The New England Patriots are reportedly facing the potential "loss of at least one draft pick and heavy fines" after the team's camera crew violated NFL rules by filming the field and the Cincinnati Bengals sideline from the Cleveland Browns press box, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
Per that report, "There is the possibility of a suspension for a member of upper management and/or ownership as well, sources said, pending the results of the NFL's full investigation into the matter."
Additionally, "The Patriots are repeat offenders for violating the league's game-day operations regulations in the past—twice being stripped of first-round picks for either illegally doctoring footballs or illegally taping an opponent—which will also factor into the ultimate discipline in this case, the sources said."
Another factor is that "executives from numerous NFL teams have voiced their private displeasure with the Patriots' repeated involvement in game-day violations."
The Patriots acknowledged they had a video crew at the Dec. 8 game between the Cincinnati Bengals (Week 15's opponent) and Cleveland Browns to film an episode for the "Do Your Job" series on the team's website and apologized for the crew "inappropriately" filming the field:
But Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic reported the tape confiscated by the NFL from that filming crew "shows about eight minutes of footage focusing on recording the Bengals' sideline. It's a direct view of the sideline as players run on and off the field and coaches make signals for plays."
Another factor the NFL will consider is information learned during its Spygate investigation of the Patriots, which ESPN's Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham reported on in 2015:
"During games, [former Patriots employee Matt Walsh] later told investigators, the Patriots' videographers were told to look like media members, to tape over their team logos or turn their sweatshirt inside out, to wear credentials that said Patriots TV or Kraft Productions. The videographers also were provided with excuses for what to tell NFL security if asked what they were doing: Tell them you're filming the quarterbacks. Or the kickers. Or footage for a team show."
Instead, the videographers were filming an opposing team's signals, attempting to covertly decode them. NFL investigators ultimately uncovered "a library of scouting material containing videotapes of opponents' signals, with detailed notes matching signals to plays for many teams going back seven seasons" in 2008.
The Patriots were docked their 2008 first-round draft pick for the scheme, head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, and the team was fined $250,000.
The similarities between Spygate and this latest incident are hard to ignore, a factor the NFL will surely consider as it determines potential punishments.