U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) will encourage NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to offer legal protection to a former Patriots employee in hopes of discovering new evidence regarding New England's videotaping practices when they meet later today, a source within the senator's office said Wednesday.
Goodell told ESPN last week that the league "absolutely" will offer indemnification that would protect former video assistant Matt Walsh's legal exposure with the Patriots.
"That's our position and our attorneys continue to talk with Walsh's attorneys about the conditions in which he'll talk with us," said Greg Aiello, the league's vice president of public relations.
A league official clarified that the NFL's current proposal to Walsh includes a legal guarantee that he will not be sued by the league or the Patriots for any information or material he would provide to the NFL.
As Goodell said, the proposal stipulates that Walsh must be truthful and return anything he took improperly.
Walsh has had no response, according to Goodell.
A member of Specter's office said the senator recognizes that Walsh is now the "key" to whether the Patriots' video practices extended beyond taping opponents' defensive signals.
The Boston Herald has reported that the Patriots videotaped the St. Louis Rams' final walkthrough practice in the Louisiana Superdome one day prior to New England's first Super Bowl victory in 2002. Walsh was fired after that season.
Specter is "unable" to offer Walsh any indemnification, according to an aide, "because theoretically Walsh has stolen property and a confidentiality agreement with the Patriots."
The NFL could argue that any videotape belonging to the Patriots also is league property -- a position it assumed when it originally confiscated the team's videotape in the first half of the team's 2007 season opener against the New York Jets. That tape contributed to Goodell's disciplinary action, in which he fined Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000, and the Patriots also lost a first-round draft choice.
As reported by ESPN in September 2007, Belichick privately admitted to Goodell that videotaping opposing team's defensive signals had been his standard practice since he became the New England coach in 2000. Belichick argued that he believed he was within the letter of the rule, as long as he did not use the material on game day.
The commissioner rejected the interpretation, and also cited a league memo distributed prior to the start of the season that specified teams were not to engage in such practice.
Goodell is expected to brief Specter on those details in today's meeting.
Chris Mortensen is a reporter for ESPN.