BOSTON - Patriots coach Bill Belichick broke his silence on New England’s twin taping controversies, denying he told anyone to tape the St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough before the 2002 Super Bowl and apologizing for all the attention generated by Spygate.
Belichick also told the Boston Globe he “couldn’t pick Matt Walsh out of a lineup.” Walsh, a former Patriots employee, reportedly taped St. Louis’ walkthrough practice the day before the Patriots beat the Rams 20-17 in the championship.
“In my entire coaching career, I’ve never seen another team’s practice film prior to playing that team,” Belichick said in a story posted on the Globe’s Web site Sunday night. “I have never authorized, or heard of, or even seen in any way, shape, or form any other team’s walkthrough. We don’t even film our own.”
Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli also told the newspaper that part of the reason Walsh was fired in January 2003 was because he secretly recorded conversations between himself and Pioli.
Michael Levy, Walsh’s attorney, said Pioli’s account was a “complete fabrication.”
“This is a predictable and pathetic effort to smear Mr. Walsh’s character rather than confront the truth about the Patriots’ conduct,” Levy said in the Globe story.
Levy has said his client is willing to turn over videotapes he made for the team if the NFL guarantees Walsh protection from lawsuits or other legal action.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has said he offered Walsh a deal requiring him “to tell the truth and he has to return anything he took improperly” in return for indemnity, but Levy has said the deal doesn’t go far enough.
Goodell fined Belichick $500,000, the Patriots $250,000 and took away a first-round draft choice after the Patriots were caught taping New York Jets’ coaches in last year’s season opener, a 38-14 New England victory.
Belichick said he misinterpreted the rule, which he felt only prohibited taping that could be used during the same game.
He also apologized for the controversy the taping caused.
“I respect the integrity of the game and always have and always will,” he said in the Globe story. “I regret that any of this, or to whatever extent, it has in any way brought that into question or discussion or debate. The decision was made by the commissioner, the practice was immediately stopped, and we’re not doing it.
“Just going back over the whole taping incident, if I contacted the league and asked them about the practice, I’m sure they would have told me — as they have done — that it is not permissible. Then I could have avoided all of this.
“I take responsibility for it,” he said. “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. I apologize to everybody that is involved — the league, the other teams, the fans, our team, for the amount of conversation and dialogue that it’s caused.”
The day before the Patriots’ 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in this year’s Super Bowl, the Boston Herald reported New England taped St. Louis’ walkthrough before the first of the Patriots’ three Super Bowl victories. In a walkthrough, teams practice plays at a slower pace than normal without pads or helmets.
Patriots spokesman Stacey James did not return phone calls or an e-mail seeking comment Sunday night.