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Walsh: Patriots concealed taping

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / May 16, 2008

Former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh broke months of public silence on his role in "Spygate," participating in interviews with the New York Times and HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" during which he contended the Patriots went to "great lengths" to keep their filming of signals under wraps and contradicted coach Bill Belichick's notion that the impact was minimal.

The interviews took place Wednesday at the Washington office of Walsh's attorney, Michael N. Levy, a day after Walsh met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the same day Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter called for an independent investigation into the Patriots' illegal taping practices.

Walsh, who said he was first asked to tape signals during a 2000 exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, echoed what Specter said in his statement: that one former Patriots offensive player had explained to Walsh how the video of opposing teams' signals was used for a Sept. 3, 2000, regular-season game against Tampa Bay, which the Patriots lost, 21-16.

Walsh said the player, whom he identified only as a quarterback, claimed he was advised in a meeting with Belichick, Belichick confidant Ernie Adams, and then-offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to memorize defensive signals filmed from the 2000 exhibition game, decipher them, and relay them to Weis. Walsh said the player told him the signals allowed the Patriots to know Tampa Bay's defensive calls 75 percent of the time.

That is at odds with Belichick's characterization in a Feb. 18 Globe story in which he described the impact of the tapes as "minimal" to the team's preparations and rated it as a 1 on a scale up to 100.

"All that I know is the success rate that it had for the first game against Tampa Bay, and all I know is that it was something that they continued to have me do throughout the two years I worked in video under Coach Belichick," Walsh said in the HBO interview, which airs tonight at 8. "If it was of little or no importance, I imagine they wouldn't have continued to do it, and probably not taken the chances of going down onto the field in Pittsburgh or shooting from other teams' stadiums the way we did."

Walsh, who worked for the team from 1997-2003, said that to his knowledge, a small circle of Patriots personnel knew about the taping: current video director Jimmy Dee, assistant video director Fernando Neto, and Adams, who is listed as the team's football research director.

Walsh recounted a brief conversation with Adams about the taping.

"Miami and some other teams would sometimes have two or three coaches on the sideline sending in signals. One would be the legitimate one. Two would be dummies," Walsh told the Times.

"I asked him if he wanted me to still take the wide angle . . . just so that all three would be in. Or if I thought I knew which one was the real signal, just to focus tighter on that. He told me, 'No, go ahead and take the wider shot, make sure you get everybody in.' Other than that, he had very little to say about the taping."

Walsh said he was instructed by Dee on how to explain the presence of a third Patriots camera at games. He told both outlets he was coached to say he was shooting the markers or that the Patriots liked to have tight shots of the kicker and holder or the quarterback's footwork to address mechanics.

When asked about Belichick's quote about not being able to pick him out of a lineup, Walsh said he was surprised and claimed Belichick had sent him a Christmas gift in 2001. However, Walsh told the Times he never directly talked to Belichick about signal-taping.

Walsh also told both outlets he suspected another team of doing what the Patriots were doing and alerted then-defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel following the game. Walsh said he told the NFL the name of the other team but refused to divulge it in either interview.

Walsh was not asked why he didn't come forward earlier knowing he didn't possess the purported tape of the St. Louis Rams' walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI.

Levy said he instructed Walsh to remain silent until he had full legal protection. That may have been a negotiating ploy to bring the NFL - fearing the existence of such a tape - to the table. Levy said the intent was not to harm the Patriots, simply to protect his client.

"There was no malice intended at all," said Levy, who pointed the finger at the media for assuming Walsh was the source of an erroneous Feb. 2 Boston Herald story that reported the Patriots taped the Rams' walkthrough in 2002.

"Mr. Walsh did not attempt to harm the Patriots or help them in any way. My goal all along was to make sure that he got appropriate legal protection, and once he did, he would come forward with the truth and it would be up to others to assess the information he came forward with."

Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, assessed that information and decided to call for an independent investigation, similar to that in baseball regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs, which resulted in the Mitchell Report.

However, at least one of his fellow committee members, Democrat Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, thinks Specter should focus on other issues.

"With the war in Iraq raging on, gasoline prices closing in on $4 a gallon, and Americans losing their homes at record rates to foreclosure, the United States Senate should be focusing on the real problems that Americans are struggling with," said Kennedy in a statement. "I'm looking forward to another great Patriots season where they can let their play on the field speak for itself."

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com.

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