Kraft, Belichick address owners, apologize for Spygate
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick made the rounds on Tuesday, apologizing for and explaining Spygate.
In an emotional speech before NFL owners, Kraft and coach Belichick apologized for the franchise's involvement in the scandal.
With apparent tension in the meeting room, Kraft asked for time to speak and apologized for Spygate in which a videographer was caught taping signals of Jets defensive coaches. After an investigation, the Patriots lost a first-round draft choice and $250,000 and Belichick was fined $500,000.
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Kraft spoke of the values of the partnership with the league and how disappointed he was that his team brought negative attention to the league. Colts coach Tony Dungy described the speech as heartfelt and excellent, saying "I appreciated what he had to say."
Others who listened believed Kraft was speaking from the heart. Once Kraft was done talking, the entire room broke into applause.
Belichick also requested time to speak. As he told reporters earlier in the day, he accepted the punishment and thought that action showed no gray area in regard to the rules involving spying. Since the season opener against the Jets, Belichick said he has changed the entire operation and is now moving forward with no misunderstanding.
According to sources, many owners felt Spygate was a pink elephant in the room that needed to be addressed before the owners could continue. Commissioner Roger Goodell took the lead by giving the floor to Kraft and letting him speak.
"I'm happy they did it," Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said. "I don't know they had to do it. But it was good to hear from them. We're all trying to move on from this thing. What was said will stay in the room, but it was good."
Speaking during the AFC coaches breakfast at the NFL meetings earlier in the day, Belichick insisted there are no new revelations to come about Spygate.
"I think they've addressed everything they possibly can address," the coach said Tuesday.
Belichick said he was interviewed again after the Super Bowl about allegations that former team employee Matt Walsh had information about illegal taping. That information presumably included the process of taping a walkthrough by the St. Louis Rams on the day before the 2002 Super Bowl, a game the Patriots won.
In February, Belichick and Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli issued a broad denial to a report on The Boston Globe's Web site regarding suggestions by a former employee that their team taped the walkthrough.
"I've addressed so many questions so many times from so many people I don't know what else the league could ask," Belichick said.
Goodell confirmed that the NFL spoke again with Belichick and other Patriots employees after last February's Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants. The league has been negotiating an agreement with Walsh that it hopes will get Walsh, a golf pro in Hawaii, to come forward with what he has.
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"We followed up on other things because certain things had been tossed out," Goodell said of the added round of interviews with Belichick and other members of the Patriots front office.
This was the first time anyone disclosed that Belichick and other Patriots staffers were reinterviewed after the Super Bowl, when the Walsh allegations surfaced. The first interviews actually came the day before the Super Bowl with Pioli; Stacey James, the team's vice president for media relations; and video director Jimmy Dee.
League officials subsequently interviewed Kraft and Belichick, as he disclosed on Tuesday. "I talked to four or five people," Belichick said, although he did not say if it was in person or by telephone.
The Walsh allegations came out two days before the Pats lost 17-14 to the Giants in this season's Super Bowl, although Belichick said they weren't a distraction in the game. And he vehemently denied the Patriots taped a Rams walkthrough before that 2002 Super Bowl, which the two-touchdown underdog Patriots won 20-17.
"I've never seen a tape of another team's practice. Ever!" he said Tuesday. "Certainly not that one."
But Spygate hasn't gone away.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., got himself involved, met with Goodell, and suggested the Patriots might have taped the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2005 Super Bowl. New England won that game 24-21.
Specter also questioned why the tapes confiscated from the Jets game were destroyed after the Patriots were penalized. The league said there was no reason to keep them.
In addition, Walsh, through his lawyer, Michael Levy, has been negotiating with the NFL for legal protection if he comes forward to tell what he knows. Levy and the league reported three weeks ago that they were close to an agreement to do that, but talks have been sporadic since.
Belichick insisted Tuesday that nothing will be disclosed on any new tapes. "I barely knew Matt Walsh," he said. "He was hired before I became the coach."
He conceded he should have contacted Ray Anderson, the NFL's vice president for football operations, after a memo from Anderson in 2006 that laid down the specifications for intelligence gathering.
"What I should have done ... I should have called the league and asked for a clarification," he said. "That was my mistake."
He said that in one respect, Spygate did the Patriots a favor.
"We've taken it as a positive and reorganized our operations to make sure a situation like this never comes up again," he said. "Our operation is more efficient, more streamlined. Look at the results of this season. That would confirm it."
Information from ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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