Goodell to meet with Sen. Specter about Spygate

Updated: February 4, 2008, 12:05 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) plans to call NFL commissioner Roger Goodell promptly to discuss the Spygate controversy and suggested Sunday that Senate hearings could result from his investigation.

On ESPN's "Outside The Lines", Specter told host Bob Ley that he will call Goodell on Monday morning, just hours after the Patriots and Giants play in Super Bowl XLII.

"It could go to hearings," Specter said. "This is a matter to be considered by the [Senate Judiciary] Committee. I don't want to make any broad assertions or elevate it beyond what I have a factual basis for doing. We're going to follow the facts and if warranted, there could be hearings."

Specter told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio that after hearing Goodell's depiction of why evidence provided by the Patriots was destroyed, he wanted more answers.

"The commissioner's explanation as to why he destroyed the tapes does not ring true," Specter said.

Shortly after Specter's comments Sunday, Goodell said on ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" that he would be "more than happy to meet with the senator at the earliest possible moment."

Goodell planned to go to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii after the Super Bowl in Arizona, but would adjust his plans if necessary. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told ESPN's Rachel Nichols on Monday that Goodell would meet with Specter at the end of this week at the earliest, and possible next week if Specter is still interested. Both staffs are working on the arrangements.

Specter wants to know if Goodell spoke to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to determine if Brady benefited from any of the illegally gathered material.

When asked on "OTL" if he would interview any players, Specter said it was possible, but not a certainty.

"I'm going to take it a step at a time," he said. "... I want to see what [Goodell] has to say. But when you have an investigation that hasn't talked to this fella Matt Walsh ... and didn't go back beyond 2006, it's obviously a very incomplete investigation."

Specter said plans to contact former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh to see what he knows about the Patriots allegedly videotaping the St. Louis Rams' Super Bowl XXXVI walk-through in 2002. The Patriots have denied they videotaped the practice.

Goodell, who said he reserved the right to address the investigation again if new information arose, said that if Walsh "has information inconsistent with what we have, we want to talk to him."

The commissioner said it's his responsibility to look into any rumor regarding the investigation and dismissed any talk of a cover up.

"People are implying that this is some type of cover up," Goodell said. "... I think it's exactly the opposite. We were the ones who brought these facts out to light. We were the ones who took the unprecedented discipline to send a very strong message to people [to] don't violate the rules. And I think that's what we want. We want every team playing on a level playing field and I think that's what we have."

After the league investigation into the original Spygate incident after New England's victory over the New York Jets in Week 1, Goodell fined Patriots coach Bill Belichick $500,000, the maximum amount, and docked the team $250,000 and a first-round draft pick. It was the biggest fine for a coach and the first time in NFL history a first-round draft pick was confiscated as a penalty.

Mike Martz, who was St. Louis' head coach during the Super Bowl game in question, spoke to ESPN.com investigative reporter Mike Fish about the allegations.

"I hope that is not true," Martz said. "I have great respect for Bill Belichick. It's hard to believe that is true. It's a serious allegation and I hope it is not true.

"Obviously if there is enough substance to it the league should look into it.''

Former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, currently with the Arizona Cardinals, told Fish that if the league has heard those claims, he is surprised it has not spoken to Walsh. He said if Walsh or any other source has information, it should be investigated.

Walsh has suggested to ESPN.com that he has information that could have exposed the Patriots prior to the Week 1 incident.

"If I had a reason to want to go public, or tell a story, I could have done it before it even broke," Walsh told ESPN.com. "I could have said everything rather than having [Jets coach Eric] Mangini be the one to bring it out.

"If they're doing a thorough investigation -- they didn't contact me. So draw your own conclusions. Maybe they felt they didn't need to. Maybe the league feels they got satisfactory answers from everything the Patriots sent them."

Told of the newest allegation, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told The Associated Press on Saturday:

"We were aware of the rumor months ago and looked into it. There was no evidence of it on the tapes or in the notes produced by the Patriots, and the Patriots told us it was not true."

Patriots media relations official Stacey James reiterated that sentiment.

"The suggestion that the New England Patriots recorded the St. Louis Rams' walk-through on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI is absolutely false," James said. "Any suggestion to the contrary is untrue."

Rams spokesman Rick Smith, reading a statement from team president John Shaw, said, "At this point, we have no comment."

On Friday, Specter said he had written Goodell seeking an explanation as to why evidence in the NFL's investigation of the Patriots videotaping was destroyed.

"I am very concerned about the underlying facts on the taping, the reasons for the judgment on the limited penalties and, most of all, on the inexplicable destruction of the tapes," Specter wrote.

Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the matter could put the league's antitrust exemption at risk. In a phone interview with The New York Times, which first reported Specter's interest in the matter, he said the committee at some point will call Goodell to address the antitrust exemption as well as the destruction of the tapes.

Goodell, in his previously scheduled news conference Friday from Phoenix, said, "There are very good explanations why the tapes were destroyed by our staff -- there was no purpose for them."

There were six tapes, according to Goodell -- some from the 2007 preseason and the rest from 2006. He said he had them destroyed because he was confident the Patriots had turned over all of the tapes and notes the NFL had requested in its investigation. He also said they were destroyed in order to prevent leaks to the media -- as some footage from one of the tapes was leaked shortly after the story broke.

"We wanted to take and destroy that information," Goodell said. "They may have collected it within the rules, but we couldn't determine that. So we felt that it should be destroyed."

Belichick had little to add on the subject.

"It's a league matter," he said Friday during his news conference. "I don't know anything about it."

Sal Paolantonio covers the NFL for ESPN. ESPN.com investigative reporter Mike Fish and The Associated Press contributed to this report.