Goodell: Walsh says Pats didn't have Super Bowl walk-through tape

Updated: May 14, 2008, 8:18 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- After meeting with former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh for more than three hours, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said no new information had come to light as a result and indicated that the Spygate scandal had run its course.

Goodell also said he was told by Walsh that the Patriots did not have a videotape of a walk-through practice of the St. Louis Rams before the 2002 Super Bowl. The Boston Herald had previously reported that such a tape existed, but Goodell said Tuesday he was able to verify that there is no such tape.

During the meeting, NFL security director Milt Ahlerich asked Walsh what had happened during the walk-through for Super Bowl XXXVI. According to NFL attorney Gregg Levy, Walsh told Goodell that Brian Daboll, who was then the Patriots' receivers coach, asked Walsh what he saw at the Rams' walk-through.

Walsh was in the stadium in his Patriots gear setting up equipment during the walk-through, Goodell said. NFL officials noted that it's common for personnel not connected to the team to be present on that day.

Daboll, now the quarterbacks coach for the Jets, was interviewed by the commissioner several months ago and did not reveal that conversation with Walsh.

Daboll has been asked to talk again with Goodell about the Rams' walk-through. The date and time of the meeting between Daboll and the commissioner is unclear.

Boston Herald Apologizes

The intensity of the Patriots' spying controversy became more acute when the Boston Herald reported that the team had taped a walk-through of the St. Louis Rams before Super Bowl XXXVI. After NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that no such tape has come forward, the newspaper issued an apology on Tuesday night.

It reads: "On Feb. 2, 2008, the Boston Herald reported that a member of the New England Patriots' video staff taped the St. Louis Rams' walk-through on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI. While the Boston Herald based its Feb. 2, 2008, report on sources that it believed to be credible, we now know that this report was false, and that no tape of the walk-through ever existed.

"Prior to the publication of its Feb. 2, 2008, article, the Boston Herald neither possessed nor viewed a tape of the Rams' walk-through before Super Bowl XXXVI, nor did we speak to anyone who had. We should not have published the allegation in the absence of firmer verification.

"The Boston Herald regrets the damage done to the team by publication of the allegation, and sincerely apologizes to its readers and to the New England Patriots' owners, players, employees and fans for our error."

-- ESPN.com news services

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Walsh, a former scout, told the coach he saw Marshall Faulk lined up to return a kick and he saw the Rams tight end roll to one side depending on the defensive coverage. Faulk did return a kickoff just before the end of the first half of the game. While there was no tape of the walk-through, Walsh provided some inside information that might have been beneficial to the Patriots. Levy said he knows of no league rule Walsh violated, and Goodell is not expected to take any further action.

Rams spokesman Rick Smith declined comment.

Goodell made no mention of the incident during his news conference. He realized the oversight later, Levy said, and asked Levy to share the information with reporters.

The NFL is looking into the allegation, Levy said.

Late Tuesday night, the Boston Herald issued an apology on its Web site, saying: "While the Boston Herald based its Feb. 2, 2008, report on sources that it believed to be credible, we now know that this report was false, and that no tape of the walk-through ever existed."

In an early-afternoon news conference, Goodell stopped short of saying Spygate was a closed matter, but appeared to indicate that the issue had hit a dead end.

"I don't know where else I would turn," Goodell told reporters, adding he did not know of anyone else who had additional information, "but I reserve the right to review new information if it comes up."

"The fundamental information that Matt provided was consistent with what we disciplined the Patriots for last fall," Goodell said.

The Patriots released a statement Tuesday afternoon that dealt strictly with the accusation of taping the Rams' walk-through.

"For the past three-and-a-half months, we have been defending ourselves against assumptions made based on an unsubstantiated report rather than on facts or evidence," the statement read. "Despite our adamant denials, the report ran on February 2, 2008, the day before Super Bowl XLII. That game was the second-most watched program in television history and it is unfortunate that today's news will not also reach an audience of that size.

"We hope that with Matt Walsh's disclosures, everyone will finally believe what we have been saying all along and emphatically stated on the day of the initial report: 'The suggestion that the New England Patriots recorded the St. Louis Rams' walk-through on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 is absolutely false. Any suggestion to the contrary is untrue.'"

The discussion between Walsh and Goodell ended shortly before 11 a.m. ET. Walsh did not attend Goodell's news conference, leaving to fly to Washington for a scheduled afternoon meeting with Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who's been critical of the NFL's handling of the investigation.

Walsh and his attorneys arrived at Specter's office in the Hart Office Building at 2 p.m., some five minutes after Specter arrived at his office.

Specter postponed his news conference to Wednesday after his meeting with Walsh ran long.

Before Goodell's news conference, the league played for the media the tapes Walsh provided. The clips were cut from shots of opposing coaches going through their signals in games against the Patriots, as well as down and distance and the end zone view of the ensuing plays.

The most scandalous tidbit that emerged Tuesday after Walsh spent more than six hours in the meetings was a snippet of tape that showed not football but close-ups of San Diego Chargers cheerleaders performing during a 2002 game.

Walsh did not shoot the footage of the cheerleaders, NFL officials said.

Goodell arrived at 6:38 a.m. ET on Tuesday at the NFL's offices on Park Avenue in New York. Walsh, wearing a somber expression and accompanied by his attorney, Michael N. Levy, arrived at 7:25 a.m. ET. Levy declined comment to reporters on Walsh's behalf, noting that Walsh's agreement with the NFL requires him to talk to the league before he speaks with anyone else.

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"Mr. Walsh is pleased he has had the opportunity to assist the NFL," Michael N. Levy said after the meeting. "Out of respect for Sen. Specter, neither Mr. Walsh nor I will speak with the media prior to meeting with the senator."

Walsh agreed to turn the tapes over to Goodell and the NFL last week. Walsh suggested in January that he had information about the team's policy of taping the signals of opposing coaches.

Walsh, a Patriots employee from 1997 to 2003, reached an agreement with the NFL last week to turn over the tapes in exchange for being indemnified from all future legal action. He turned over eight tapes he had of the Patriots taping opposing coaches' signals from 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Earlier this month, Michael N. Levy told The New York Times that Walsh did not possess a tape of the Rams' pre-Super Bowl walk-through, that he was not the source of media speculation about such a tape, and that Walsh was not the source for the Feb. 2 Boston Herald article about the walk-through.

In September, the Patriots were fined $250,000 and lost a first-round draft pick this year, while head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 for illegally videotaping signals of the New York Jets in a 2007 game, which sparked the Spygate controversy.

Earlier, after Goodell issued an order, the Patriots turned over additional tapes from the 2006 and '07 seasons. Those tapes were destroyed. Specter has since criticized the NFL for destroying those tapes and for its handling of the investigation.

Why did Goodell show Walsh's tapes Tuesday but not do the same with the others last fall? He said releasing them during the season could have put some teams at a competitive advantage or disadvantage.

Members of Specter's staff looked at the tapes Walsh handed over on Friday at the office of the NFL legal counsel in Washington, a source told ESPN.com's Mike Fish. Specter was expected to look at the tapes on Monday to prepare for his meeting.

Goodell said Walsh had no information about any other spying by the Patriots.

"There was no bugging of locker rooms," Goodell said. "There was no manipulation of communication systems. There was no crowd noise violations anywhere that he was aware of. No miking of players to pick up opposing signals or audibles."

Walsh did share two potential violations of league rules unrelated to Spygate, Goodell said. A player on injured reserve practiced when he wasn't allowed to in 2001. Walsh also scalped eight to 12 Super Bowl tickets for Patriots players over two seasons. The NFL will investigate both claims.

ESPN.com NFL writer Pat Yasinskas, ESPN.com investigative reporter Mike Fish, ESPN reporter Sal Paolantonio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.