The New England Patriots are so far “inside opponents’ heads,” according to a Sports Illustrated report on Tuesday, that other teams have taken extreme and even paranoid security measures to stop what they perceive as “cheating” and other shenanigans orchestrated by Coach Bill Belichick and other Patriots personnel — despite finding no evidence to support many of the “cheating” allegations.
While the Patriots admitted to taping opponents’ defensive signals in 2007 in what became known as the “Spygate” scandal, the unfounded beliefs of many opponents go far beyond the sign-stealing practices that almost every team admittedly engages.
According to the Sports Illustrated article, other teams have believed that the Patriots regularly send covert staff members to observe opponents’ practice sessions, causing at least one team to waste valuable practice time running phony plays in an attempt to throw off an invisible “spy.”
One AFC team reportedly brings its own supply of Gatorade or other sports drinks when it plays at the Patriots’ home stadium of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, because they suspect the Patriots of being deliberately late in supplying the drinks to the visiting team, and providing warm, unrefrigerated drinks when they do bring them.
Another team placed a padlock on the visiting locker room door, according to the report, because that opponent was gripped with fear of a Patriots employee infiltrating the locker room and stealing play sheets, or engaging in other such chicanery.
The Patriots denied that the padlock incident took place, saying that it would constitute a violation of local fire codes to allow padlocking of locker rooms.
The report also states that other teams have suspected the Patriots of supplying visiting teams with faulty headsets, used by coaches to communicate from the sidelines, and in one case, of using a spy to record their signals using an iPhone.
The Patriots also denied the iPhone incident.
Outside of the Spygate case and this year’s Deflategate case — in which the league specifically exonerated Belichick of any involvement — the NFL has never brought a disciplinary claim against the New England Patriots for any of the outlandish scenarios cited by the article — which came out on the same day as an ESPN article making similar allegations.
Given a chance to comment on the reports during a Tuesday radio interview, Belichick declined to respond, saying, “I’m really just focused on Pittsburgh. That’s where I’m at.”
“You could say the rest of the NFL is paranoid, and you might be right,” the Sports Illustrated article stated. “What’s not debatable is that New England, because of that lack of trust, is inside opponents’ heads, forcing other teams to devote time, brainpower and resources to protecting themselves.”
The New England Patriots play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gilette Stadium in the NFL 2015 season opener Thursday night. To find out how to watch that game streaming live online, click this link.
[Image: Jim Rogash / Getty Images]