Did Pats cheat in 2002 Super Bowl?

February 2, 2008 3:50:57 PM PST
New England beat the heavily favored Rams the next day 20-17 for their first NFL title. The unbeaten Patriots will try to win their fourth Super Bowl in seven seasons Sunday when they play the New York Giants.

Early this season, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fined New England coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and docked the team $250,000 and a first-round draft pick after the Spygate scandal. The Patriots were accused of videotaping New York Jets defensive coaches as they signaled to players.

The Herald cited a source close to the Patriots in the 2001 season as saying the team held a walkthrough at the Superdome in New Orleans before the game on Feb. 3, 2002. After the Patriots took a team picture, a member of their video department stayed inside the stadium and taped the Rams' session.

It was not known whether the cameraman was told by the Patriots to film the practice or what he did with the tape, the Herald said. The Rams were two-touchdown favorites, but lost on Adam Vinatieri's last-second field goal.

Told of the newest allegation, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told The Associated Press on Saturday:

"We were aware of the rumor months ago and looked into it. There was no evidence of it on the tapes or in the notes produced by the Patriots, and the Patriots told us it was not true."

Patriots spokesman Stacey James reiterated that to the AP:

"The suggestion that the New England Patriots recorded the St. Louis Rams' walkthrough on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI is absolutely false. Any suggestion to the contrary is untrue."

Rams spokesman Rick Smith, reading a statement from team president John Shaw, said, "At this point, we have no comment."

New England did not have a walkthrough Saturday. The Giants held one at the Arizona Cardinals' practice facility.

A walkthrough is done without pads or helmets, giving teams a chance to practice their formations.

Goodell spent much of his state of the game address Friday talking about that episode. He said he did not think the Patriots used such tapes to win previous titles.

"There was no indication that it benefited them in any of the Super Bowl victories," he said.

Asked specifically whether the NFL's investigation of Spygate looked into any allegations involving the 2002 Super Bowl, he said: "I'm not aware of that."

Goodell also defended his decision to destroy notes and videotapes linked to the Spygate, saying "there was no purpose for them."

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who sent Goodell a letter asking for explanation, said Goodell's response "didn't make any sense at all."