By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — When Roger Goodell and Troy Vincent promised a “thorough” investigation of the Patriots for their latest incident involving a video camera, football fans in New England rightfully raised their guard. When reports surfaced shortly thereafter that NFL investigators were frustrated that they couldn’t connect the camera operation to the football operation, that apprehension was proven to be worthwhile.READ MORE: Mother, Son Found Safe After Amber Alert In New Hampshire
But, according to a new report, it all might be ending soon, and the Patriots’ alibi has apparently held up as truthful.
Mark Maske of The Washington Post reported Wednesday that “The NFL has found no evidence to this point linking Coach Bill Belichick or others on the New England Patriots’ football staff to the video shot by a crew on behalf of the team showing footage of the Cincinnati Bengals’ sideline during a game last month in Cleveland.”
Citing sources “familiar with the matter,” Maske also reported that the investigation could conclude as soon as this week, and that the punishments levied against the Patriots will not be severe.
Maske estimated that the Patriots “probably would be facing a fine in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and possibly the loss or reduction in value of a draft pick.”READ MORE: Experts Warn Delta Variant Could Make Unvaccinated Communities 'Look Like Last Winter'
If the punishment is a reduction in value of a draft pick, it would be a similar punishment to the one issued to the Giants in 2016, when then-head coach Ben McAdoo illegally used a walkie-talkie to communicate with his quarterback during a game. The NFL fined the Giants $150,000, fined McAdoo $50,000, and forced the Giants to drop 12 spots in the fourth round, moving them from No. 129 overall to No. 140 overall.
Still, Maske’s report cautioned that it may not be time to fully exhale for football followers in New England.
“Once NFL security officials complete their investigation and submit their findings,” Maske wrote, “Commissioner Roger Goodell and other league leaders still must review those findings, decide whether to conduct additional interviews, deliberate over the potential penalties and determine when to announce the ruling.”
It’s that last anecdote that should raise eyebrows in New England, as the entire matter still appears to depend on whether or not Goodell decides to prove a point with his ruling. Goodell did not take kindly to Belichick ignoring a league memo back in 2007; the commissioner promptly handed down historic punishment for the transgression. Goodell then capitalized on ambiguous CBA language to seize unprecedented power during the saga known as DeflateGate, ultimately spending millions of the league’s dollars and fighting for multiple years to affirm his own authority.MORE NEWS: Funeral Held For Slain Braintree Police K-9 Kitt At Gillette Stadium
Considering the history of Goodell and the Patriots, a similar course of action cannot yet be ruled out. But all reports thus far in the lengthy investigation process have indicated that Belichick and the football staff had no connection whatsoever to the camera crew in the Cleveland press box.