It appears that Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots will escape the harshest of penalties after a video crew working for the Patriots was caught filming the Cincinnati sidelines during the Bengals-Browns game on December 8.
According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the NFL’s investigation into the incident has not turned up any evidence that Belichick or any member of the football staff had any involvement in or knowledge of the improper actions of the crew, or that the information was used to gain a “competitive advantage.”
“There is no indication at this point that Belichick or the Patriots’ football staff has been tied to the video or that the investigation has uncovered evidence of a sustained, organized effort by the Patriots to gain a competitive on-field advantage, according to those people with knowledge of the case,” Maske reported.
While the Patriots acknowledged that the taping was a violation of NFL rules, they have consistently maintained that it was done mistakenly by a crew from Kraft Sports and Entertainment, which filming a feature on a Patriots scout who was in attendance at the game.
But that does not mean that New England will escape punishment for the affair, the discovery of which reportedly left Bengals’ officials seeing red.
The NFL hopes to complete its investigation into the incident sometime this week and, according to Maske, insiders expect “that the NFL will impose penalties consistent with those handed out in recent years in other cases of game-day infractions.”
In 2007, Belichick and the Patriots were fined a total of $750,000 and stripped of a first-round draft selection for improperly taping opponents’ coaching signals. More recently, the “Deflategete” case cost the Patriots $1 million and first- and fourth-round selections for attempting to use underinflated footballs.
But the eventual punishment will likely be more in the range of a fine between $150,000 to $350,000, and “a loss or reduction in the value of a draft pick,” in keeping with penalties imposed in recent years on the Falcons, Browns, Giants and Ravens.
“It is not clear, however, when the NFL will announce a decision,” Maske said. “Once NFL security officials complete their investigation and submit their findings, Commissioner Roger Goodell and other league leaders still must review those findings, decide whether to conduct additional interviews, deliberate over the potential penalties and determine when to announce the ruling.”