HOUSTON -- Security is always a big deal at the Super Bowl, but it's particularly important for paranoid NFL teams who are practicing in advance of the championship. Two years ago, when Dan Quinn was still the defensive coordinator a story emerged about the Seahawks reportedly being told by "multiple teams" to watch out for the Patriots spying on their practice.
On Friday, security caught someone flying a drone above the Falcons' practice before Super Bowl LI.
According to the NFL's pool report, security officers "grounded a drone" that was being flown over the Falcons' practice, which was situated near a "residential area" next to the Rice University campus.
From pool reporter Peter King of TheMMQB.com:
With the field situated next to a residential area abutting the Rice campus, there was extra security between the edge of the field (with a fence and high hedges) and the neighborhood, so the Falcons could feel secure running a practice as though they were at their home facility. There was only one brief security heads-up: Security officers grounded a drone that was sent airborne by one of the residents in the neighborhood on Thursday.
Drones are not hard to come by and are not even that expensive. A quick Google search shows that you can purchase a drone with a camera for less than $200 (you could also spend up to $1,100).
The idea of a drone circling above the Falcons' practice and potentially filming what the Falcons are doing ahead of the Super Bowl would be quite the scandal.
The security people clearly said it was a resident who lives in the neighborhood, but given the past history of the Patriots with Super Bowls, it won't be surprising if people start to get conspiracy theories bubbling. The Patriots were previously punished by the NFL for Spygate and reportedly filmed practice sessions of more than 40 opponents from 2000-07.
Former Rams running back Marshall Faulk said this week he still believes that the Patriots taped their practices before they lost to New England in Super Bowl XXXVI.
"[The practice] before the Super Bowl. The guy who worked for the Patriots. If you remember, that was someone mysteriously living in Hawaii, who made his way back to the states and delivered the tapes," Faulk said on Thursday. "[Roger] Goodell then watched those tapes and said there wasn't enough there to deem anything being done.
"Now, I didn't see what was on the tapes, because we didn't get to see that. The only thing I could say is that they taped our practice. That was wrong."
Rams players have since said they believed the Patriots knew their plays during that game, that they knew what they would run and where they would run.
Drones are not uncommon around the NFL right now. The Cowboys have begun using them at practice in order to film the team's sessions and get a better viewpoint of all the players on the field.
"The drone angle is interesting because it gives you a chance from behind to see all 11 guys on offense and all 11 guys on defense, but from a lower angle," coach Jason Garrett said earlier this year. "Often times, you have to kind of pull yourself way away to get the all-22 shot. This allows you to be a little closer, so you can coach better."
There were drones being used in the Pro Bowl for the skills challenge and Lady Gaga is likely to use drones during her act when she performs at the 2017 Super Bowl halftime show.
There has been some conspiracy theory business being thrown around early in the week of this Super Bowl, when Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan lost his backpack, which held the Falcons gameplan for the Super Bowl, at media night. It was accidentally taken by a veteran sportswriter, but Falcons fans and conspiracy theorists immediately wondered if it could have been someone else who snagged the backpack.
There was no indication from the report of how long the drone flew above the practice, who the resident flying the drone was or whether the Falcons were concerned about the presence of the drone as it relates to their preparation for their matchup against the Patriots in Super Bowl LI.