The story behind the story of Deflategate and previous off-field entanglements between the NFL and New England Patriots simmered to a boil on Tuesday when ESPN released an investigative report that sheds new light on the allegations.
ESPN reported that owners were irate over commissioner Roger Goodell's light-handed punishment for Spygate and wanted to use Deflategate as a "makeup call," in the eyes of some owners.
"I have not seen this report but I can tell you I'm not aware of any connection between the Spygate procedures and the procedures we went through here," Goodell said Tuesday on ESPN Radio. "There's no connection in my mind between the two incidents."
The Patriots were fined and docked a draft pick for illegal taping coaches' defensive signals in 2007. Goodell, per the report, called a meeting at The Breakers in Palm Beach. Fla., and allowed Patriots owner Robert Kraft to apologize to peers. He also gave coach Bill Belichick the floor - he was fined $500,000, twice the amount the team paid -- and the coach allegedly claimed to have "misinterpreted a league rule" and thought that practice was legal as long as the information wasn't used in real time.
The report claims that occurred in 40 games from 2000-2007.
Former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz remains doubtful that the Patriots had no insight into his game plan from the 2001 Super Bowl loss. Martz told ESPN that Goodell called him in 2008 asking for a statement accepting the NFL's Spygate discipline. Martz said he complied, but the statement issued through the NFL was not entirely his.
"It appears embellished quite a bit - some lines I know I didn't write. Who changed it? I don't know," Martz told ESPN.
ESPN revealed Tuesday that a "library of scouting material" was found at Gillette Stadium in the Spygate investigation. That included diagrams of opposing coaches' signals and several video tapes, including some used in the AFC Championship Game won by the Patriots over the Steelers.
When the information came to light, owners were irate, according to the report, and Goodell promised each owner that "cheaters" would be dealt with forcefully moving forward. All evidence was ordered destroyed by NFL employees in a room at Gillette Stadium, which caught the attention of congress.
Litigation continues in the NFL's discipline of quarterback Tom Brady for his alleged role in Deflategate. U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman overturned the four-game suspension levied by the league just as the Patriots -- carrying the league's banner into the opening game of the season Thursday as defending Super Bowl champions -- and Steelers kick off the 2015 season. Goodell will not attend, but instead appear at Soldier Field in Chicago so as to not be a distraction to football with fans fatigued by off-field issues.
"I certainly understand the fatigue, to a large extent we have the fatigue," Goodell said Tuesday on ESPN Radio. "Now we have Judge Berman's process that was designed to focus on 'were we consistent with the collective bargaining agreement.' We feel we were consistent. ... Courts are not where we should be having these discussions."