WASHINGTON -- Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter called today for an independent investigation into the Patriots' illegal taping practices, citing what he called an obvious conflict between the interest of the NFL and the public interest.
"After a lot of consideration it's my judgment that there ought to be an impartial investigation, an outside investigation, like the [steroids] investigation that baseball had with former [Maine] Senator George Mitchell," said Specter at a Capitol Hill news conference.
Specter, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, stopped short of saying the government would conduct an investigation if the NFL didn't do so, but didn't rule out Congressional hearings to look into the matter, if action wasn't taken.
Specter met with former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh for three hours yesterday in his Hart Senate Office Building office. He said that Walsh told him that a former offensive player for the Patriots told Walsh a few days before a Sept. 3, 2000 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Specter had said it was a Sept. 11, 2000 game) that the offensive player was called into a meeting with head coach Bill Belichick, then offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and Belichick confidant Ernie Adams. During the meeting it was explained to the player how the signal tapes would be used.
According to Specter's recount of what Walsh detailed to him, the offensive player, who was on the sidelines for the game, would memorize the signals then watch for the Tampa Bay defensive calls during the game. He would then pass the call along to Weis, who would give instructions to the quarterback on the field.
Specter's statement said that the offensive player told Walsh that it helped the Patriots anticipate 75 percent of the defensive plays being called.
The senator also said that Walsh, who worked for the Patriots from 1997 to 2003, told him that as a season-ticket holder he witnessed Steve Scarnecchia, the son of Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and currently the New York Jets video director, taping games during the 2002, 2003 and 2004 seasons.
The games that Specter cited, according to his meeting with Walsh, were Sept. 9, 2002 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Nov. 16, 2003, against the Dallas Cowboys and Sept. 25, 2005 against the Steelers -- all Patriots' wins.
(Specter's floor statement, which was later amended via email, originally said that Walsh had said the Patriots filmed during an Oct. 31, 2004 game with the Steelers, a 34-20 loss that ended New England's record 21-game win streak.)
According to Specter, Walsh didn't tell NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about witnessing those games because he was not asked.
Specter said he was also troubled by the fact that Walsh told him that Dan Goldberg, whom Walsh identified as a Patriots attorney, was present at his NFL interview and allowed to ask questions. Specter, a former Philadelphia district attorney, said such a practice "strains credulity."
"What is necessary is an objective investigation," said Specter. "This has not been objective."
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