Patriots Admit to Violating NFL Rules by Filming Bengals’ Sideline

The violation of league rules is reminiscent of the team’s 2007 Spygate scandal

Patriots Admit Violating NFL Rules By Videotaping Bengals
Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. (Mitchell Leff/Getty)
Getty Images

In a situation which is reminiscent of the team’s 2007 Spygate scandal, the New England Patriots have admitted a three-person video crew from the team’s content department violated NFL rules by filming the Bengals’ sideline during Cincinnati’s Week 14 game against the Cleveland Browns.

Granted access by the Browns to film a segment in the press box about the Patriots scouting department, the team failed to inform the Bengals or the league what they were doing and admitted they “unknowingly violated a league policy” by filming the Cincinnati’s sideline during the game.

“In addition to filming the scout, the production crew – without specific knowledge of League rules – inappropriately filmed the field from the press box,” the team said in a statement. “The sole purpose of the filming was to provide an illustration of an advance scout at work on the road. There was no intention of using the footage for any other purpose. We understand and acknowledge that our video crew, which included independent contractors who shot the video, unknowingly violated a league policy by filming the field and sideline from the press box. When questioned, the crew immediately turned over all footage to the league and cooperated fully … We accept full responsibility for the actions of our production crew at the Browns-Bengals game.”

The NFL is now in possession of the video crew’s tape and the league is believed to be investigating the matter.

In 2007, the Patriots were fined $250,000 and lost a first-round draft pick in 2007 for violating NFL rules prohibiting using video to steal signals. Coach Bill Belichick was personally fined $500,000 for the infraction.

Asked about the reports during his weekly radio appearance, Belichick drew the line between the content department’s video crew and the team’s football staff.

“We have absolutely nothing to do with anything that they produce or direct or shoot,” Belichick told WEEI radio on Monday. “I have never seen any of their tapes or anything else. This is something that we 100 percent have zero involvement with.”

No matter what, given what happened in 2007 and the discipline that was handed down, national pundits are going to call for the league to be heavy-handed with discipline for the team.

Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY already is.

“There’s no reason to jump to the conclusion that Spygate 2.0 has arrived,” Bell writes. “Unless something really sinister is uncovered by the NFL’s investigation, this isn’t about demanding that Belichick needs to be docked a draft pick again. But it is about the integrity of The Shield that Goodell speaks so passionately about. If there are rules prohibiting filming the sidelines, they were instituted for a reason and if not followed are subjected to a stiff fine. Or worse. Otherwise, why have such rules?”

The Patriots visit the Bengals on Sunday.

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