Belichick insists Pats did not try to hide taping of opponents signals

Updated: May 18, 2008, 6:13 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick lashed out at the team's former video assistant Friday, saying in a televised interview that Matt Walsh was a low-level staffer who was fired for "poor job performance"

"There's not a lot of credibility," Belichick said in an interview broadcast on "CBS Evening News."

[+] EnlargeBill Belichick
AP Photo/David J. PhillipBill Belichick on the extent of Matt Walsh's role with New England: "He didn't have any knowledge of football. He was our third video assistant."

"You know, he's tried to make it seem like we're buddies, and belong to the same book club and all. That's really a long, long stretch."

Belichick acknowledged that he violated NFL rules prohibiting filming opponents signals but insisted there was no intent to hide what he was doing.

"I made a mistake," he said in the interview. "I was wrong. I was wrong."

That rationale has already been rejected by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who fined the coach $500,000 and docked the Patriots $250,000 and its first-round draft pick.

"I didn't accept Bill Belichick's explanation for what happened," Goodell said Tuesday, "and I still don't to this day."

In an interview with HBO for "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel," Walsh dismissed Belichick's attempts to minimize the impact of the taping. Walsh told HBO he was coached on how to evade NFL rules, and that team officials instructed him on ways to avoid detection.

"When I was doing it, I understood what we were doing to be wrong," Walsh said. "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."

Belichick denied telling Walsh to hide what he was doing.

"You look at the tape. You see him filming the game," the coach told CBS. "You tell me how discrete it is."

Belichick has said he didn't even know Walsh, who was fired for poor performance and for making a tape recording of a meeting with player personnel director Scott Pioli.

"For him to talk about game-planning and strategy and play-calling and how he advised coordinators, it's embarrassing; it's absurd," Belichick said. "He didn't have any knowledge of football. He was our third video assistant."

Belichick's comments came on the same day the Boston Herald printed a front-page apology by reporter John Tomase, who wrote on the day before New England's Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants this year that the Patriots had taped the St. Louis Rams' walkthrough before the 2002 NFL title game.

Under the headline: "How it went wrong," Tomase wrote that he heard rumors the team's cheating was more widespread than the league had already acknowledged. But when he learned the team's video crew had been setting up equipment at the walkthrough, he made a "devastating leap of logic," by assuming the camera was rolling.

"First and foremost, this is about a writer breaking one of the cardinal rules of journalism: I failed to keep challenging what I had been told," he said.

"I had repeatedly heard that this walkthrough had been taped, and from people I trusted. Eventually I accepted it as fact and stopped questioning the assertion."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press