When it rains, it pours.
The Patriots are finding that out the hard way this morning, as for the second time a major investigative piece has accused the team of widespread cheating. First there was ESPN’s investigation revisiting Spygate. And now comes a Sports Illustrated report that also says there’s a perception in the NFL that the Patriots routinely break the rules to gather information about the opposition.
According to the report, at least 19 NFL teams — most of the league — have confirmed that they took precautions against the Patriots that they didn’t take against any other opponent, because they were more concerned about spying when they faced the Patriots than they were when they faced any other opponent. Steps teams have taken against the Patriots include running fake plays during walk-through practices in case the Patriots were spying, not leaving anything sensitive in the trash at their hotels in New England, declining the Patriots’ offer to use their facilities, blocking off the visitors’ locker room at Gillette Stadium to keep Patriots employees out, sweeping for bugs, and telling the Patriots’ visiting locker room manager to leave because they didn’t trust him not to spy.
One team told Sports Illustrated that it butted heads with the Patriots over locking the doors to the visitors’ locker room, with the Patriots telling them they couldn’t because it’s a fire code violation, and the team telling the Patriots to go ahead and report them to the fire chief if they wanted, but that the visitors’ locker room doors would be locked. (Patriots spokesman Stacey James denies that ever happened.)
Both the ESPN report and the Sports Illustrated report suggest that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was determined to crack down on the Patriots for Deflategate in part because many teams think Goodell failed to come down hard enough on the Patriots for Spygate. Goodell denies that. But there’s no denying the perception around the league that the Patriots are cheaters.