As you probably know by now, Bill Belichick finally came out from underneath the hoodie yesterday and, for the first time since before the Super Bowl, uttered a sentence that was longer than four words. He and Pats VP of player personnel Scott Pioli finally addressed the SpyGate business.
They said a few things, but there was one part in particular I stumbled on. Bill Belichick says he engaged in the videotaping because he didn't understand the rule:
"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."
Okay, he didn't know the rule. Sounds perfectly innocent, right? Well, let's check out these vague rules and their maddening gray areas.
Here's what it says in the NFL's operations manual (with a high-five to the Boston Globe's Reiss's Pieces):
"No video recording devices of any kind are permitted to be in use in the coaches' booth, on the field, or in the locker room during the game."
And the league sent out a memo in 2006 that read, in part:
"Videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches' booth, in the locker room, or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game."
And then there's this in the league's bylaws:
"Any use by any club at any time, from the start to the finish of any game in which such club is a participant, of any communications or information-gathering equipment, other than Polaroid-type cameras or field telephones, shall be prohibited, including without limitation videotape machines, telephone tapping, or bugging devices, or any other form of electronic devices that might aid a team during the playing of a game."
Hm. I've read those a few times now, and you know, I don't see a lot of gray area there. That seems pretty cut and dry.
I don't know how any man with the ability to read could look at those statements and say, "Yes, it's probably fine if I videotape other teams defensive coordinators during a game, and then later match up their hand signals with the plays they're running. That sounds perfectly legal and ethical, and I will sleep well knowing that I'm not a cheater."
I'd like to believe you, coach Belichick. But first, you're going to have to say something that's actually believable.
• Belichick denies taping St. Louis' walkthrough before Super Bowl, apologizes for controversy / Yahoo! Sports
• Videotaping rules / Reiss's Pieces