The New England Patriots recorded opponents' signals at least 40 times between 2000 and 2007, an ESPN investigation reported Tuesday.
In 2007, the Patriots were accused of illegally videotaping the New York Jets' defensive signals during a 2007 game in a scandal that later became known as Spygate.
ESPN's investigation, which included interviews with 90 league officials and other NFL sources, noted that the NFL did not disclose the discovery of a room in the Patriots stadium that was filled with scouting materials, which were reportedly destroyed shortly after they were found.
“Inside a room accessible only to Belichick and a few others, [NFL investigators] found a library of scouting material containing videotapes of opponents' signals, with detailed notes matching signals to plays for many teams going back seven seasons,” the ESPN report said. “Among them were handwritten diagrams of the defensive signals of the Pittsburgh Steelers, including the notes used in the January 2002 AFC Championship Game won by the Patriots 24–17. Yet almost as quickly as the tapes and notes were found, they were destroyed, on Goodell's orders: League executives stomped the tapes into pieces and shredded the papers inside a Gillette Stadium conference room.”
In response to the scandal, Goodell fined the Patriots $250,000, coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and docked the Patriots one first-round draft pick. Goodell handed down the Spygate punishment four days after the original accusation of illegal recording and before an investigation could be conducted.
Following the publication of ESPN's report, the Patriots released a statement denying that they ever recorded opponents.
“The New England Patriots have never filmed or recorded another team’s practice or walkthrough,” the statement reads. “This type of reporting over the past seven years has led to additional unfounded, unwarranted and quite frankly unbelievable allegations by former players, coaches and executives.”
- Erin Flynn