The NFL and former New England Patriots employee Matt Walsh have finally agreed on a deal where Walsh will return all of the items by May 8, namely videotapes, that he kept from his employment with the Patriots. He will also meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on May 13, 2008, to discuss the Pats' videotaping procedures. In return, the NFL and the Patriots have agreed not to sue Mr. Walsh and the NFL will indemnify him of any expenses, legal or otherwise, that he incurs as part of the interview process. Rather than speculate, I'm simply going to wait and see what is contained on the tapes and also what the interview with Goodell yields. Keep in mind that the Patriots, as you can read in their statement, have said that they never authorized the videotaping of the Rams' walk-through practice before the Superbowl in 2002. That walk-through taping is what has been the lightning rod behind this whole matter. Whether this tape exists or not, we shall soon see, but the Pats have already denied any knowledge or authorization of such a tape. How the NFL handles this, should it exist, will be interesting to follow as we enter some "down time" after the NFL Draft. Below you can read statements from the NFL, Walsh's attorney, and the New England Patriots. Again, I will reserve judgement until we find out exactly what Walsh has.
"An agreement has been completed between the NFL and Matt Walsh that will allow Mr. Walsh, a former videotape operator with the New England Patriots, to share with the NFL information about activities occurring during his employment with the club from 1997-2003.
Commissioner Goodell will meet with Mr. Walsh in the commissioner’s office on Tuesday, May 13, the earliest date that Mr. Walsh, who lives in Hawaii, will be available on the east coast.
The agreement also requires Mr. Walsh to return any tapes and other items in his possession that belong to the Patriots. In return, the NFL and the Patriots have promised not to sue Mr. Walsh. They also will indemnify him for any expenses, including legal fees that he incurs in connection with the interview.
Commissioner Goodell determined last September that the Patriots had violated league rules by videotaping opposing coaches' defensive signals during Patriots games throughout Bill Belichick’s tenure as head coach. Coach Belichick admitted to his use of the taping practice on a regular basis as a result of what he said was his misinterpretation of the rule.
Commissioner Goodell imposed substantial discipline on Coach Belichick and the club as a result of that practice. The interview with Mr. Walsh will seek to determine whether he has any new information about that videotaping practice or other possible violations of league rules.
Following the meeting with Mr. Walsh on May 13, there will be a news media briefing later that day in New York that will be attended by Commissioner Goodell."
"Today, Mr. Walsh and the National Football League reached an agreement under which the NFL will provide legal indemnification and a release of claims against Mr. Walsh relating to his employment by the Patriots and the Patriots' videotaping operations.
I am pleased that we now have an agreement that provides Mr. Walsh with appropriate legal protections. Mr. Walsh is looking forward to providing the NFL with the materials he has and telling the NFL what he knows.
The agreement provides that, on or before May 8, 2008, Mr. Walsh will provide the NFL with any documents he may have, including videotapes, that relate to allegations of videotaping of Patriots opponents and that he will make himself reasonably available for an interview with the NFL soon thereafter. The agreement further provides that Mr. Walsh must make himself available for an interview with the NFL prior to conducting any such interview with any third party inquirers, including the media. Accordingly, Mr. Walsh will not be making any statements at this time."
Finally, below you can read the statement from the Patriots. Clearly it has somewhat of a harsh tone towards Walsh and the entire legal-protections saga:
"The New England Patriots are pleased to learn that Matt Walsh is finally willing to come forward to meet with the NFL. We are eagerly anticipating his honest disclosures to Commissioner Goodell next month and the return of all the materials he took during his time of employment. We fully expect this meeting to conclude the league’s investigation into a damaging and false allegation that was originally levied against the team on the day before this year’s Super Bowl.
It is important to note that there has never been a confidentiality agreement restricting Matt Walsh and no legal protections were ever necessary for him to speak to the NFL, to media outlets or to anyone else regarding his employment with the Patriots. He demanded to be released from responsibility for his statements, and after a frustrating and lengthy negotiation period, a settlement has finally been reached. Walsh has been granted a significant number of privileges through this agreement, none of which the Patriots or the NFL were obligated to give.
At all times, we cooperated fully with the league’s investigation and stand by our initial public statement from Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008: “The suggestion that the New England Patriots recorded the St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 is absolutely false.”
The Patriots’ organizational focus at this time is on the NFL Draft and preparing for what we hope will be an exciting 2008 season. We will have no further comments regarding Matt Walsh at this time."