Spygate won’t fade away

Street Talk Spygate won’t fade away

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PALM BEACH, Fla. — The ghost of Spygate is still haunting the NFL in a high-profile legal imbroglio involving the New England Patriots’ illegal videotaping of opponents’ signals that remains a hot-button issue dominating conversations at the league owners’ meetings.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged Monday that former Patriots videographer Matt Walsh has yet to work out an immunity deal with the league regarding his alleged additional information regarding Spygate.

Walsh’s attorney, Michael Levy, remains in negotiations with NFL lawyers over how to compel him to discuss what he does or doesn’t know about the Patriots’ football espionage, including rumors about videotapes that could trigger more harsh penalties for New England coach Bill Belichick.

Goodell expressed frustration at the continued delays at resolving a controversial episode that led to the Patriots being penalized one of their first-round draft picks with Belichick fined $500,000 and the team fined $250,000.

"Do you know lawyers?" Goodell said. "We are making progress, I think. I’m a little frustrated, as you can see. Matt Walsh is free to speak to anybody, but he has asked for some considerations.

"We have met with over 50 people, and he’s the only one that has indicated that he has conditions. We are trying to respect that."

Walsh has indicated that he may have more evidence against the Patriots. If true, that could lead to more sanctions against Belichick.

Belichick is attending the meetings and is expected to face numerous questions today about Spygate.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said that Walsh didn’t sign a confidentiality clause that legally prevents him from discussing the team’s practices. The powerful owner lobbied reporters to move on from the topic.

"I think we’ve covered the subject," Kraft said. "We broke a rule the first week of the season. We were penalized very heavily, and look what happened after that game. To me, that says more than anything.

"Players work very hard and coaches work very hard, and I think they accomplished something remarkable. I think everything stands on its own after that."

The Patriots went 16-0 during the regular season, falling one game shy of a perfect season when they lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.

One Boston newspaper alleged that the Patriots taped the St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough prior to their Super Bowl encounter.

Kraft vehemently denied that report.

"I believe it’s something that never happened," Kraft said. "If so, why wouldn’t, two months later, anything come out? But we live in a society where people can make any kind of allegation.

"It has to be substantiated. I know how hard our people worked to accomplish what they did this year. We’ve truly put that behind us and have moved onto other things."

However, the league isn’t quite satisfied yet and neither is Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector.

The Walsh testimony is a dangling loose thread among a twisted spool of embarrassment for the Patriots and the NFL.

"I am very anxious to meet with him," Goodell said. "He has indicated or implied through the media that he may have information that I’m not aware of. If he has either a tape or information that would be helpful, I would be eager to get it."

In an obvious response to Spygate, the NFL is considering a proposal to allow a coach to communicate with a defensive player via a radio transmitting device. That would likely eliminate the temptation for anyone to use videotape to steal signals in addition to the deterrent of the Patriots’ punishment.

Goodell also wants teams to sign a document vowing each season that they didn’t engage in spying.

He also wants to enact mechanisms such as spot checks in the coaches’ booths and on the field.

The NFL has drawn widespread criticism for destroying the evidence of the tapes.

"I believe that the public understands that we responded very aggressively to the Patriots issue," Goodell said. "We were the ones to discover it, disclose it and discipline it with unprecedented discipline. To date, all the discussion and all the other rhetoric have been rumors.

"We’ve known coach Belichick has done that through his career. From my standpoint, I think these steps are necessary. We recognize that there has been a great deal of discussion about this. There is a questioning of our integrity. I believe strongly in the integrity of our game, and I know our clubs do, too."

Goodell also made it clear that he won’t tolerate tampering after penalizing the San Francisco 49ers a fifth-round pick recently for contacting Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, during last season.

The NFL is considering adding a five-to-seven-day window for teams to discuss impending free agents prior to the signing period. It’s an effort to combat the widespread tampering that is commonplace under the current system.

"It wasn’t being made an example, in my mind it was a clear violation of policy," Goodell said. "Anytime you violate the tampering policy, that is egregious."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
Photo by Sabina Moran

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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