Walsh dismisses Pats' attempts to minimize illegal taping

Updated: May 15, 2008, 10:45 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Former New England Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh dismissed Patriots coach Bill Belichick's attempts to minimize the impact of the team's illegal taping of opponents' coaching signals.

"It was something that they continued to have me do throughout the two years I worked in video, under coach Belichick," Walsh told HBO's Andrea Kremer in an interview scheduled to air Friday night on "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."

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"If it was of little or no importance, I imagine they wouldn't have continued to do it, and probably not taken the chances of going down onto the field in Pittsburgh or shooting from other teams' stadiums the way we did."

The Spygate investigation began after the NFL confiscated tapes from a team employee who recorded the New York Jets' defensive signals in the 2007 opener. Belichick was fined $500,000; the team was fined $250,000 and forced to forfeit its 2008 first-round draft choice.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell essentially declared an end to the case Tuesday after a 3½-hour meeting with Walsh, who supplied the league with tapes of coaches' signals made by the Patriots. The meeting was agreed to only after Walsh's request of protection from litigation was met by the league.

"We set that position out very early," Michael Levy, Walsh's attorney, said Thursday on "Mike & Mike In the Morning" on ESPN Radio, "because [early in the process] the NFL and the Patriots were somewhat hostile" toward Walsh.

After meeting with Walsh later Tuesday, Sen. Arlen Specter called Wednesday for an independent investigation. The senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Specter criticized Goodell, saying he has made "ridiculous" assertions that wouldn't fly "in kindergarten."

Walsh also was interviewed by The New York Times on Wednesday in Levy's Washington, D.C., office. He said the number of tapes made for any one game increased when Belichick was hired by the Patriots.

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"On average, when you're scouting a team, we'd do anywhere from 60 to 70 cut-ups on offense, 40, 50 cut-ups on defense. Special teams, you're making another 10 to 15 tapes," Walsh told the Times.

"When Belichick came along, we added even more to the preparation. We were doing more cut-ups, and we were also coming into the age of digital technology, too. So we were able to attach statistics to the video, on computers. The great thing about technology, it's supposed to make things easier, but in a sense it creates more work for you."

When asked by the Times whether what he was doing felt wrong, Walsh said, "I had always been a big Patriots fan. I was very enthused, just to have the opportunity that I had and the job to work for them. I wasn't going to question what they wanted me to do. They became upset if we filmed a practice drill incorrectly. I didn't want to imagine what the consequences would be if I refused to do something altogether."

In the interview, posted on the newspaper's Web site, Walsh also reiterated what he told Specter on Tuesday, that a New England assistant asked him what he saw during a St. Louis Rams walk-through before the 2002 Super Bowl.

"I told [ex-Patriots assistant coach Brian Daboll] I saw Marshall Faulk returning kicks, which I had never seen before. And then he started asking me some questions about what they might have done on offense. If I had seen a tight end, how the tight end had rolled out in certain formations. I tried to tell him what I could remember the best I could," he said.

"Yeah, to try to jog my memory," Walsh responded, when asked whether Daboll drew diagrams. "Maybe draw a formation on paper and ask me if they would have done that, or if I noticed this particular movement."

On Thursday, the NFL issued the following statement: "Our security department re-interviewed Brian Daboll on Wednesday and he has no recollection of a conversation with Matt Walsh about the Rams' walk-through practice."

Even if Daboll and New England's former video assistant did speak about it, "It would not be a violation of NFL rules," the league said Thursday.

According to the commissioner, Walsh said during the Tuesday meeting with Goodell that he had no knowledge of that walk-through's being videotaped -- as had been reported by the Boston Herald the day before this year's Super Bowl.

On Wednesday, the Herald apologized for a story that said the Patriots videotaped the walk-through before the 2002 Super Bowl. In the apology, the Herald said, "We now know that this report was false, and that no tape of the walk-through ever existed."

The NFL statement said that Walsh, other members of the Patriots video department, members of the Rams video department and others preparing for the Super Bowl were authorized to be in the stadium.

"Mr. Walsh told the commissioner that he was wearing Patriots' attire at the time and did not conduct himself in a clandestine manner," the NFL said. "He said that he saw Rams employees while he was there and also was on the sidelines. He stated clearly to the commissioner that nobody from the Patriots requested or directed him to observe or report on the Rams' walk-through."

Former St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz, now an assistant for the San Francisco 49ers, said he is satisfied with the NFL's investigation.

"I'm very confident that there was no impropriety [at the Super Bowl]," Martz said in a statement. "I believed Bill Belichick when he said there wasn't and I took that at face value.

"I was stunned at Matt Walsh's allegation that he was on the sideline in New England Patriots apparel during our walk-through. I find that insulting, disturbing and a slap in the face to both our team security and NFL security, who both do outstanding jobs. I promise you that if he was on the sideline, he was not in New England Patriots apparel because he would have been identified."

Walsh also told the Times he was hired in 1999 and first filmed a game for New England in the 2000 preseason, against Tampa Bay.

"Once I had done it for the first game, and I kind of understood a little bit of the process of how it was going, I actually asked one of our quarterbacks if the information that I provided was beneficial in any way," Walsh said. "He said, 'Actually, probably about 75 percent of the time, Tampa Bay ran the defense we thought they were going to run. If not more.'"

Walsh told HBO his superiors coached him on how to evade NFL rules limiting the number of camera operators per team to two and that team officials instructed him on ways to avoid detection.

"The line of reasoning that we would give to other teams for why we need a third camera setup was, 'Well, our coaches want to have a tight shot of the kicker and the holder … exchange just to go over with the guys in meetings. You know, they want a tight shot, you know, of the quarterback, you know, just to go over the quarterback's footwork and mechanics in meetings,'" said Walsh, who mentioned Patriots video coordinator Jimmy Dee as one of the superiors who coached him.

"If I was in the end zone, we would say, 'Well, we just want to have two end zone shots of the game because our coaches like always seeing the view of our players' backs.'"

Kremer asked Walsh about Belichick's comments about his lack of familiarity with Walsh and his actions, referencing a comment that "I couldn't pick Matt Walsh out of a lineup."

"Um, it's funny. The first time I heard that was when somebody in Hawaii brought the quote to me, too. And my firsthand answer to them was, 'Well, I wonder if he can pick me out on one of the three team pictures we're in together.'

"I don't know if I was just that forgettable and he can't remember me or if he was just trying to distance himself from this whole situation as best as he could. … I think Bill's got a pretty good memory."

Kremer also asked about Belichick's claim that he misinterpreted NFL rules.

"When I was doing it, I understood what we were doing to be wrong," Walsh said. "We went to great lengths to keep from being caught. Just saying that the rules were misinterpreted isn't enough of an apology or a reasoning for what was done. … Coach Belichick's explanation for having misinterpreted the rules, to me, that really didn't sound like taking responsibility for what we had done, especially considering the great lengths that we had gone through to hide what we were doing."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.