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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Spygate tapes hardly a must see

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

nail.

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

assistant coach Brian Daboll, who is now the Jets' quarterbacks coach, asked

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

of Spygate.

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

over.

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