Belichick denies Patriots taped Rams' 2002 Super Bowl walk-through

Patriots coach Bill Belichick and vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli issued a broad denial Sunday in a report on The Boston Globe's Web site regarding suggestions by a former employee that their team taped a St. Louis Rams walk-through before the 2002 Super Bowl.

"In my entire coaching career, I've never seen another team's practice film prior to playing that team," Belichick told the newspaper. "I have never authorized, or heard of, or even seen in any way, shape, or form any other team's walk-through. We don't even film our own. We don't even want to see ourselves do anything, that's the pace that it's at. Regardless, I've never been a part of that."

Belichick also told The Globe that in his "entire coaching career, I have never filmed a walk-through, our own. I've never been on a staff that has filmed a walk-through. I'm talking about when I was a head coach. As an assistant, I've never seen a head coach film a walk-through the day before a game."

Pioli told the newspaper Matt Walsh was terminated in January 2003 after discovering Walsh secretly tape-recording conversations between himself and Walsh. Pioli told the newspaper he learned of the recorded conversations because "two other employees saw him doing it, and I checked after, and heard it on the tape myself."

Michael Levy, Walsh's lawyer, disputed Pioli's story on Sunday night and, after speaking with Walsh, called it a "complete fabrication."

"This is a predictable and pathetic effort to smear Mr. Walsh's character rather than confront the truth about the Patriots' conduct," Levy told The Globe.

Patriots spokesman Stacey James did not return phone calls or an e-mail from The Associated Press on Sunday night.

Walsh, who was employed by the Patriots from 1996-2003, has suggested to ESPN.com that he has information that could be potentially damaging to the league and the Patriots. He has, to date, refused to provide specifics or turn over potential evidence without protection against potential lawsuits.

Levy had said Walsh would turn over his materials to the NFL if provided with complete indemnification by the league, but Levy recently stated the NFL has fallen short of his request, which if granted could protect Walsh from being sued.

The day before the Patriots' 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in this year's Super Bowl, the Boston Herald reported New England taped St. Louis' walk-through before the first of the Patriots' three Super Bowl victories.

Pioli told the Globe that Walsh's job was an entry-level position.

"He had come from video, so the first few months his job was to make highlight tapes of draft-eligible players, guys who were going to be free agents," Pioli said. "It's like the entry-level position that we have all the scouting assistants in. It's essentially the same job that I did 15 years ago, which was making copies, picking people up at the airport, data entry, more of the highlight tapes of the players, the draft-eligible guys."

Pioli said Walsh was not an "area scout" for the Patriots and that his relationship with Walsh ended abruptly.

"The job he was doing, there were two other guys doing it, so essentially the work he was doing wasn't up to the same level as the other people, in my opinion. However, I found out he was secretly tape-recording our conversations and he was fired," Pioli said. "There was never a confrontation. He was just released."

In The Globe's report, Belichick discussed the league's taping rules and bristled at references to "Spygate," saying what the Patriots taped was in plain sight to the public.

But Article 9 of the NFL Constitution & Bylaws states "any use by any club at any time, from the start to the finish of any game in which such club is a participant, of any communications or information-gathering equipment, other than Polaroid-type cameras or field telephones, shall be prohibited, including without limitation videotape machines, telephone tapping, or bugging devices, or any other form of electronic devices that might aid a team during the playing of a game."

During the season, Belichick was fined $500,000 and the Patriots were ordered to pay $250,000 for spying on an opponent's defensive signals.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also ordered the team to give up its first-round draft choice in 2008 if it reached the playoffs, or its second- and third-round picks if it missed the postseason.

The videotaping came to light after a camera was confiscated from Patriots video assistant Matt Estrella while he was on the New York Jets' sideline during New England's 38-14 win Sept. 7, 2007 at Giants Stadium.

NFL security officials confiscated a camera and videotape from Estrella when it was suspected he was recording the Jets' defensive signals.

When New England was fined for the Jets' game, it was believed the Patriots' coaches were using the film to make halftime adjustments. Belichick told the Globe that was "never" the case while adding the impact of the tapes was "minimal" to the Patriots' preparations.

"On the tape of the signaling that we talk about, that film usually wasn't even completed until Thursday or Friday of the following week. It was that low of a priority," he said. "In other words, the video guys had so much other stuff to do on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday getting ready for the other game, that a lot of times that film wasn't even processed until later in the week."

Regardless, Belichick apologized again for the Patriots' actions.

"I respect the integrity of the game and always have and always will," Belichick said. "I regret that any of this, or to whatever extent, it has in any way brought that into question or discussion or debate. The decision was made by the commissioner, the practice was immediately stopped, and we're not doing it.

"Just going back over the whole taping incident, if I contacted the league and asked them about the practice, I'm sure they would have told me -- as they have done -- that it is not permissible. Then I could have avoided all of this.

"I take responsibility for it. Even though I felt there was a gray area in the rule and I misinterpreted the rule, that was my mistake and we've been penalized for it. I apologize to everybody that is involved -- the league, the other teams, the fans, our team, for the amount of conversation and dialogue that it's caused.

"I misinterpreted the rule. The commissioner made his ruling and we've been penalized for it and tried to move on. But we're not really moving on because we're still here."

Belichick said he didn't address the Rams' walk-through issue sooner because he was trying to focus on the Patriots' games at hand.

"I wasn't comfortable talking about it earlier in the year because my No. 1 job is to win football games," he told the newspaper. "The more distractions there are, I think the harder it is to prepare. I thought the more conversation about this would just take away from what my primary job and our primary job is, which is to win football games.

"I felt like now, the season has been over for a couple weeks, there are certainly a lot of questions out there about it, I thought this would be the timely point to address it as opposed to during the season, at any point. Of course, it came up a number of times."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.