As I was sitting yesterday in a hotel conference room
watching the tapes that former Patriots video employee Matt Walsh submitted to
the NFL, one thought kept popping into my head: This is what the whole Spygate
mess was about?
Walsh submitted eight tapes to the league last week, and after his
long-awaited meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday morning, the
tapes were shown to the media. The epicenter of one of the biggest
controversies in pro sports history was shockingly tame. Join me for a look at
some of the tapes:
In a Patriots-Dolphins game in 2000, the tape shows a Dolphins assistant
flashing signals from the sideline. On one, he extends his right arm and moves
it down by his side three times. On another, he gives a thumbs-up sign with
both hands, and then with his right arm acts as if he's hammering an imaginary
On another set of tapes from a 2001 game against the Dolphins, a Miami
offensive assistant has his arms extended in front, as if he's an umpire making
the "safe sign." On another, he pumps his right fist three times, touches his
shoulder and repeats the motion. On still another, he waves his hand over his
head three times, then waves his hand in front of his face.
It's a wonder we didn't see one of a coach rubbing his head and tapping his
belly three times fast, like we used to do as kids.
Capping off the absurdity of it all: During a 2002 game against the
Chargers, the tapes of the signals from a defensive coach were interrupted by
shots of the Chargers' cheerleaders performing for the crowd. Yes, the
cheerleaders. At one point, the camera zooms in on the tush of one of the
cheerleaders. A woman from the law firm representing Walsh quickly came around
to tell us that Walsh wasn't videotaping that game or those cheerleaders.
Then it was back to the signals, the simplicity of which was shocking - if
for no other reason than the signs easily could have been stolen without the
benefit of videotape. Teams regularly study signs of opponents, although not
with a video camera as the Patriots did. And it surely is easy enough to decode
the signals by looking through a pair of binoculars and talking into a tape
recorder as teams have been known to do in the past - and which they are
allowed to do, according to NFL rules.
That the Patriots' brilliant coach, Bill Belichick, would risk his
reputation for taping signals against league rules is all the more incredulous
and disappointing. Belichick continues to say that he believed the taping was
within the rules because the team never used the signals during the course of
that particular game, an excuse we find hard to believe, given how meticulous
he is to all details of the game.
Goodell doesn't buy it, either, and said so yesterday.
But Goodell also said there would be no further punishment against
Belichick or the team, because there essentially was no new evidence related to
the taping of signals.
"The fundamental information that Matt provided was consistent with what we
disciplined the Patriots for last fall," Goodell said.
Most importantly, there was no tape of the Rams' final walk-through before
Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, as had been reported the day before the
Giants-Patriots Super Bowl in February. Walsh told Goodell he didn't tape the
walk-through, and didn't know anyone who knew of such a tape.
Goodell said Walsh told him of two other unrelated situations that the
league will investigate. He said the Patriots had a player who was on injured
reserve participate in a practice in 2001 (a violation of league policy) and
might result in a fine. Goodell also said Walsh told him he helped some
unidentified members of the organization scalp as many as 12 Super Bowl tickets
while Walsh worked for the team.
Walsh, who had reached an agreement April 23 that stipulated there would be
no lawsuits filed against him for anything he agreed to turn over to or told
Goodell, immediately left for Washington after the meeting with the
commissioner. He met yesterday afternoon with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa), who
had been pushing the NFL to meet with Walsh. Walsh and Specter are expected to
meet with reporters today.
There was, however, a nugget Walsh divulged that might keep Spygate in the
headlines for at least a while longer. He told Goodell that former Patriots
Walsh for information about what the Rams did during the walk-through. Walsh
was setting up the team's video equipment and was in the Superdome when the
Rams went through their final walk-through the day before the Super Bowl. So he
did see some things that he told Daboll about. He said running back Marshall
Faulk was returning kicks, and tried to help Daboll figure out some of the
Rams' two-tight end packages.
The NFL already has spoken to Daboll in connection with Spygate, but now
will go back to him to check out Walsh's latest statements.
"I have cooperated with the league's investigation and was completely
truthful and forthcoming," Daboll said in a statement released by the Jets.
"The league has requested to speak to me again. In light of this request, I
will not comment further other than to say that I have been and will continue
to be completely truthful, cooperative and forthcoming with the league."
Once the league resolves the situation with Daboll, that should be the end
Then again, Specter is talking today, so maybe we've still got a few more
hours left to the story. Let's hope that's it. Enough already. It's