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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Football

Patriots reportedly focused camera on Bengals’ sideline for eight minutes

Bill Belichick

The New England Patriots have acknowledged that a member of a film crew that was working for the team violated a league rule during Sunday’s game between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, but they insist nothing was done with a goal of gaining a competitive advantage. Some people will undoubtedly feel that the footage indicates otherwise.

The Patriots say a production crew was filming one of their advanced scouts in the press box at FirstEnergy Stadium for part of their “Do Your Job” documentary. A statement from the team expressed regret for not informing the Bengals ahead of time and for “inappropriately” filming the field. According to a report from Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic, that inappropriate filming involved a camera focused directly on Cincinnati’s sideline for roughly eight minutes.

As a source described to Dehner, the footage did not simply show the Bengals’ sideline in the background or over the shoulder of the scout who was being filmed. It was a direct view of the sideline, which is why the videographer was confronted.

“The sole purpose of the filming was to provide an illustration of an advance scout at work on the road,” the Patriots’ statement said. “There was no intention of using the footage for any other purpose.”

That will now be up for the NFL to decide. The Patriots immediately took responsibility for breaking league rules in an attempt to prevent “Spygate 2” from becoming a thing. It’s quite possible that what happened on Sunday is nothing like what happened more than a decade ago, and Bill Belichick was emphatic in trying to distance himself from it. Still, it’s not hard to imagine the NFL coming down hard on the team given the history.

Mike Evans expected to miss rest of season with hamstring injury

Mike Evans referee

Mike Evans suffered a hamstring injury during one of his patented explosive plays on Sunday, and it is one that is reportedly serious enough to keep him out for the remainder of the year.

Evans underwent an MRI on Monday, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said the damage was not as bad as initially feared. However, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports that Evans is not expected to play again this season “barring unexpected improvement.”

Evans and Chris Godwin have been the most productive wide receiver duo in football in their first year under Arians, so not having Evans will be a major blow to Tampa’s offense. Not only will they be without their best big-play threat, but defenses can now focus more attention on shutting down Godwin.

The Bucs were eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday, so they don’t really have anything to play for. While they will miss Evans’ ability to torch defenses, it makes no sense to have him play hurt.

Eli Manning had great reason for why his wife attended Eagles game

Eli Manning

Eli Manning has played many games at Lincoln Financial Field throughout his career, and his wife stopped attending them a while back because Eagles fans aren’t exactly known for their hospitality with friends and family members of opposing players. However, Abby Manning decided to make an exception on Monday night.

Mrs. Manning was at the game in Philadelphia, and Eli was asked why she broke from tradition. He said the reason she decided to attend was “pretty obvious.”

Manning got off to a hot start with the Giants jumping out to an early lead, but they did not score at all in the second half and lost in overtime. He completed 15-of-30 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns, which wasn’t enough.

Rookie Daniel Jones is expected to miss anywhere from two weeks to a month with his high-ankle sprain, but Giants head coach Pat Shurmur would not commit to Manning being the starter at home in Week 15 against the Miami Dolphins. While it seems likely, Manning knows it is not a guarantee. That’s why he and his wife felt her presence was important in Philly.

It’s also interesting that Manning treated Monday’s game as if it might be his last given the report we heard this week about his mindset heading into next season. However, there are no guarantees in the NFL, and Manning insists he is not going to worry about next year until the time comes to make a decision.

Reggie Wayne zings Eagles’ weak wide receivers

Reggie Wayne crying

The Philadelphia Eagles are hurting at the wide receiver position.

The Eagles entered Monday night’s overtime win over the New York Giants with just three healthy wide receivers: Alshon Jeffery, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and Greg Ward Jr. Jeffery hurt his foot early in the second quarter and didn’t have any catches. Arcega-Whiteside left in overtime with a hamstring injury.

Seeing how their receivers looked led Reggie Wayne to send this funny tweet:

Ouch.

Wayne is 41 and last played in 2014, though he still had 779 receiving yards that season. He was a six-time Pro Bowler, so we wouldn’t put it past him.

But the tweet just shows how bad of shape Philly is in. They cut Jordan Matthews and Mack Hollins, and Nelson Agholor was hurt. Now Jeffery and Arcega-Whiteside are too. They need some healthy bodies badly.

Bill Belichick distances himself from sideline videotaping allegations

Bill Belichick

If a Patriots employee took footage of the Bengals sideline during Cincinnati’s game against the Browns in Cleveland on Sunday, Bill Belichick says it was not done at the request of him or anyone else in his team’s football operations department.

On Monday, the Bengals confirmed that the NFL is investigating an “incident” that took place during their game the day before. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the confusion stemmed from the Patriots receiving permission from the Browns to have an employee in their press box filming a segment for a feature called “Do Your Job.” However, Schefter’s colleague Dianna Russini was told by a source that there was more to it than that.

According to Russini, a Bengals employee observed the Patriots’ videographer recording the Cincinnati sideline for the entire first quarter. When confronted, the videographer reportedly asked if he could just delete the footage so everyone could move on.

Belichick has already responded to the reports. He told WEEI on Monday evening that the football operations department has “absolutely nothing to do with the production people.”

Belichick also said the Patriots “know what the rules are and are in 100 percent compliance with them.”

The Patriots later issued a statement about the matter.

“On Sunday, Dec. 8, the content team sent a three-person video crew to the Bengals-Browns game at FirstEnergy Stadium in order to capture one part of a longer feature on the Patriots scouting department, in this case a Patriots pro personnel scout while he was working in the press box,” the statement from the team said. “While we sought and were granted credentialed access from the Cleveland Browns for the video crew, our failure to inform the Bengals and the League was an unintended oversight. In addition to filming the scout, the production crew — without specific knowledge of League rules — inappropriately filmed the field from the press box. The sole purpose of the filming was to provide an illustration of an advance scout at work on the road. There was no intention of using the footage for any other purpose. We understand and acknowledge that our video crew, which included independent contractors who shot the video, unknowingly violated a league policy by filming the field and sideline from the press box.”

You can certainly understand why people would be hesitant to give the Pats the benefit of the doubt, but that was an awfully quick denial from Belichick. If he was knowingly doing something wrong, it seems more likely that he would have taken some time to think about how he was going to address the situation. Plus, would he really be that dumb after all that has gone on with Spygate and Deflategate?

So what might have happened? We obviously need more information, but let’s say the report about the videographer recording the Bengals’ sideline is true. Perhaps the staffer was there to film for an entirely different reason and saw an opportunity. The fact that he allegedly asked for the footage to be deleted could imply that he knew he did something wrong that he wasn’t instructed to do and was trying to save his own you-know-what. Maybe he saw how easy it was to film Cincinnati’s sideline and wanted to take the footage to Belichick and say, “Coach, you’ll never believe what I got!”

This is all speculation, but it’s hard to believe the Patriots would risk filming a lowly opponent like the Bengals. We know teams go to extreme measures in an attempt to prevent Belichick’s team from getting inside information on them, but something about the latest incident doesn’t add up.

Report: Patriots’ documentary videographer recorded Bengals sideline for entire quarter

New England Patriots

While details are still murky regarding the strangeness surrounding a New England Patriots video crew and the Cincinnati Bengals, new reporting suggests that something fishy may have been going on.

According to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, a Bengals employee observing the Patriots videographer noted that the cameraman recorded the Cincinnati sideline for the entire first quarter during Sunday’s game.

At that point, the Bengals alerted security, who interviewed the cameraman. He asked if he could simply delete the footage.

It has been reported that the Patriots’ crew was simply doing work for an episode of the team’s in-house “Do Your Job” series that was profiling one of their pro scouts. That doesn’t really explain why they’d need a camera fixated on the Cincinnati sideline, especially with their upcoming game against the Bengals. The most cynical explanation would be that the Patriots exploited the credential process to spy on the Bengals, but it seems hard to believe they would be that brazen.

The reality? Rival teams do not trust the Patriots. Something like this is fertile ground for conspiracy theories, and those are going to continue until we get a bit more clarity about what happened here.

49ers starting center Weston Richburg out for season with knee injury

49ers logo

The San Francisco 49ers saw some of their key players go down with injuries during Sunday’s thrilling win over the New Orleans Saints, and the one starting center Weston Richburg suffered is unfortunately very serious.

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Monday that Richburg suffered a torn patellar tendon and will miss the remainder of the season

That is a huge blow for the 49ers, as Richburg had started all 13 games for them at center this year after making 15 starts last season. He’s a big reason why San Francisco has gotten such stellar offensive line play this year and ranks second in the NFL with 149.1 passing yards per game.

Shanahan also confirmed that Richard Sherman has a hamstring strain and will miss a couple of weeks.

The Niners beat the Saints 48-46 on Sunday thanks in part to a crucial penalty late in the game, and they solidified their spot at the top of the NFC in the process. Their depth will now be tested down the stretch with Richburg out.