NFL: Goodell says nothing new on spygate tapes
NEW YORK — Former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh disclosed no new rules violations in the Spygate scandal during his meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or in the tapes that the league released today.
The clips, shown after Walsh's nearly 3 1/2-hour meeting with Goodell, cut between shots of opposing coaches sending in signals and the play that followed.
"The fundamental information that Matt provided was consistent with what we disciplined the Patriots for last fall," said Goodell, who didn't anticipate punishing the team any further.
The most scandalous part of the tapes shown before Goodell's news conference had nothing to do with stealing signals — it was several minutes of close-ups of San Diego Chargers cheerleaders performing during a 2002 game.
Walsh did not comment after leaving the NFL offices and left through a different exit to avoid the media following his afternoon meeting with Sen. Arlen Specter in Washington. Specter, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been critical of the NFL's handling of the investigation.
Specter postponed his news conference to Wednesday when his meeting with Walsh ran long.
The Spygate investigation began after the NFL confiscated tapes from a Patriots employee who recorded the New York Jets' defensive signals from the sideline during the 2007 opener. New England coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, while the team was fined $250,000 and forced to forfeit its 2008 first-round draft choice.
Asked if he considered the matter closed, Goodell said, "As I stand before you today, and having met with Matt Walsh and more than 50 other people, I don't know where else I would turn."
Walsh had no knowledge of anybody with the Patriots taping the Rams' final walkthrough leading up to the 2002 Super Bowl, Goodell said. The Boston Herald reported in February that an unidentified employee illegally recorded the walkthrough before New England, a two-touchdown underdog, upset St. Louis 20-17.
"For the past three-and-a-half months, we have been defending ourselves against assumptions made based on an unsubstantiated report rather than on facts or evidence," the Patriots said in a statement.
They added: "We hope that with Matt Walsh's disclosures, everyone will finally believe what we have been saying all along and emphatically stated on the day of the initial report: 'The suggestion that the New England Patriots recorded the St. Louis Rams' walkthrough on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 is absolutely false. Any suggestion to the contrary is untrue."'
But a new revelation emerged related to that walkthrough: Walsh said a Patriots assistant coach asked him what he saw.
Walsh was in the stadium in his Patriots gear setting up equipment during the walkthrough, Goodell said. NFL officials noted that it's common for personnel not connected to the team to be present on that day.
Walsh told Goodell that then-New England assistant Brian Daboll approached him later, said NFL attorney Gregg Levy, who attended the meeting. Walsh said he told the coach that running back Marshall Faulk was returning kicks and described the Rams' use of tight ends in their formations. Daboll did not mention the conversation when he was interviewed by NFL officials about the walkthrough, Levy said.
Rams spokesman Rick Smith declined comment.
Goodell made no mention of the incident during his news conference. He realized the oversight later, Levy said, and asked Levy to share the information with reporters.
The NFL is looking into the allegation, Levy said.
Goodell said Walsh had no information about any other spying by the Patriots.
"There was no bugging of locker rooms," Goodell said. "There was no manipulation of communication systems. There was no crowd noise violations anywhere that he was aware of. No miking of players to pick up opposing signals or audibles."
Walsh did share two potential violations of league rules unrelated to Spygate, Goodell said. A player on injured reserve practiced when he wasn't allowed to in 2001. Walsh also scalped eight to 12 Super Bowl tickets for Patriots players over two seasons. The NFL will investigate both claims.
Last week, Walsh sent the NFL eight videotapes of the Patriots recording playcalling signals. The tapes included signals by coaches of five opponents in six games from 2000-02. The tape of the Chargers cheerleaders was not made by Walsh, NFL officials said.
Walsh worked for New England from 1997 to 2003. His name surfaced just before this year's Super Bowl, nearly five months after the Patriots were sanctioned.
After more than two months of negotiations, lawyers for the league and Walsh finally agreed April 23 to terms that would allow him to talk with Goodell. They included an agreement by the Patriots not to sue Walsh and to pay his legal expenses and his airfare to New York from Hawaii, where he is now a golf pro.
Specter, from Pennsylvania, met with Goodell in February after raising the possibility of congressional hearings if he wasn't satisfied with the commissioner's answers about the handling of the investigation. Specter had criticized the NFL's decision to destroy the tapes it initially confiscated.
Why did Goodell show Walsh's tapes Tuesday but not do the same with the others last fall? He said releasing them during the season could have put some teams at a competitive advantage or disadvantage.
Walsh stood stone-faced as his lawyer, Michael Levy, addressed a throng of about 50 media members outside the NFL offices after their meeting with Goodell.
"Out of respect for Sen. Specter, neither Mr. Walsh nor I will speak with the media prior to meeting with the Senator," Levy said.
They then climbed into a car to begin their trip to Washington.