Patriots Probe Continues, Team to Submit Materials
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
FOXBOROUGH, Mass., Sept. 17 -- The New England Patriots are preparing to hand over requested materials to NFL officials as the league continues its investigation into the team's signal-stealing tactics.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ordered the Patriots to turn over any tapes or notes from the videotaping program that led to last Thursday's penalties against the team, which included a $500,000 fine of Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, a $250,000 fine of the franchise and the loss of at least one pick in next spring's NFL draft, possibly a first-round selection. Belichick told reporters Monday that the Patriots "of course" would comply with Goodell's order.
Goodell has threatened to impose more severe sanctions if league officials uncover evidence of more violations. One source familiar with the league's investigation said Monday that NFL officials have been made aware of a wide range of allegations against the Patriots, including claims that they have illegally wired the helmets of some of their defensive players to receive instructions from coaches on the sideline (only the quarterback can be connected to a coach in that way) and that they have improperly jammed opponents' radio communication signals. But the league has no evidence to substantiate any of those allegations, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the controversial nature of the case.
"Everyone is coming out of the woodwork right now with a story that the guy [Belichick] has done this or done that," the source said. "Who knows if any of it is true. And even if any of it is true, who knows if there's any proof to be had."
Goodell also has said that the league will look into the videotaping practices of all 32 teams, and remind them what is permitted and what isn't.
The Patriots have sent a clear message that they have every intention of continuing to win football games as efficiently as ever while the league conducts its probe.
Three days after Goodell disciplined the Patriots and Belichick for using videotaping equipment to spy on the play signals of the New York Jets' coaches during a season-opening game at Giants Stadium, Patriots players and fans gave the New England coach a rousing show of support here Sunday night. The Patriots improved their record to 2-0 by overwhelming the San Diego Chargers at Gillette Stadium, and Belichick left the field to enthusiastic cheers and yells of encouragement from the crowd.
In what players described late Sunday night as an emotional scene in the locker room afterward, Belichick received a game ball from Patriots owner Robert Kraft and was saluted by players who offered appreciative testimonials to the three-time Super Bowl-winning coach.
"We're all lucky to play for him," quarterback Tom Brady said. "He's the best coach probably in the history of the NFL."
The league's investigation of the Patriots could be the backdrop to another Super Bowl run by the club. The Patriots have beaten the Jets and Chargers, both playoff participants last season, by identical 38-14 scores, and they've done it without two of their best defensive players, suspended safety Rodney Harrison and injured end Richard Seymour.
"What we did tonight speaks volumes," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said in the Patriots' locker room late Sunday night. "I think it starts with the head coach. The focus this week was on the San Diego Chargers, like he said about 20,000 times this week. We follow his lead. . . . The way he prepared us this week and the way he put his head down even when he was in the middle of all of that, he led by example. The affection [the fans] showed him is the affection we tried to show him after the game. . . . You guys say what you want to say and call us names. We'll block you out. We trust our preparation. We trust the people in here. That's what we do. He's our head coach and we stand behind him."
Bruschi challenged anyone in the league who contended that the Patriots' championships were tainted by the scandal.
"Let's get all the players we had and you get back all the players you had," Bruschi said. "And we would win again."