Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Updated: February 21, 2:43 PM ET
Goodell 'anxious to speak' to Walsh, hoping sides are nearing deal
INDIANAPOLIS -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hopes the NFL is close to an agreement that will allow former New England Patriots employee Matt Walsh to tell the league about material he might have regarding the St. Louis Rams' walk-through before the 2002 Super Bowl.
"The lawyers are still talking and we're anxious to speak to him. We're anxious to get an agreement to get him to come forth," Goodell told the Associated Press on Wednesday before the start of the NFL combine.
"We hope to be able to talk to him shortly."
Walsh, now a golf pro in Hawaii, did video work for the Patriots when they won the first of their three Super Bowls after the 2001 season. Three weeks ago, the Boston Herald reported that an unidentified Patriots employee filmed a pregame walkthrough and that the Patriots organization denied knowledge of it. The Patriots won that Super Bowl, 20-17, in an upset against the Rams, who were two-touchdown favorites.
NFL lawyers have been meeting with Michael Levy, Walsh's Washington-based lawyer, who is seeking further protection for his client if he tells what he knows.
Levy said last week that the NFL's offer of protection "is highly conditional and still leaves Mr. Walsh vulnerable. I have asked the NFL to provide Mr. Walsh with the necessary legal protections so that he can come forward with the truth without fear of retaliation and litigation."
Goodell has said Walsh was not interviewed as part of the NFL's investigation into "Spygate," which involved the NFL confiscating tapes from a Patriots employee who recorded the New York Jets' defensive signals from the sideline during the opening game of the 2007 season.
As a result of that investigation, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, and the team was fined $250,000 and had to forfeit its 2008 first-round draft choice.
Six confiscated tapes and other documents pertaining to the Patriots' taping were subsequently destroyed by the league. Goodell has defended the destruction of the tapes.
Last week, Willie Gary, who played seven games for the Rams that season, filed suit in New Orleans accusing the Patriots of fraud, unfair trade practices and engaging in a "pattern of racketeering." Three fans joined in the suit.
On Tuesday, Hugh Campbell, the Cincinnati lawyer who filed Gary's suit, said he wanted to add at least two new classes to the action: all employees and players of all NFL teams who were illegally videotaped by the Patriots, plus all fans who bought tickets to any game that the Patriots illegally taped. He also said he wanted to join efforts with Sen. Arlen Specter, R.-Pa., who also is looking into the allegations.
Goodell and Specter met last week in Washington.
Specter told The Associated Press on Wednesday that if Walsh is under subpoena in a suit, it might solve the problem of protection.
"I think now that the lawsuits have been started, that I got the ball rolling, and the plaintiffs' lawyers are picking it up," Specter said.