Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 22 News List

Specter places coach in spotlight

COVERUP?The US senator wants to know why penalties were imposed on the New England Patriots' coach before the full extent of his wrongdoing was known

AP , WASHINGTON

Bill Belichick has been illegally taping opponents' defensive signals since he became the New England Patriots coach in 2000, according to US Senator Arlen Specter, who said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told him that during a meeting on Wednesday.

"There was confirmation that there has been taping since 2000, when Coach Belichick took over," Specter said.

Specter said Goodell gave him the information during the one-hour, 40-minute meeting, which was requested by Specter so the commissioner could explain his reasons for destroying the Spygate tapes and notes.

"There were a great many questions answered by Commissioner Goodell," said Specter, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I found a lot of questions unanswerable because the tapes and notes had been destroyed."

Goodell said Belichick told him he believed the taping was legal; Goodell said he did not concur.

"He said that's always been his interpretation since he's been the head coach," the commissioner said. "We are going to agree to disagree on the facts."

Specter wants to talk to other league officials about what exactly was taped and which games may have been compromised.

Goodell noted that "we were the ones that disclosed" the Patriots' illegal taping of the New York Jets' defensive signals in the opening game of last season. Further, Goodell said, they had an admission by Belichick.

"I have nothing to hide," Goodell said.

Goodell also told Specter that he doesn't regret destroying the Spygate tapes or the notes.

Still, Specter wants to know why penalties were imposed on Belichick before the full extent of the wrongdoing was known and the tapes destroyed in a two-week span. Asked if he thinks there was a coverup, Specter demurred.

"There was an enormous amount of haste," Specter said.

He scoffed at the reasons Goodell gave for destroying the tapes and notes, particularly about trying to keep them out of competitors' hands and because Belichick had admitted to the taping.

"What's that got to do with it? There's an admission of guilt, you preserve the evidence," Specter said. As for keeping the tapes out of the hands of others: "All you have to do is lock up the tapes."

Belichick was fined US$500,000 and the team was fined US$250,000 because of the Spygate incident. The Patriots also forfeited a first-round draft pick.

Specter has questioned the quality of the NFL's investigation into the matter and raised the possibility of US congressional hearings if he wasn't satisfied with Goodell's answers.

Goodell also said he has not heard from Matt Walsh, the former Patriots employee who performed videotaping duties for the team.

Walsh said last week that he couldn't talk about allegations that he taped a walkthrough practice by the St. Louis Rams before the 2002 Super Bowl. New England, a two-touchdown underdog, won that game 20-17.

Goodell said he has offered Walsh a deal whereby "he has to tell the truth and he has to return anything he took improperly" in return for indemnity. Specter said he, too, wanted to talk to Walsh and perhaps offer a different deal.

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