For the past several weeks, the New England Patriots have been under the NFL’s microscope while the league investigates its alleged involvement in illegally videotaping the Cincinnati Bengals sideline.
It appears the league is ready to conclude its investigation and dole out appropriate discipline to the Patriots, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
On Saturday morning, Schefter reported the league will likely dole out discipline within the next two weeks.
The scandal stems from the Patriots filming Cincinnati’s sideline during the Bengals’ Week 14 encounter in Cleveland. The team sent a film crew with independent contractors from its production department to record an online video program called “Do Your Job” aimed at showing a day-in-the-life of a team staff member.
This particular episode was focused on a Patriots advanced scout, with the shots of the field attempting to provide a glimpse into that scout’s binoculars to show what they usually look for and write down.
While the NFL had reportedly grown frustrated by its inability to find evidence linking Bill Belichick and the football department to the incident, it still appears that part of the organization will be punished.
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What Possible Punishments Could New England Face?
There aren’t many similar incidents the NFL can use as a baseline for punishing the Patriots. While New England was involved in Spygate which also featured illegal videotaping, this scandal is different as it did not involve the Patriots football operations or Bill Belichick.
Schefter offered a few examples of potential punishments the Patriots could face. Though not as steep as what they were given for Spygate, it will still cost New England dearly.
This incident appears to match-up more with the first example. The Browns GM was caught texting during a game, an incident that also took place in the press box away from the field.
However, Patriots de-facto general manager Bill Belichick being suspended for something he wasn’t actually involved in is unlikely. This forces many to lean toward the second example of possible discipline for New England.
The Patriots have 12 draft picks in the upcoming draft and with the team possibly looking to leverage those into higher picks or possible trades, the league could strip New England of a late-round draft choice along with implementing a light fine.
Looking at the Timetable
For the NFL to wrap up the investigation in two weeks, it would put the discipline around the same time as the AFC Championship game should New England advance that far in the postseason.
Of course, the Patriots have grown used to playing big playoff games shrouded by offseason distraction. Past examples include the Deflategate allegations in 2014 where the Indianapolis Colts alleged the Patriots had underinflated balls during their AFC Championship game that year.