Belichick And Kraft Apologize
If you haven't heard the name Matt Walsh enough, then you probably have been living in a cave or on a tropical island far, far away. Claims Walsh made where he supposedly has evidence of video taping the St. Louis Rams walk-through before Super Bowl XXXVI has been a thorn in the team and the league's side since the Walsh repot first surfaced. The former Patriot employee - now Hawaiian golf pro - made public claims that he knows the Patriots taped the Rams walk through but he has yet to reveal the evidence to support that claim.
at the NFL Owners meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., both Bill Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft went on the offensive to defend themselves and the organization publicly for the first time since the reports first broke. Both apologized to their peers, and then preceded to call into question the reported evidence that Walsh claims to have.
On Monday, Kraft stood in front of his peers to explain the organization's determination to address the issue and move forward. Kraft explained that his reputation is more important than championships, and he believes integrity of the game is a priority. Belichick also spoke and apologized to the group.
According to reports, the apologies were sincere and heartfelt. One league insider said at one point the audience even applauded the effort.
On Tuesday, Bill Belichick held court with the media during the AFC coaches' breakfast. He addressed the Matt Walsh questions head on, reiterating comments he made when the subject first came up Super Bowl week. Belichick insists that he never watched another team's walk through.
Belichick also spoke of his misinterpretation of the rule prohibiting taping at certain times and certain locations. He reiterated that the Patriots never used those tapes during the games they were taken in, and would never consider doing that. He revealed that he met with league officials after the Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants to discuss the possible taping, and that there is nothing else to reveal.
"I don't know how the league could have done any more than what they did," Belichick said. "I've answered so many questions so many times in so many different ways to so many different people. I don't know what more they can possibly do."
FOXSports.com's John Czarnecki' supports the Patriots claim that there wasn't much - if anything - to tape on the day in question. Per Czarnecki, the field had wooden platforms on it, and players spent much of the session relaxing, or milling about waiting for the team photo.
As part of my job with FOX Sports, I was in the Superdome on the Saturday in question. The Rams were in their game uniforms, running around and generally relaxing waiting to take their team photo for the Super Bowl. There were wooden risers on the field. There were times when I was on the field actually talking to Kurt Warner and other players and some of the teams' executives that I have known for more than 20 years.
"If there was a walk-through that day, it was the most disorganized one ever assembled. Many of the players were there to simply unwind and relax and test out the carpet. And don't forget, the Rams were very familiar with the Superdome because the Saints were still in their division. They had played there during the regular season."
Czarnecki added that the walk-through was more of an informal even than a regular practice. Although Rams head coach Mike Martz took precautions during the season not to be taped, he wasn't concerned with being taped by New England, according to thet report.
"So yes, Martz was concerned about being videotaped, but it was by the Saints' staff, not the Patriots," Czarnecki wrote.
Whether there is more to the story - something Senator Arlen Spector believes is the case - or not, the Patriots claim the issue is behind them. Judging by the sentiment expressed by numerous executives and coaches from other teams, the rest of the league believes the issue is behind them. New England forfeit it's first round pick this year, Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 dollars and the Patriots paid another $250,000 fine.
"I think as owners we've moved past it,'' Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said at the league's annual meetings according to a Bloomberg report. "To me, it's a past issue, but the fact that they did it [apologize to the owners] shows class."
New Rule To Dissuade taping defensive signals
One thing the owners did ratify was the proposal to institute radio gear so coaches could communicate with their defensive leaders much like the system being used on offense between the quarterback and the offensive coordinator. Although the challenge to institute such a policy requires more than one player to carry a helmet on defense, teams approved the proposal 25-7. The Patriots voted in favor of the measure even though Belichick felt it would be more difficult to implement than the coach to QB solution.
Belichick said for defense, especially a team like the Patriots, "You don't always have one guy out there," Belichick told Sirius NFL Radio Tuesday. "For us Tedy Bruschi played a little over half the plays last year. So there's another half the plays where he wasn't on the field." Belichick compared that to offense where the quarterback is in the game for every play, or he's replaced by a player with the communication gear (a backup QB).
However teams implement the system - or if they implement the system - the onus to hide defensive signals diminishes, as the coordinator can now get the play in to the defense without the use of visual signals that might be intercepted. The proposal fell short of approval last year, reportedly for the reason Belichick described. Teams can now designate more than one player on defense to be the official radio designee, although only one communication helmet is allowed on the field at any given time.
Other Rule Changes
-- No more 5-yard incidental facemask penalty. The penalty will still be enforced on egregious violations for a maximum 15-yard penalty.
-- The force-out interpretation is gone. A receiver must get both feet inbounds when catching a pass, or he is ruled out of bounds. Previously the referee could rule that the receiver would have been inbounds had the defender not forced him to land out of bounds.
-- A proposal to limit the length of a player's hair, or at least force it to be hidden, has been shelved to allow further discussion.
-- A proposal to reseed playoff teams based upon their regular season record was also shelved.
Jon Scott has covered the NFL since 1995, and is a regular contributor to Patriots Insider. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA), Jon has been a guest analyst on Sporting News Radio, ESPN Radio and other outlets around the web, including other publications on the Scout.com network. You can reach Jon in the forums at PatriotsInsider.com or
Material from personal interviews, wire and scout.com reports was used in this article.