The Patriots’ television production crews will be prohibited from taping games during the 2020 season, and team staffers will be required to undergo additional training on league operational policies, the NFL spokesman said.
There are no individual penalties being imposed on Coach Bill Belichick or any members of the team’s football staff, according to people familiar with the NFL’s ruling. That suggests the league did not uncover evidence tying the football staff to the violation.
The league made its ruling after an investigation of the Dec. 8 incident in which a video crew working for the Patriots shot footage of the Cincinnati Bengals’ sideline during a game in Cleveland. That occurred one week before the Patriots played in Cincinnati.
The Patriots acknowledged that their video crew violated league policy but said the infraction was committed unwittingly and was not intended to have any competitive benefit for the team. The crew was shooting footage for an online feature on a scout who works for the team and was attending that Bengals-Browns game, the Patriots said.
Belichick said repeatedly that the Patriots’ football operations department had no involvement in the video.
The league seemed to regard the Patriots’ admitted transgression as a typical violation of game-day NFL rules worthy of typical, rather than extraordinary, disciplinary measures. The league considered a handful of precedents set by cases in recent years involving the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens and the Patriots in the infamous Deflategate scandal.
The Falcons were fined $350,000 in 2015 for pumping fake crowd noise into their stadium during home games. They were stripped of a fifth-round choice in the 2016 NFL draft, and their team president, Rich McKay, was suspended from the NFL competition committee for three months. The Browns were fined $250,000 in 2015 for then-general manager Ray Farmer using a cellphone to send in-game text messages to the team’s coaches during the 2014 season. Farmer was suspended for four games.
The Giants were fined $150,000 and then-coach Ben McAdoo was fined $50,000 in 2016 for using a walkie-talkie on the sideline to replace a malfunctioning communications system during a victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants had a fourth-round draft pick in 2017 dropped to the end of that round. The Ravens were fined $200,000 in 2018 for having multiple players simultaneously on the field during the preseason with coach-to-player radio headsets in their helmets.
The outlier in terms of the severity of those punishments handed out by the NFL was the Deflategate Patriots, who were fined $1 million in 2015 and stripped of a first-round draft choice in 2016 and a fourth-round selection in 2017. Quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for four games for his role in what the NFL concluded was a scheme to improperly under-inflate footballs.
In this case, the Bengals reportedly were furious after confronting the Patriots’ videographer in the press box in Cleveland. Footage obtained and aired by Fox Sports showed a video monitor aimed at the Bengals’ sideline. The Fox footage also contained audio of dialogue between the Patriots’ videographer and a member of the Bengals’ security staff. The videographer said he didn’t know he was doing anything improper and offered to delete the footage of the Bengals’ sideline.
In 2007, the NFL punished the Patriots in the Spygate case. The Patriots were found to have been improperly videotaping opposing coaching signals. Belichick and the team were fined a total of $750,000, and the Patriots were stripped of a first-round draft choice.
The Spygate and Deflategate scandals have, to some observers, tainted the legacy of the Patriots, who had six Super Bowl victories with Robert Kraft as their owner, Belichick as their coach and Brady as their quarterback. They won their 11th straight AFC East title last season, going 12-4 during the regular season, before losing their opening playoff game to the Tennessee Titans. That was Brady’s final game with the team; he left the Patriots via free agency in the offseason and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bengals had only two wins last season and were beaten by the Patriots, 34-13, in the Dec. 15 game in Cincinnati.
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