The Jets Are Cheaters (too…)

from Newsday (

Sunday isn’t only Jets vs. .Patriots. It could be Spy vs. Spy.

According to league sources familiar with the situation, the Jets were caught using a videotaping device during a game in Foxborough last season that resulted in the removal of a Jets employee. After Gillette Stadium officials saw him using the recorder early in the game, he was told to stop and leave the area. He had been filming from the mezzanine level between the scoreboard and a decorative lighthouse in an end zone. The camera was not confiscated by the Patriots or stadium security.

Tuesday night the Jets admitted that they did videotape the game and their employee was confronted, but said they had permission from the Patriots to film from that location.

“All filming at last year’s Patriots game was done with pre-approval from the Patriots and in accordance with NFL rules,” said Bruce Speight, the Jets’ senior director of media relations.

The Jets played there twice, on Nov. 12 and again in a playoff game in January. There is disagreement over which of those games the Jets employee was told to stop filming. One source familiar with the Patriots’ situation contended the filming occurred in the regular-season game; a source close to the Jets’ situation contended it was the playoff game.

An NFL source told Newsday the league office is unaware of the incident, and that the Patriots did not bring it up during the investigation into the Jets’ charges of illegal videotaping by the Patriots in September.

When rumors surfaced then about the Jets’ videotaping the Patriots last year, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum denied that any illegal videotaping occurred in an interview with “Absolutely no truth to that whatsoever,” he said then. “Completely false.”

A person familiar with the situation told Newsday Tuesday night that the Jets wanted to acquire a second end-zone angle for both games in Foxborough.

The Patriots declined to address the issue Tuesday night. “Our focus is on this Sunday’s game, not on any other games,” vice president of media relations Stacey James said.

Most people learned of the rules and consequences regarding videotaping from the sidelines from that season-opening situation. Jets security confiscated the camera and its contents, placed them in a sealed box and passed the evidence along to the NFL. Since then, the Jets have declined to comment on the issue, consistently calling it “a league matter.” The subject came up again this week, with the Jets facing the Patriots Sunday. Jets coach Eric Mangini was asked several questions on the incident but would not answer.

Mangini was an assistant in New England for six years, a protégé of Bill Belichick who surely knew of the Patriots’ .practices. He was a defensive backs coach who was elevated to defensive coordinator in 2005. In 2006 he was named Jets coach, sparking a feud that still lingers between him and Belichick and has by all accounts grown deeper in the aftermath of the cheating allegations.

The NFL launched an immediate investigation into the violation, and within a week commissioner Roger Goodell had watched the incriminating video and ruled on it.

Belichick was fined $500,000 and the Patriots were fined an additional $250,000. The Patriots also must surrender a first-round draft pick because they have made the playoffs.

Perhaps more costly was the tarnishing of a franchise that had a reputation as shiny as the three Lombardi Trophies it won in the last six years. Some have suggested that if the Patriots go undefeated this season, the 19-0 record should carry an asterisk.

NFL rules state “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.” They also say all video for coaching purposes must be shot from locations “enclosed on all sides with a roof overhead.”

Those rules were in place prior to this year but were, according to the NFL, “re-emphasized” to coaches and general managers in a Sept. 6 memo.

After the incident against the Jets became public, other teams, including the Packers, claimed the Patriots had tried similar tactics with them. In those cases the videotaper was escorted from the sideline but the league was not officially notified. Several former players and coaches said they had long been aware of this kind of outside-the-rules espionage.

“I know for a fact there were various teams doing this, that’s why the memo was sent to everybody,” former NFL coach Jimmy Johnson said on Fox’s pregame show in early September. “That doesn’t make right, but a lot of teams are doing this.”
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