Former Rams coach Mike Martz says NFL asked him to exonerate Patriots

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Of the many interesting and deeply reported details in Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr.'s story about the New England Patriots and the NFL, there's one section of particular interest for the St. Louis Rams and their fans.

In it, they detail the fallout of the initial Spygate incident before Super Bowl XXXVI in which it was alleged that the Patriots taped or viewed the Rams' pre-game walkthrough before playing New England in that game. More than 13 years after the Rams lost to the Patriots in one of the biggest Super Bowl upsets of all time, former Rams coach Mike Martz revealed some intriguing details of how the NFL handled the investigation into Spygate.

According to the story, Martz said that after the league had conducted its 2008 investigation, commissioner Roger Goodell called him and encouraged him to release a statement saying he was satisfied with the investigation and its subsequent fallout. At the time, Martz was working as the offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and said he took the call while on the 49ers practice field.

Martz recalled a five-minute conversation in which he said Goodell sounded "panicked" about U.S. Senator Arlen Specter's call for a deeper look into the situation. Martz said Goodell asked him to write a statement clearing the Patriots and asking everyone to move on.

From the story:

"He told me, 'The league doesn't need this. We're asking you to come out with a couple lines exonerating us and saying we did our due diligence,'" says Martz, now 64 years old and out of coaching, during a July interview at his summer cabin in the Idaho mountains.

A congressional inquiry that would put league officials under oath had to be avoided, Martz recalls Goodell telling him. "If it ever got to an investigation, it would be terrible for the league," Goodell said.

That's not where the story ends, though. Martz actually complied with the request and sent a statement to the league. When Wickersham and Van Natta showed him the statement that was released, Martz didn't recognize it.

Shown a copy of his statement this past July, Martz was stunned to read several sentences about Walsh that he says he's certain he did not write. "It shocked me," he says. "It appears embellished quite a bit -- some lines I know I didn't write. Who changed it? I don't know."

Within the past few years, Martz had hoped to get back into the NFL, which could offer a logical explanation on why he didn't publicly reveal this information until now. But there's no doubt that Martz was disturbed enough by what he thought was New England's wrongdoing to change how he operated as coach of the Rams.

The Rams fired Martz in 2006 in part because the loss to New England still lingered amongst the decision makers in the front office. Before he left St. Louis, Martz had grown so weary of potential videotaping that he had large pillars and a screen built on a hill overlooking the practice fields at Rams Park in an effort to block would-be videotapers from checking into a hotel across the street and filming the practice. It cost the team tens of thousands of dollars.

The pillars (without the screen) still stand today as a sort of tribute to paranoia. But based on the findings in the piece and how Martz still feels about the situation, that tribute isn't the only thing that still lingers.