Updating the Patriots' Spygate Scandal A former Pats' employee told the NFL commissioner and a senator a lot more than had previously been reported. FoxSports.com columnist Peter Schrager explains why, after those meetings, one said the case is closed, but the other called for an investigation.

Updating the Patriots' Spygate Scandal

Updating the Patriots' Spygate Scandal

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A former Pats' employee told the NFL commissioner and a senator a lot more than had previously been reported. FoxSports.com columnist Peter Schrager explains why, after those meetings, one said the case is closed, but the other called for an investigation.

Footage secretly shot by the Patriots was aired during a press conference this week. Chris Trotman/Getty Images hide caption

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Chris Trotman/Getty Images


On to a different kind of blitzing, yesterday a guy who once wielded a video camera, with an intentionally busted red record light, became the most sought after figure in sports. Former New England Patriots employee Matt Walsh met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Then he met with Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter. And while Walsh says he basically told them both the same thing, different reactions, Goodell said, ah, not a big deal.

Senator Specter wants a constitutional invest - sorry, congressional investigation into what sort of taping Walsh was doing, and if it were cheating. So how did the same information get such different responses? What's going on here? Here to help us sort it out is Peter Schrager, columnist for sports - foxsports.com. How are you doing, Peter?

Mr. PETER SCHRAGER (Columnist, Foxsports.com): Hey, guys. How are you?


Hey, Peter.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Hello.

PESCA: Peter, let's back up for a second. Matt Walsh was a video assistant for the New England Patriots, glamorous, glamorous job. What's a guy in that position supposed to do, and what did Walsh wind up doing?

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah, usually you film, you put together some tapes for scouting. It turns out that Walsh, unlike others, was the third video-taper, it sounds like a JFK...

PESCA: Yeah, back and to the left.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah, the third video-taper for the Patriots. Most teams usually have two per game, so it was a interesting thing, and he did that for, I guess, four years, with the Patriots until 2002, and they won a Super Bowl in that time.

PESCA: And he says who he was videotaping was not the other teams on the field, but the other coaches giving signals...


PESCA: And that's the gist of the argument?

Mr. SCHRAGER: It may be the sidelines of the other teams, but you know, their explanation always during the games was why they needed a third videographer, I guess the term is. Why they need the third one was that they would just kind of get different shots and different angles, and no one really pressed the envelope on that. The Jets one time told them, you can't be up there, get out of here, and the Steelers one time said, there's no room for you, get out of here, so most teams never really questioned it. But it turns out he was actually filming the coaches on the other sidelines.

PESCA: How horrible is that, I mean, if you watch an NFL game, and I assume you have, you'd see all the coaches and the assistants always cover their mouths, so the conversations probably sound a little like this, but it's so no one could read lips. So they assume someone's watching them. What's this huge deal if instead of watching someone's taping them?

Mr. SCHRAGER: Well, that's kind of where the issue lies here. Goodell kind of took all this information he got, and kind of brushed it under the rug, and said, you know, it's not a big deal. We have nothing new. Let's end this. Other people think this is a very big deal. And the situation here is that, they say that, I guess, that Walsh spoke to one of the quarterbacks after a preseason...

PESCA: One of the New England Patriots' quarterbacks...

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah. So, just - they played the Buccaneers in a preseason game and they filmed their sideline, and then they played them in the opening - in the season opener a couple of weeks later, and he talked to one of the quarterbacks that looked at these films, and hey, did that help at all? That what I filmed, did you guys - you know, 75 percent of the time that they were doing those hand signals that we're looking at, well, that was the defense that they ran. So if you think three out of every four times, they are doing these crazy signals on the sidelines and that exactly - and that's a big advantage.

PESCA: And how it gets to the quarterback. Is there wireless headsets? The signals are stolen. It's conveyed to the quarterback. Well, here is someone else who has an analysis of how it can help you videotape and steal signals, noted football commentator, Senator Arlen Specter.

SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER (Republican, Pennsylvania): Walsh went into some detail on the advantage of the no-huddle. If you come out, and you don't huddle, but are on the line of scrimmage, then there's no time for the defense to make the shift. If you go into a huddle, and you're there for a few seconds, you have that extra advantage.

PESCA: Is the senator getting it right?

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah, he does have that right. I mean, you go into the no-huddle, and I'll just explain what that is, you know, there's no 20 seconds in between play, it's right away, you get right back to the line, and you call it... TEXT: PESCA: The offense presses, puts their pedal to the metal...

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah, and that was something that the Patriots didn't run often, and all of a sudden they have this, and now they're starting to do it.

PESCA: OK, so it...

Mr. SCHRAGER: Joel Bledsoe is not a no-huddle guy, and that was the quarterback at the time. I mean...

PESCA: So the implication there, is the information gleaned from this videotaping, allowed the Patriots to open up their offense, and do different things, at least that's what Senator Specter says. Now, Goodell had a different - first of all, this is not the first time Goodell looked at the issue. Didn't he fine the Patriots, or punish them for this - a similar thing before?

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah, and it's funny, they basically lost the first-round draft pick, and they were fined hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they asked Walsh, they said, you know, do you think going back the Patriots would do it again? And he said, yeah, I'd think they'd exchange three Super Bowls for 750,000 dollars.

(Soundbite of laugher)

Mr. SCHRAGER: I think they would. So...

PESCA: Well, he is also saying, look how important I was. I won them three Super Bowls.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah, yeah, which is ridiculous.

PESCA: And why do you think that Goodell - well, I don't want to ask you to just speculate, but what do the facts dictate? Why did Goodell dismiss it? And then the second part to that is, why did Specter have to jump on it, and jump up and down?

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah, it seems like a lot of the NFL folk are just - you know...

PESCA: Including the teams that lost to the Patriots.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah, they interviewed Mike Martz several times, and he was the coach of the Rams that time that lost the Super Bowl, which would have been the team that really was at the disadvantage in the situation, and he said, you know, let's put - I trust the NFL is doing a good job.

Let's move on, let's get out of this and let's just keep going, because who is Matt Walsh? And that's basically been the response from the NFL and Belichick said, you know, from a one-to-100 rating, if this helped us, I rate it at a one. This is how little and how minimal they're thinking. Meanwhile, Senator Specter's saying this is a huge deal. Let's get a Mitchell Report like investigation in on this. Let's make this a really big deal, and let's stop corruption in sports today.

PESCA: Do you take Specter at his word, that those are his motivations and his only motivations?

Mr. SCHRAGER: And there's some questions there. Now, Specter's got ties with Comcast, which at first was in great, great, you know, relationships with the NFL...

PESCA: The cable provider, Comcast.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah, the NFL network came out, I guess, five years ago and Comcast was one of the main providers. It was great. A couple of years ago, the NFL installed a Thursday game schedule and a Saturday game schedule, and a lot of people thought that Comcast was going to get it, but they gave it exclusively to the NFL Network. Comcast was kind of left out in the cold, and a lot of people are pointing and saying, hey, Specter's got a bone to pick here. He lost in this situation.

PESCA: So Comcast's a big Specter - they donate to Specter, there's a lot of jobs...

Mr. SCHRAGER: There's ties, that's the word. There's ties.

PESCA: And there's another thing going on. Specter is a senator from Pennsylvania.


PESCA: And I kind of thought that he would just say, look, it has nothing to do with personal motivations. It's just about the integrity of the game. But when asked about, well, what about the fact that you're from Pennsylvania? Couple of Pennsylvania teams, like the Eagles and the Steelers, they were hurt by this videotaping, here's what Specter had to say.

Senator SPECTER: Take a look at what happened with the Steelers. They play the Patriots on October 31st, 2004. They beat them by two touchdowns, interceptions, sacks et cetera, et cetera. Couple of months later in the championship game, the situation is reversed.

PESCA: What do you think? Does the Senator sound like a disgruntled fan there? I mean, don't you sort of hear that kind of sentiment on sports talk radio all the time?

(Soundbite of laugher)

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah, it's bombastic, no. Actually Specter's a noted Eagles fan. He's not a noted Steelers fan, but it's a Pennsylvania team, and he's the senator from Pennsylvania, and there have been issues with that, too. So there are a lot of questions on, you know, why is Arlen Specter doing so much - the NFL just wants it to go away, and there are a lot of other things in the world that he could be worried about, but it seems like he's more concerned with football, than kind of what else is going on in the world.

PESCA: And the final question, we got to get out of here real quick, but as far as the motivations why people are taking glay (ph). Is it because it's the Patriots, this ultra-successful team? I mean same set of circumstances, if it were the lovable, but hapless Jets, who were doing videotaping, would anyone care?

Mr. SCHRAGER: Well you know, Belichick, the coach of the Patriots, is not the most loved guy in the world. He's kind of cold. It's the team that went undefeated, they're one of the best. It makes for quite a villain, and if you throw in this whole possibility of cheating, well then, you know, you have your villain all right there.

PESCA: Peter Schrager, columnist for foxsports.com, thank you Peter.

MARTIN: Lots of drama. I had no idea. That was so exciting. That's it for this hour of the BPP. We don't go away online. We're there at npr.org/bryantpark. I'm Rachel Martin.

PESCA: And I'm Mike Pesca. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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