Report: NFL Investigating If Patriots Employee Taped Bengals' Play Calls

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2019

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick speaks to the media following an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

The NFL league office is reportedly investigating allegations that a New England Patriots employee was videotaping the Cincinnati Bengals' play calls during their game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, according to ESPN's Dianna Russini.

"We are aware of the incident, and we are aware it is being investigated by NFL Security," the Bengals said in a statement, per Albert Breer of The MMQB. "We will have no further comment." 

The two teams will meet in Week 15 at Paul Brown Stadium. Meanwhile, the Patriots said this was just a misunderstanding.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the team's advance scout was being filmed for a "Do Your Job" video feature, and it was cleared by the Browns prior to the game. The Bengals alerted the NFL after seeing the New England film crew. The Patriots have turned over their footage to the NFL and are cooperating with the investigation, per Doug Kyed of NESN.

Still, Russini reported a Bengals employee was monitoring the cameraman during the game and claimed he was shooting the Bengals staff on the sidelines during the first quarter. 

"The cameraman asked if they could just delete the footage and it all be forgotten," sources told Russini.

Head coach Bill Belichick denied responsibility when discussing the situation Monday on WEEI, via Ryan Hannable of WEEI:

"I heard about this and evidently this is our production people on the TV show that were there and I have absolutely nothing to do, we have absolutely nothing to do with anything that they produce or direct or shoot. I have never seen any of their tapes or anything else. This is something that we 100 percent have zero involvement with. This is something that you'd have to talk to the production people about and what they were doing, or whatever it was. We have never seen anything that they've shot, other than what has come down on TV."

The Patriots organization has broken similar rules in the past. After being caught videotaping defensive signals of the New York Jets in 2007, New England forfeited its 2008 first-round pick and received a $250,000 fine, and Belichick was fined $500,000.

"Although it remains a league matter, I want to apologize to everyone who has been affected, most of all ownership, staff and players," Belichick said at the time, adding he had misinterpreted league rules.

Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham of ESPN later reported in 2015 the Patriots had videotaped signals for opposing teams in as many as 40 games before being caught. The Rams, Panthers and Eagles all said the Patriots stole signals prior to Super Bowl victories over their teams.

The Patriots are 10-3 and looking to win their fourth Super Bowl in the last six years, while the Bengals are 1-12 and likely headed toward the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft.