FOXBORO, Mass. (WTEN) – As the New England Patriots look forward to their season opener on Thursday night, the defending Super Bowl champions can’t seem to escape their past.
Many criticized NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for leveling a four-game suspension against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the Deflategate scandal. A federal judge threw out the suspension last week.
But now a new report suggests a possible motive for the harsh punishment not only against Brady but for the team as well.
Hours before the team took to the field for practice on Tuesday, ESPN released a report linking Deflategate and Spygate – the team’s 2007 videotaping controversy. The report suggested Goodell has taken a harsh stance on Deflategate as a “makeup call” for what many owners believed was an insufficient handling of Spygate.
Goodell denied the claims in a radio interview on Tuesday.
The ESPN report also alleges the team taped opponents’ practices and walkthroughs, an allegation firmly debunked in a statement released on Tuesday by the organization saying in part: “It is disappointing that some choose to believe in myths, conjecture and rumors.”
Brady was the only current player around during Spygate, and he didn’t speak to the media on Tuesday. But his teammates responded to questions about the report.
“You know, it is what it is. A lot of these things are out of our control,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “They don’t really relate to us, so we just have to go out, do our job, and worry about the game.”
“We put in a lot of work here. We work hard. The payoff to us is winning. That’s our goal,” safety Devin McCourty said. “It has nothing really to do with what everyone else is saying or what everyone does or says about us. We just want to go out and win football games. That’s our goal, and we stick to that and it allows us to stay focused.”
The players are keeping their focus on Thursday’s season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.