Spygate, Deflategate, and now Headset-gate?
The NFL has investigated allegations raised by Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and found the Patriots were not to blame for audio interference on headsets.
The Steelers coaching staff was upset after claiming their headsets picked up the Patriots' radio broadcast for most of the first half of Thursday night's game, leading Tomlin to insinuate that the team was illegally listening in.
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Tomlin went so far as to say his team's coaches "always" have trouble with their communication systems when they play in Foxboro.
"Based on our review to date, we believe that the audio interference on Steelers' headsets last night was entirely attributable to an electrical issue made worse by the inclement weather; that it involved no manipulation by any individual; and that the Patriots had nothing to do with it," an NFL spokesperson wrote in a statement. "The issue was promptly resolved and there were no further problems for the remainder of the game."
The NFL added that it would continue to review the incident, not to re-investigate whether the Patriots were to blame, but to learn whether measures could prevent this from happening again.
In a conference call with local media before the NFL released its statement, Patriots coach Bill Belichick defended the team against this latest round of allegations. He said headset issues like these are not at all uncommon and his team also experienced them on Thursday night. Pro Football Talk reports that similar headset issues have arisen in Pittsburgh as well.
"There's a lot of stuff going on there," he said, according to Patriots.com. "And you know, we had some problems ... just as an example, we had some problems in the first half. Then it seemed to be OK and we got to the end of the game and the most problems we had were on our last possessions, our last two possessions on offense and defense. So sometimes it goes along and it's fine and then for some reason something happens and you know you go to the guys on the sideline, the blue hats or the purple hats, whaever they are called. Then you tell them about it and then fix it. I don't really know. I don't know enough about technology to know how any of that works. But that's how it goes."
Other teams in the league have been suspicious of the Patriots at least since 2007, when the league caught Belichick illegally taping opposing coaches' signals. The team's reputation took another hit last season when the Indianapolis Colts questioned whether the footballs New England used in the AFC title game were properly inflated.
Belichick also touched on some of that in his Friday press conference.
"I just think overall it's kind of sad, really, to see some stories written that obviously have an agenda to them with misinformation and anonymous type comments," he said. "Writing about warm drinks and trash cans and stuff like that. I mean, it's just, I think it's a sad commentary and it's really a very... it's gone to a pretty low level. It's sunk pretty deep.
"I'm not going to get into a back and forth on it, but that's the way I feel about it."