Something to Keep In Mind About the Patriots' September Penalties
The delivery of eight videotapes to the NFL's offices Thursday from former New England Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh is producing calls for the league to impose new penalties upon the Patriots.
It's not my place in this situation to express an opinion about what the league should or shouldn't do. But everyone needs to keep one thing straight: The penalties imposed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the Patriots and their coach, Bill Belichick, in September were for taping opposing coaching signals throughout Belichick's coaching tenure in New England.
Yes, the Patriots and Belichick were penalized only after being caught taping the play signals of the New York Jets coaches in the opening game of last season. But the discipline imposed by Goodell was not for that single incident alone. According to league officials, Belichick admitted to them in September that the videotaping program had been in place as long as he'd been the coach of the Patriots.
So those who now argue that the contents of the tapes given to the league by Walsh--the coaching signals of five different Patriots opponents in six games between the 2000 and 2002 seasons--demonstrate that the videotaping program was more extensive than originally thought are misguided.
It's reasonable to assume that the Patriots taped their opponents' play signals in every game that Belichick coached with the franchise. The penalties imposed by Goodell in September already took that into account.
It's fair to argue that the original penalties against Belichick and the Patriots in September should have been more extensive. I'm not saying whether I agree or disagree with that view. I'm just saying it's a legitimate topic of debate.
It's fair to contend that Goodell and the league should have done a better job from the outset of making it clear to the public that the Patriots' taping program dated back so far.
But it's incorrect to say that the tapes delivered to the league by Walsh contain major new revelations, at least from what we know so far about the contents. Even the inclusion of a tape from the AFC title game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002 was nothing new. League officials knew about that tape from notes about it provided by the Patriots in September. Even Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) was informed about the Steelers being taped in the AFC championship game when he met with Goodell after last season.
It also is being speculated that the Patriots might be penalized for a new violation because one of the tapes turned over by Walsh contains the offensive play signals of the Miami Dolphins coaches. Previously, it had been thought that only defensive signals were involved. But that might be a bit of a stretch. The rule under which the Patriots were penalized in September prohibits the taping of all coaching signals, either offensive or defensive signals. The Patriots were found guilty in September of taping coaching signals, not merely defensive coaching signals.
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