Skip to the content

Timeline of events and disclosures during Spygate saga

Updated: May 12, 2008

Sept. 9, 2007: NFL security officials confiscate a camera and videotape from 26-year-old Patriots' video assistant Matt Estrella on the New England sidelines when it was suspected he was recording the Jets' defensive signals during New England's 38-14 victory in the season-opening game at Giants Stadium. Clubs had been reminded of the prohibition against taping sideline signals in a Sept. 6, 2006, directive from league headquarters: "Videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches' booth, in the locker room or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game.''

Sept. 11, 2007: League sources tell ESPN's Chris Mortensen that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has determined that the Patriots violated league rules when they videotaped the Jets' defensive signals, and is considering severe sanctions in light of his earlier stern warnings to all teams about competitive violations. … New England owner Robert Kraft is quoted from comments made at a charity appearance that day, saying, "When you're successful in anything, a lot of people like to try to take you down and do different things. We understand that." … Reports surface that the Patriots had been caught videotaping once before. In November 2006 during a game in Green Bay, the Packers caught Estrella shooting unauthorized video and told him to stop.

Sept. 12, 2007: The New York Daily News quotes an anonymous source who says Jets coach Eric Mangini was aware of New England's surveillance methods from his earlier tenure as a Patriots assistant coach. … Patriots' coach Bill Belichick issues a short statement that says in part, "Although it remains a league matter, I want to apologize to everyone who has been affected, most of all ownership, staff and players. Following the league's decision, I will have further comment." When pressed for further information, Belichick walks out of his weekly news conference.

Sept. 13, 2007: Goodell issues an "emergency" order mandating that New England must turn over all videotape and sign-stealing material in violation of league policy. At the same time, before receiving the requested tapes and materials, Goodell fines Belichick the NFL maximum of $500,000, and the Patriots are ordered to pay $250,000 for spying on an opponent's defensive signals. In addition, Goodell orders the team to give up its first-round draft choice in 2008 if it reaches the playoffs this season, or its second- and third-round picks if it misses the postseason. In a written response accepting responsibility, Belichick says in part, "As the commissioner acknowledged, our use of sideline video had no impact on the outcome of last week's game. We have never used sideline video to obtain a competitive advantage while the game was in progress. Part of my job as head coach is to ensure that our football operations are conducted in compliance of the league rules and all accepted interpretations of them. My interpretation of a rule in the Constitution and Bylaws was incorrect." Neither Goodell's statement nor Belichick's response mentions the videotaping practice extending into the past.

Sept. 14, 2007: On ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike show, Mortensen reports the league might not close the book on the controversy and might continue to "review" it. Mortensen suggests that the videotaping of the Sept. 9 game against the Jets could be the tip of the iceberg, and that the Patriots' practices could include jamming the radio frequency in opponents' head-sets, and miking the Pats' defensive linemen to hear the offense's audibles and the cadence between the center and the quarterback. … Mortensen also reports that Belichick has privately told Goodell he has been taping opponents' signals since he became the Pats' head coach in 2000.

Sept. 16, 2007: In an NBC television interview at halftime of New England's Sunday night game against the San Diego Chargers, Kraft says he didn't know his team was using a sideline camera in the game against the Jets. During the interview, Kraft is asked if anything else might have been done that would incur further penalties. "I know of nothing else that could be in this category," he says. ESPN's Mortensen reports that sources tell him Goodell has ordered the Patriots to turn over all videotape, files and notes relating to all their activity that resulted in the disciplinary action. If the Patriots are not compliant, the commissioner is prepared to impose even greater sanctions, Mortensen's sources say. Privately, the commissioner was more specific in his demands and expectations with Kraft when the two men spoke on Sept. 13, Mortensen's sources say.

Sept. 17, 2007: In an Associated Press report, Belichick says he will comply with league request to turn over notes and videotapes but refuses to confirm that there is additional video, saying it is a league issue. Within the next three days, New England turns over materials.

Sept. 20, 2007: The NFL announces New England is in compliance with the request for tapes and other documents.

Sept. 22, 2007: The AP reports that the NFL has received and destroyed all materials it requested from the New England Patriots concerning videotaping of opponents' sidelines, but discloses nothing about the contents. A league spokesman says the team is unlikely to face any further sanctions. Asked if there is evidence of the Patriots using the tactics in their Super Bowl wins, spokesman Greg Aiello declines to comment.

Nov. 15, 2007: Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., writes to Goodell, expressing concern about the league's destruction of tapes.

Dec. 19, 2007: After more than a month without a response, Specter writes to Goodell again.

Matt Walsh, Roger Goodell

Mike Fish/ESPN.com, AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh (left) sent eight game tapes to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The tapes arrived at the NFL office May 8.

Jan. 31, 2008: In a letter to Specter, Goodell responds that the tapes and notes were destroyed to ensure that the Patriots "would not secure any possible competitive advantage as a result of the misconduct that had been identified. The Patriots have separately certified to me in writing that we received all tapes, all notes, and that no other material exists relating to the taping of defensive signals.''

Feb. 1, 2008: A New York Times story makes public Specter's interest in wanting an explanation from Goodell about the league's destruction of evidence related to the Patriots' spying. In public comments, Specter, a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan, says Goodell's explanation "absolutely makes no sense at all.'' The Times story introduces Matt Walsh as a former New England video assistant who says, "I'd like to see a resolution to the situation, so I don't have to field media calls, especially after being out of the league for more than four years." … ESPN.com's Mike Fish profiles Walsh as being in position to further pull back the curtain on the Patriots' taping history. "If I had a reason to want to go public or tell a story, I could have done it before this even broke," Walsh tells Fish. "I could have said everything rather than having [Eric] Mangini be the one to bring it out."

Feb. 1, 2008: At his annual Super Bowl news conference, Goodell says the evidence from the Patriots destroyed by the league consisted of six tapes from the 2006 season and 2007 preseason. Asked twice how far back the Patriots began to tape their opponents' signals, Goodell doesn't give a specific answer. There is no mention from Goodell that the practice dated back to 2000. Of the 38 questions posed to Goodell, 10 are related to Spygate. Among other things, Goodell reveals the reason the league destroyed the tapes turned over by the Patriots: "They were totally consistent with what the team told me. There was no purpose for them." Goodell also says he believes the Patriots gained no advantage from taping: "I think it probably had a limited effect, if any effect, on the outcome on any game. … There was no indication that it benefited them in any of the Super Bowl victories." And Goodell says the league did not inform the teams that had been taped: "We didn't. We didn't see any need to."

Feb. 2, 2008: The Boston Herald reports that an unnamed source has claimed a Patriots employee secretly videotaped the St. Louis Rams' walk-through the day before Super Bowl XXXVI. The Herald story doesn't name the employee. The Patriots issue a statement denying the information in the Herald story: "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."

Feb. 6, 2008: At the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, Goodell acknowledges that the league had heard rumors about the alleged Super Bowl walk-through taping. "We were aware of this before," Goodell says. "We pursued it and weren't able to get any information that was credible. We were aware of some of the rumors and we pursued some of them and we continue that. From Day 1, I said if we feel there is new information that's inconsistent with what we've been told [by the Patriots], I reserve the right to reopen it." Asked why the Patriots turned over six tapes, Goodell says, "That's what they had. My guess is they taped over some of those from time to time. … Their notes were reflective of that."

Feb. 13, 2008: During a 1-hour, 40-minute meeting with Goodell, Specter says the commissioner told him Belichick had been taping the sidelines since 2000. "There was confirmation that there has been taping since 2000, when Coach Belichick took over," Specter says.

Feb. 15, 2008: Specter tells ESPN.com's Mike Fish he is not swayed by the answers he received from Goodell and will continue his investigation. Specter says, "You have answers and positions where [Goodell] is saying that with the destruction of tapes that, 'We did the right thing. We're absolutely sure.' Well, that is absurd. … Goodell says things that don't make sense.'' Among other things, Specter says he learned that the tapes, as well as the notes, turned over by the Patriots in September were destroyed in Foxborough, Mass., rather than in the league's New York offices, and that NFL executives Jeffrey Pash and Ray Anderson reviewed the materials and received an OK from Goodell to destroy the evidence. Specter says he is particularly concerned about how the taping might have affected New England's games involving teams from his home state in the 2004 postseason, including Pittsburgh, which lost the AFC title game to New England after the Steelers had won a regular-season game in late October of that season. … Steelers officials issue a statement that reads: "We consider the tapes of our coaching staff during our games against the New England Patriots to be a non-issue. In our opinion, they had no impact on the results of those games. The Steelers fully support the manner in which commissioner Goodell handled the situation and the discipline that he levied against those who violated league rules. We are confident that the commissioner has taken appropriate action in his investigation of this matter, and will do so again if new information arises which requires further investigation and/or discipline."

Feb. 17, 2007: Belichick tells the Boston Globe he has never seen another team's practice film prior to a game, never taped a walk-through during his coaching career and couldn't pick Walsh out of a lineup. As for the taping of opposing coaches' signals, Belichick said, "I misinterpreted the rule . . . I take responsibility for it. Even though I felt there was a gray area in the rule and I misinterpreted the rule, that was my mistake and we've been penalized for it.''

Feb. 22, 2008: At the league meetings, the NFL's Competition Committee issues strong support for Goodell's handling of Spygate. … In Washington, in an interview with ESPN.com's Fish, Specter accuses the league of stonewalling his investigation. Specter reveals his staff has been rebuffed in efforts to speak with members of the New England Patriots and New York Jets. He also says Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard, a former backup to Tom Brady in New England, refused to speak with him during a phone call.

March 9, 2008: A former video assistant with Cleveland tells ESPN.com that the Browns taped defensive signals -- although not from the sideline -- when Belichick was head coach there in the '90s. Fish also reports that an NFL investigator has been inquiring about Matt Walsh with Walsh's former bosses at a Cape Cod, Mass., golf club where he worked after leaving the Patriots.

March 31-April 1, 2008: Kraft reportedly apologizes for the Pats' past taping practices to the league's owners and head coaches in a private session at the league's meetings in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Kraft and Belichick both address the media there. Kraft says Walsh didn't sign a confidentiality agreement when he left the Patriots in 2003 and says, "I think we've covered the subject. We broke a rule the first week of the season. We were penalized very heavily, and look what happened after that game. To me, that says more than anything. Players work very hard and coaches work very hard, and I think they accomplished something remarkable. I think everything stands on its own after that." Belichick says, "We've been forthright and true. I've answered every question twice that they've come to us with, made everybody in our organization accessible that they wanted to talk to. We've complied with everything they've asked of us." In addition, Belichick says, "I re-read that [videotaping] rule; I still interpreted it, obviously, incorrectly, that as long as it wasn't used in that game, that it was OK. I paid a price for that mistake. It was my mistake."

April 1, 2008: At the league's meetings, a rule is passed that allows headsets to be installed in the helmets of defensive players for sideline-to-field communications.

April 23, 2008: Walsh and the NFL reach an agreement for Walsh to meet with league officials and turn over any videotapes he might have to support his allegations. In a release announcing the agreement, the NFL wrote that Goodell had determined "the Patriots had violated league rules by videotaping opposing coaches' defensive signals'' throughout Belichick's tenure as head coach.

May 8, 2008: Eight videotapes containing footage of six games between 2000 and 2002 involving five teams arrive from Walsh at NFL offices in New York. A tape of the Rams' walk-through before Super Bowl XXXVI is not among the evidence turned over by Walsh.

May 13, 2008: Walsh meets for more than three hours in New York with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Commissioner says at a news conference afterward that no new information was revealed.


SPY GAMES

Former Patriots employee Matt Walsh met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Sen. Arlen Specter to discuss Patriots' illegal videotaping. Story

More News

• Herald reporter: Sources never said they saw tape
• Walsh admits he knew it was wrong
• Senator wants independent inquiry | Read it (pdf)
• Fish: Would Congress investigate Pats?
• Boston Herald apologizes for false report
• Clayton: Five things we learned from Spygate
• Walsh sends eight tapes to NFL
• Fish: Pats stole offensive signs | Timeline
• Clayton: Spygate will expire quietly
• Former Pats employee sends tapes to league
• Fish: NFL faces serious questions
• Goodell to punish Pats, depending on evidence
• Walsh, NFL to finally talk | Agreement
• Goodell growing impatient with Walsh stalemate
• Kraft, Belichick apologize to owners
• Walsh still working on deal for testimony
• Rams player, fans withdraw lawsuit
• Spygate revelations might not be imminent
• NFL, Walsh close to deal to turn over tapes
• Report: Specter calls on Goodell to release letters
• Report: Goodell proposes crackdown on cheating
• Specter says Pats 'stonewalling' Spygate probe
• Committee lauds Goodell's handling of Spygate
• Goodell hoping deal to talk to Walsh close to done
• Report: Belichick denies Pats taped Rams' drills
• Walsh's attorney: NFL indemnity offer falls short
• Specter prepared to extend Spygate investigation
• Goodell has no regrets about destroying tapes
• Source: Specter wants NFL indemnity for witness
• Goodell, Specter to discuss Spygate Wednesday

Commentary

• Yasinskas: Spygate stench won't go away
• Paolantonio: Goodell's Spygate responsibility
Clayton: Spygate closing with a whimper

At The Pro Bowl

News
• Ex-Pats video assistant mum on Spygate probe

At The Super Bowl

News
• Goodell willing to give Pats' Walsh indemnification
• Goodell, Specter won't meet until after Pro Bowl
• Vermeil doubts spying made difference for Pats
• Goodell to meet with Sen. Specter about Spygate
• Report: N.E. taped Rams before XXXVI
• Fish: Ex-Ram Warner suspicious of Pats
• Specter to Goodell: Let's talk
• Fish: Possible 'Spygate' witness surfaces

Commentary
• Once burned, Goodell turns fireman
• Munson: Congressional interest is serious business
• Pasquarelli: Specter should stick with politics
• Clayton: Spy saga won't distract Patriots
• Hashmarks at Goodell's news conference
Letters
• Specter to Goodell (.pdf)
• Goodell to Specter (.pdf)

From September

News
• NFL has all materials from Pats in spying scandal
• NFL reviews how tape leaked to Fox
• Belichick to turn over materials in spying probe
• Pats owner perturbed by Belichick's spy games
• Goodell orders Pats to turn over all video
• Sources: Patriots give Belichick extension
• Wilson spies inconsistencies in Belichick case
• NFL fines Belichick $500K, Pats $250K for spying
• Bill Belichick's apology to Patriots community
• Clayton Q&A: Patriots can survive this penalty
• Two days later, Belichick still won't comment
• Some Eagles question Pats' tactics in Super Bowl
• Belichick issues apology amid accusations
• Sources: Goodell determines Patriots broke rules

Commentary
• Clayton: NFL penalty for Belichick, Pats too light
• Mosley: Pats lose first-rounder? Roger that
• Scouts Inc.: What the Pats will miss in '08 draft
• Chadiha: Legal spying widespread in NFL
• Sando: What's legal, what's not in spy game
• What they're saying: Players, coaches, pundits
• Luksa: Spy stories once had comedic value
• Bryant: Belichick deserves two-week banishment
• Clayton: Goodell to treat breech seriously
• Simmons: The camera doesn't lie
• Simmons: Cheating not necessary to win opener

Video ESPN Video
• What should happen to the Pats?
• Belichick deflects videotape-related questions
• Former Patriot thinks team should be punished
• Reactions from around the league

Audio
• Mike Vrabel, Pats linebacker: Don't criticize the players Insider
• Chris Mortensen: Situation might motivate the Patriots Insider
• Keyshawn: It was 'scouting,' not cheating Insider
• Salisbury: Story blown out of proportion Insider

SportsNation
• Vote: Was New England's punishment fair?
• Mixed reader results on NFL spying