Monday, September 17, 2007

Patriots have to turn over tapes? Uh, OK...

From Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column (of which I am, as a general rule, a big fan):
If he thinks the Patriots are pulling some sort of Rose Mary Woods and erasing video or withholding the video he's asked New England to provide, he could easily increase the penalty on the hooded one. Goodell wants all coaching video made available to him, and if the Pats don't cooperate, he'll increase the penalty...This week, the Patriots will have to make available all the tape the NFL demands to see. How much tape is that? It could be boxes and boxes. I have no idea how Goodell can be sure he's getting it all, and I have no idea how he can figure out whether Belichick is hiding any illicit tape he's had his video guys shoot over the past seven years, if indeed there is some. I'm dubious about the chances of Goodell finding anything else wrong, but we'll see.

Let's get real for a minute. The Patriots may have "boxes and boxes" of tape, but that's not where their video is. (This is something that I know a little bit about.) They've got, somewhere on their premises, a video capture/editing/playback system. When their video comes in on Sunday, Monday, whenever, it is immediately loaded into the system. The files are chopped up, tagged with keywords, players, teams, coaches, down and distance, and the tape is maybe archived, and maybe used again. But the data is stored as computer files, in a system with a big database that allows them to pull out whatever they want based on specific criteria. Want to see every third down play that the Colts have run in the last five years from between their own 30 yard line and midfield? No problem.

And those files aren't just in the massive storage system on-site. They're certainly archived and backed up off-site, as well, with Iron Mountain or someone. In other words, all of that sideline footage (and it certainly exists, probably for every game that they've played since Belichick arrived) is going to be very hard to purge. This isn't a case of pulling the cardboard box out of the closet and hauling it away. This stuff is integrated, and if/when they delete it from the database, it will still exist in the archives.

In other words, erasing video is exactly what the NFL is going to want them to do. And it won't be easy, or quick. As to "withholding," what would they withhold? There's no question that they've been recording sideline signals, the NFL knows it, the Patriots know that the NFL knows it, hell, Belichick tried to justify it (reportedly) to the commissioner last week. What could possibly be gained by not just showing them all of the sideline video that everyone already knows they have?

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