|Paul Spinelli/Getty Images|
Any sane person knows that every NFL team pushes the limits of the rules. But every other person thinks its just the Patriots that are doing it.
And once again all the sane people wonder why the NFL turns a blind eye to other teams infractions while anything involving the Patriots turns into international news.
If you are looking for a good example of this look no further than this article from 2006 that CBS Boston writer Michael Hurley dug up about the Dolphins allegedly buying tapes of the Patriots offensive audibles and line calls.
Without convening a congressional hearing or hiring an independent counsel to investigate the incident, the NFL has ruled that the Miami Dolphins violated no league rules in the Tapegate affair associated with the team's 21-0 victory over the New England Patriots last Sunday.
The incident spawned considerable attention on Tuesday after some Dolphins players suggested to the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post that the team "purchased" tapes of the New England offense that provided audio of quarterback Tom Brady making audible and line-blocking calls.
Those players strongly hinted that the tapes were critical in preparing for the game and provided the Dolphins inside information about New England's offensive audible system.
"I've never seen [Brady] so flustered," middle linebacker Zach Thomas said.
The league's response? Pretty much a stifled yawn, since there is no rule prohibiting such film study.
"Reaction around the league office was, 'That's football,' " AFC spokesman Steve Alic said.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, speaking Wednesday at his news conference, doubted that Miami gained an advantage.
"I stand out on that field every day, as do our defensive players -- who are pretty smart players -- and I don't see it," Belichick said. "If I can't pick it up and our players can't pick it up, with what we know and the opportunity to see and work against each other, I have a hard time thinking somebody else [could]."
Even with the contentions of the Miami defenders, there remains uncertainty over just what measures the Dolphins took in their surveillance of the New England offense. While players said the team "purchased" the tape, coach Nick Saban said his club simply watched TV replays of Brady in an attempt to decipher the calls.
One Miami defender said it is common practice to take a TV tape of a game and enhance the volume to try to hear the quarterback's signals. The so-called "coaching" tapes supplied by the league to teams do not include audio. Television tapes often capture a quarterback's calls at the line of scrimmage because of the parabolic microphones used on the sideline.
Despite the attention garnered by the story, most league observers dismissed the importance of whatever the Dolphins did and chose to attribute the shutout victory to superior execution.
The Dolphins limited the Patriots to 12 first downs and 189 yards and held Brady to 78 passing yards and a passer rating of 55.1 while sacking him four times.
It sounds considerably similar to what the Patriots were charges with just months later. That became Spygate. In fact, congress DID get involved in Spygate. Yet somehow just a few months prior this was essentially considered no big deal, aka that's what you do in football. Try and get an advantage on your opponent and use it to beat them.
That's fair and all as long as punishment is doled out to everyone equally. Which it usually isn't. In fact the only difference between incidents like the Dolphin tape-gate getting swept under the rug and Spygate becoming a huge deal is the Patriots didn't snitch the Dolphins out like the Jets did to them. Or like the Colts did after the AFC Championship game.
What the Jets and Colts didn't understand is that by publicly calling out the Patriots for common practices around the league is that everyone loses, not just the team accused. It ends up with everyone pointing fingers at each other and people digging up dirt on anyone that they can. The league looks bad. The teams look bad. It ends up as a black mark against everyone involved.
Every team has some sort of skeleton in their closet and in the digital age those closets are made with four glass walls. Making it hard to cover up your past rule skirting. Just ask Jerry Rice if that is true.
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