Rumors of so-called “cheating” have surrounded the New England Patriots for years, and apparently other National Football League teams buy those rumors without question — because the New York Jets ordered that their visiting locker room be swept for electronic surveillance devices last Sunday.
At least, that was the claim made by New York radio host and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason Friday morning, on his Boomer And Carton Show — adding, “I don’t think anybody’s acknowledged it.”
Video of Esiason discussing the allegations on The Boomer And Carton Show can be viewed above, on this page.
Did the ny jets asked the #NFL to sweep their locker room for listening devices before last weeks game? YES THEY DID
— Craig Carton (@cc660) October 30, 2015
But another report, by Mike Florio of the NBC-owned Pro Football Talk site, raised an entirely different possibility — that the Patriots themselves had the visiting locker room swept for bugs, fearing that opposing teams may be trying to capitalize on the rumors and set them up.
“The Patriots have become concerned that a team eventually will plant bugs on its own and claim that the Patriots put them there,” Florio reported on the Pro Football Talk site Friday. “This has prompted the Patriots to ask the league to certify before each game that the visiting locker room is clean before an opposing team enters.”
According to Florio, the NFL — which continues to pursue the Patriots over the “Deflategate” cheating allegations — has refused to certify that the visitor’s locker room in the New England home facility is indeed bug-free.
So what happened on Sunday, October 25, before the game in which the Patriots sent the Jets down to a 30-23?
The locker room was swept for surveillance equipment, Florio reported — but neither the Jets nor the Patriots requested the bizarre operation. Instead, the NFL itself sent security personnel into Gillette Stadium in an attempt to catch New England in an act of subterfuge.
The sweep came just one day before the NFL filed its appeal brief in the Deflategate case — a brief which compared the alleged ball-deflation incident to the famed “Black Sox” scandal of 1919 in which eight Chicago White Sox players conspired to deliberately lose the World Series, in exchange for money from professional gamblers.
Back in the first week of September, both ESPN and Sports Illustrated published stories recounting the longstanding rumors and allegations that the New England Patriots under Coach Bill Belichick have cheated their way to four Super Bowl victories and 12 playoff appearances in the past 14 seasons.
In 2007, the Patriots were found by the league to have videotaped opposing teams’ hand signals from an unauthorized camera position, in the scandal that came to be known as “Spygate.” But according to the ESPN and SI articles, the rumors of Patriots cheating went well beyond what was revealed in Spygate.
Opposing teams have accused the Patriots of a wide variety of far-fetched violations, such as serving warm Gatorade to opposing players, and rummaging through trash bins in search of play sheets detailing opponent game plans.
According to the articles, the Indianapolis Colts and their then-quarterback Peyton Manning were so nervous that they tried to get their locker room swept for bugs — an allegation that Esiason repeated on Friday.
“Peyton Manning has always thought that there were listening devices in there,” according to the 54-year-old Esiason. “And then when he would go in there and he would talk to his teammates, he’d put his hand over this mouth and he’d whisper into the ear of his teammates because he was afraid that there could actually be a camera in there to read his lips.”
Apparently, Jets Coach Todd Bowles has shared the paranoia felt by Manning, if indeed the report that they swept the locker room for bugs is true. One thing seems certain — no matter what they do, the New England Patriots will never escape the wild and imaginative cheating rumors propagated by the league and the many opposing teams they’ve defeated.
[All Photos By Jim Rogash / Getty Images]