On the Patriots' end, they're insisting that the video from the game is harmless, and that it simply shows a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to be an advance scout in the NFL, and that the footage was taken by a video crew of independent contractors who violated league policy because they simply weren't aware of NFL rules. However, people who have actually seen the video are painting a much different picture.
According to NFL.com, the footage shows coaches signaling on the Bengals sideline. According to The Athletic, the eight-minute video shows a "direct view" of the Bengals sideline and keeps its focus there the entire time, which seems to contradict what the Patriots said in their statement. Although New England admitted that the team's video crew "inappropriately filmed the field from the press box," the Patriots also added that "the sole purpose of the filming was to provide an illustration of an advance scout at work on the road."
If that was the sole purpose of the video, it's hard to imagine why they would need eight straight minutes of film from the Bengals sideline. If they were making a documentary like they said, they could have simply asked the Bengals to shoot the footage for them. Instead, they kept both the Bengals AND the NFL out of the loop when they made the decision to shoot the video.
Controversy surrounds the Patriots again, and there's a lot to go over. Listen to Will Brinson and the Pick Six Podcast Superfriends break down Spygate II, Giants-Eagles and much more in the player below, and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
If you're wondering how a sideline video could potentially help the Patriots, it's pretty simple. Although most communication in the NFL is now electronic, one advantage of filming a team's sideline is that the Patriots could see what kind of hand signals the Bengals use to make audibles. Plenty of teams still use hand signals to make adjustments on defense or to call audibles on offense.
One other interesting fact from the incident is that the one member of the Patriots video crew actually tried to get rid of the video. According to ESPN.com, the cameraman who took the video for the Patriots asked NFL security if he could delete the footage and have the whole situation be forgotten, but instead, the league ended up confiscating the video. As things currently stand, the league and the Bengals are the only two entities with a copy of the video.
After being asked about the situation on Monday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about it once again during a conference call on Tuesday morning and he didn't really have much to add.
"I don't have anything to do with this at all, whatsoever. Whatever is going on between the people involved in it and the league and all that, it's not a football issue in any way shape or form," Belichick said, via The Cincinnati Enquirer. "I have no involvement. I don't know anything about this."
The problem for Belichick is that it could soon turn into a football issue, because there's a possibility that the Patriots could be punished by the league. As things stand right now, the NFL has yet to comment on the issue and it's still not clear if the Patriots will be facing any potential punishment for their actions.
One thing that won't be working in New England's favor is the team's track record. Back in 2007, Belichick was fined $500,000 -- the largest fine ever imposed on a coach in league history -- for the part he played in Spygate. As a team, not only were the Patriots hit with a $250,000 fine, but they were also docked their first-round pick in 2008.
One aspect of the Spygate investigation that's similar to what's happening now is that the Patriots videographers were encouraged to have an excuse ready if they were ever caught filming another team.
During Spygate investigation, NFL found that Patriots had excuses ready in case an advance scout got caught filming another team. One of those excuses: Tell them you need the footage for a team show. #Patriots https://t.co/VQ2mebxENu pic.twitter.com/zt5Mzr8MGX— John Breech (@johnbreech) December 9, 2019
From a 2015 ESPN article on Spygate, "The videographers also were provided with excuses for what to tell NFL security if asked what they were doing: Tell them you're filming the quarterbacks. Or the kickers. Or footage for a team show."
At best, it's just a pure coincidence that the the Patriots are using the same excuse now that they encouraged their videographers to use more than a decade ago. At worst, it's a red flag that the NFL would likely take into account if they decide to punish the Patriots as a team that already has multiple offenses against league policy.