NFL security confiscated a video camera and its tape from a New England Patriots employee on the team's sideline during Sunday's game against the Jets in a suspected spying incident, sources said.
The camera and its tape were placed in a sealed box and forwarded to the league office for investigation, the sources said.
"The rule is that 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," the league said in a statement
from spokesman Greg Aiello. "Clubs have specifically been reminded
in the past that the videotaping of an opponent's offensive or
defensive signals on the sidelines is prohibited.
"We are looking into whether the Patriots violated this rule."
The Patriots' cameraman was suspected of aiming his camera at the Jets' defensive coaches who were sending signals to their unit on the field, the sources said. The league also is investigating some radio frequency issues that occurred during the game.
The league's competition committee could conduct a conference call about the incident, which violates NFL policy, and ultimately recommend a penalty that could cost the Patriots a future draft pick or picks if it verifies that the team was spying on the Jets.
"It's not their first time," a member of the committee, who did not wish to be identified, said.
In fact, Green Bay Packers president Bob Harlan confirmed a similar incident that occurred when the Patriots played at Lambeau Field last Nov. 19. The same cameraman who was questioned by NFL security on Sunday was also the one whom the Packers removed from the sideline and escorted from the field during their 2006 game, according to Packers security official Doug Collins.
"From what I can remember, he had quite a fit when we took him out," Harlan said. "We had gotten word before the game that they [the Patriots] did this sort of thing, so we were looking for it."
A Jets official declined comment Monday, directing an inquiry to the league office.
"There is an investigation going on now, and perhaps an adjudication of it, and I think it would be inappropriate at this time to make any comment," Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said Tuesday after a charity appearance at an area supermarket.
"With anything along those lines, those are all league-related
matters, and anything that deals with an issue like this or
anything on a team-by-team basis, those all go to the league,"
coach Eric Mangini said in his news conference Monday.
cornerback Ellis Hobbs said he was unaware of the controversy, and
unwilling to believe his team had cheated.
"We put too many hours in as individuals and a team to have to
go out and cheat," he said. "If it's true, obviously, we're in
the wrong. But I'm standing behind my team, my coaches. I don't
think we do that stuff."
Chris Mortensen covers the NFL for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.