Well, that is absurd Goodell says things that don't make sense."
Among the issues that continue to trouble Specter:
• Goodell's imposition of a penalty -- the loss of a first-round draft pick, a $500,000 fine to Patriots coach Bill Belichick and a $250,000 fine to the team -- before the Pats had turned over evidence, including notes dating to 2002 and six tapes from the 2006 season and 2007 preseason, requested by the league. The Patriots were caught videotaping defensive signals from the sideline in their Sept. 9 season opener against the New York Jets. The commissioner imposed his penalty on Sept. 13, four days before New England provided the tapes and notes.
"Did they know the scope of the wrongdoing before the penalty was imposed?" asked Specter, a former Philadelphia district attorney. "The answer is no."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in response Thursday that Goodell's swift punishment stemmed from the fact that the Patriots had been caught at the Jets game and from Belichick's admission that he had been taping signals since he became New England's coach in 2000. Belichick reportedly told Goodell that he thought he was within the rules to tape other team's signals as long as the information wasn't used in the game at hand.
"[Goodell] issued the discipline as quickly as he could to send a strong message to teams that this wouldn't be tolerated and there'd be a severe penalty if you violated the rules," Aiello said. "The discipline included they had to turn over everything they had related to that taping procedure."
Specter heard that explanation from Goodell on Wednesday. On Thursday, Specter said, "The words absurd and ridiculous keep coming to my mind because he [Goodell] says it with a straight face."
• Specter said it was unsettling to learn that the tapes, as well as notes, turned over by the Patriots in September had been destroyed in Foxborough, Mass., rather than in the league's New York offices. Aiello said that the documents and tapes were destroyed after they were reviewed by NFL officials Jeffrey Pash and Ray Anderson and that the call to destroy the material came from Goodell, saying "There's no further use for it, so he said get rid of it."
Nobody could use those -- they are scrap paper -- except [as] evidence.
-- Sen. Arlen Specter, on the notion Spygate materials were destroyed to avoid a competitive advantage
"Everything has changed," he said. "Nobody could use those -- they are scrap paper -- except [as] evidence."
With the evidence destroyed, Specter said there is no way to tell what advantage the Patriots might have gained in the illegal taping practice.
• Specter is particularly concerned about how the taping might have affected New England's games involving teams from his home state in the 2004 postseason.
In a preseason opener in August of that year at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, the Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles played in what proved to be a preview of the 2005 Super Bowl, which was won by the Patriots 24-21. And in an Oct. 31 regular-season game in Pittsburgh, the Steelers beat the Patriots 34-20. Those two teams later met in the AFC title game, which New England won 41-27.
Later Thursday, the Steelers released a statement that read: "We consider the tapes of our coaching staff during our games against the New England Patriots to be a nonissue. In our opinion, they had no impact on the results of those games. The Steelers fully support the manner in which commissioner Goodell handled the situation and the discipline that he levied against those who violated league rules. We are confident that the commissioner has taken appropriate action in his investigation of this matter, and will do so again if new information arises which requires further investigation and/or discipline."
• Specter believes the NFL hasn't gone far enough in its offer of legal protection to former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh, who has suggested to ESPN.com that he has potentially embarrassing information about the team's taping practices.
The league has offered to indemnify Walsh against exposure to a lawsuit from the Patriots, but the proposal stipulates that Walsh must tell the truth and return anything he took improperly. Under those conditions, the team still could file suit against Walsh even after he turns over evidence to the Patriots and league.
"Matt Walsh is an important guy, and they have made it so conditional," Specter said. "All they [have] to do is say, 'We're not going to sue you.' It is not a big deal."
Specter said he has spoken with Walsh's attorney three times in the past two days and understands that Walsh is "scared." He said the Judiciary Committee could afford Walsh immunity if Walsh ever were summoned to testify at a Senate hearing. He described both Walsh and Walsh's attorney as "cooperative."
• Specter said he was concerned to learn from Walsh's attorney that an NFL security representative, Dick Farley, had been investigating Walsh. Specter said: "I confronted them on that, and Goodell says, 'Yeah, he [Farley] works for us. Yeah, he is a security guy, but we didn't know he was investigating him.' "
Aiello said Thursday that it is an overstatement to suggest the league is investigating Walsh.
"The only thing we're doing is looking at public records and trying to verify his employment history in an effort to learn about him," Aiello said.Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Belichick says Patriots 'followed every rule'
- NFL conducts 40 interviews into 'Deflategate'
- Revis: Brady clears air in Patriots' meeting
- NFLPA: Players shouldn't talk 'Deflategate'
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
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