As PFT Live producer Rob “Stats” Guerrera said before Tuesday’s show, “You know it’s a crazy day when you haven’t gotten a chance to read both Patriots cheating stories.”
Lost in the wake of the 10,000-word ESPN odyssey regarding the depths of the Spygate rabbit hole was a SI.com story that focused primarily on the steps taken by other teams to avoid being on the wrong end of New England cheating. Contained in that story was a compelling anecdote.
Compelling, but inaccurate.
“[E]very Friday teams must announce which injured players are doubtful, questionable or probable to play that Sunday,” the report explains. “Teams usually take 53 players to the game and announce, 90 minutes before kickoff, which seven are inactive. But sometimes, at Saturday-night meetings, Belichick tells his staff which players on the opposing team were not on the flight to New England, a source with knowledge of the meetings tells SI. It’s not clear how Belichick knows. But he does.”
Here’s how he knows: By league rule, injured players who don’t make the trip must be downgraded to out. It happens all the time, and it’s one of the benefits of being the home team. Since the home team doesn’t travel, its questionable or doubtful players can remain questionable or doubtful until 90 minutes before kickoff. Road teams don’t have that luxury; it an injured player doesn’t make the trip to the site of the game, he’s definitely not playing — and the team definitely has an obligation to immediately let the league, the opponent, and the media know.
That’s how Belichick knows. It’s how the coach of any home team knows that players from the visiting team didn’t make the trip.
The report suggests that Belichick has spies in every NFL city, or at a minimum at every NFL airport. On one hand, it deepens his mystique. On the other hand, it unfairly adds to the perception that Belichick is an evil genius with tentacles stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Either way, it’s not accurate.