Watch it, now

The Baltimore Sun

Many NFL fans might have felt it was long overdue for the New England Patriots, specifically coach Bill Belichick, to comment more fully on the circumstances surrounding Spygate and to address recent reports of further accusations.

Those allegations include, of course, that the Patriots secretly videotaped a walk-through by the St. Louis Rams before the Super Bowl in February 2002 and that additional embarrassing evidence might be in the hands of a former team employee, Matt Walsh, who was fired in January 2003.

Over the weekend, Belichick and Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli were quoted by The Boston Globe in their most expansive interviews to date on those subjects.

Belichick unequivocally denied taping the Rams' walk-through.

He went further, telling the Globe: "In my entire coaching career, I've never seen another team's practice film prior to playing that team."

Belichick also discussed the transgression that he did admit to, the taping that took place during a game against the New York Jets this past season, again saying he misinterpreted NFL rules and was humbly sorry.

But while Belichick was playing defense, Pioli went on the offensive, going after Walsh, who contends he has secret evidence he won't give up unless the league agrees to protect him from legal fallout.

Pioli characterized Walsh in less-than-flattering fashion, contending that Walsh was a low-level functionary who was fired after doing clandestine taping of his own -- recording conversations between Pioli and Walsh. Walsh's attorney immediately fired back, saying Pioli was making it up and was trying to deflect attention from the Patriots' culpability.

It might be a good thing that the Patriots are finally being more public about all this, but they have to be careful about appearing to be too challenging in a way that Roger Clemens has been.

While most baseball players who appeared in the Mitchell Report admitted to minor sins and asked for forgiveness (Andy Pettitte, Brian Roberts) and others have simply kept quiet, Clemens' vehement denials led to his being the only player in the report testifying in front of a Congressial committee Wednesday.

It might have played out just as Clemens intended -- he got his day in front of America -- but he had better be on the side of the angels because there's no telling what renewed interest investigators might now have in him.

Meanwhile, the Patriots, and the NFL in general, are standing in the crosshairs of Sen. Arlen Specter. Specter doesn't appear to need any more motivation here, but the Patriots, meaning Belichick and Pioli, probably should be careful they don't stoke his fire anymore.

Belichick is a master of finding ways to motivate his team. Just ask poor Pittsburgh Steelers safety (and eventual patsy) Anthony Smith, who provided the Patriots with some ill-timed bulletin-board material before New England's 34-13 win in December.

The Patriots should keep in mind that Specter might have his own bulletin board.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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