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Report: Belichick earns new deal

Linebacker Rosevelt Colvin does a little high-stepping after putting the brakes on LaDainian Tomlinson. Linebacker Rosevelt Colvin does a little high-stepping after putting the brakes on LaDainian Tomlinson. (JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)

FOXBOROUGH - The contract of Patriots coach Bill Belichick remains one of the more closely guarded secrets in the NFL, but ESPN.com reported yesterday that Belichick recently signed an extension through at least the 2013 season.

Patriots spokesman Stacey James said the team would not confirm the report.

The report indicated the extension had been reached before the NFL's recent ruling against Belichick and the team regarding videotaping procedures. The NFL fined Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000 and docked the team draft choices - a first-round pick if it makes the playoffs and a second- and third-round pick if it doesn't - after commissioner Roger Goodell ruled the team had violated league policy by taping New York Jets coaches relaying signals during the Patriots' 38-14 victory Sept. 9.

In a written statement released Friday, team chairman/CEO Robert Kraft backed Belichick.

"I believe that Coach Belichick always tries to do what is best for the team and he is always accountable for his decisions," said Kraft. "He has been a very important part of what our organization has accomplished over the last seven years. In this case, one of his decisions has resulted in a severe penalty for our franchise. He has paid a heavy price and so has our organization. He has apologized for his actions. I accept his apology and look forward to working with him as we move forward."

Speaking with NBC at halftime of last night's game, Kraft was asked about the ESPN.com report.

"The coach and I have had a policy that we don't discuss his contract, but he's made great contributions to this franchise over the last seven years, and myself and all our fans truly appreciate his efforts," Kraft said.

On July 28, the second day of training camp, Belichick told the Globe: "I don't talk about contracts, but I would say I like working here, I like the organization - ownership, coaches, scouts, players, and the guys I work with. I appreciate the opportunity to work here and it's a good situation. I don't see that changing any time soon."

The comments were the strongest indication that 2007 was not the last year of Belichick's contract.

Rallying cries

Yesterday, former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, now working as a studio host for CBS, said he didn't feel the Patriots' videotaping procedures had any impact on New England's playoff victories over his old club.

Steelers receiver Hines Ward said otherwise Wednesday, noting that during the 2001 AFC Championship game - a 24-17 Patriots win - "they knew a lot of our calls." The Patriots also beat the Steelers in the 2004 AFC Championship game, 41-27.

"The two AFC Championship games that we lost to the New England Patriots, I don't believe this had any factor in it," Cowher said during the pregame show. "I have too much respect for Tom Brady, for [Corey ] Dillon, for [Deion] Branch and also for Coach Belichick. I think he's still a good coach."

Yet Cowher does believe the Patriots crossed the line with their actions in New York.

"From a coach's perspective, trying to steal signals is part of the game. We understand that as a coach. You see walkie-talkies, tape recorders, but when you take the camera on the field, that's just arrogance," he said. "I think the penalty was stiff by the commissioner. I think it will be a good deterrent."

Jay Glazer of Fox Sports obtained portions of the videotape seized by the NFL. Fox aired portions of the tape, which focused on multiple Jets assistant coaches and their signals, before panning up to the scoreboard to indicate down and distance.

After seeing the footage, former Cowboys and Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson - who works as a host on Fox's pregame show - said on the show: "This is exactly how I was told to do it 18 years ago by a Kansas City Chiefs scout. I tried it, but I didn't think it helped us."

Johnson added that "every team has got a file on the other team. I used to send an intern up to the opposing coach's box after the game and go through the trash. Because after the game, what do they do? They take their game plan and their scouting reports and throw them away. My intern would get all of that stuff and put it right in the file."

Johnson, who has fished with Belichick on the Florida Keys in recent years, defended the coach to a degree.

"Bill Belichick was wrong because he videotaped signals after a memo was sent out to all of the teams saying not to do it," he said. "But what irritates me is hearing some reactions from players and coaches. These players don't know what their coaches are doing. And some of the coaches have selective amnesia because I know for a fact there were various teams doing this. That's why the memo was sent to everybody. That doesn't make him [Belichick] right, but a lot of teams are doing this."

There were also audio irregularities cited during the game, but Goodell told Glazer the league investigated interference of the Jets' coach-to-quarterback communication system, but found no proof of any tampering by the Patriots.

Neal rests shoulder

The Patriots were without right guard Stephen Neal (shoulder). Billy Yates, who made three starts at right guard last season, started in Neal's place. Tight end David Thomas, who appears to be very close to returning from a broken foot, was also among the inactives. He was joined by safety Rashad Baker, linebacker Corey Mays, offensive tackle Wesley Britt, defensive end Kareem Brown, and defensive lineman Mike Wright, who was out with a left knee injury. Matt Gutierrez was designated the emergency quarterback.

Holding steady

After backup quarterback Matt Cassel muffed a second-quarter snap on a field goal attempt against the Jets, he was replaced by punter Chris Hanson as the holder. Hanson held for the 22-yard field goal Stephen Gostkowski made against the Jets and was the holder on New England's first extra point, after the Patriots took the opening kickoff and marched 69 yards in seven plays, concluding with a Ben Watson 7-yard touchdown reception. Hanson also held on Gostkowski's missed 41-yarder on New England's second drive . . . Randall Gay drew the start at left corner instead of Asante Samuel for the second straight game. Samuel sat out the first four defensive snaps before taking the field . . . Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas was injured on a LaDainian Tomlinson first-quarter run. He left under his own power and returned one play later. Thomas later returned a Philip Rivers interception 65 yards for a touchdown . . . Entering last night the Patriots had won five consecutive home openers. The last time New England dropped a home opener was in 2001, falling to the Jets, 10-3 . . . Patriots Hall of Fame receiver Stanley Morgan served as an honorary captain last night.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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