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NFL: Herald apologizes to Pats

By Howard Ullman
Associated Press
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. ó New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft complimented the Boston Herald on Wednesday for apologizing for a story that said his team videotaped a St. Louis Rams walkthrough before the 2002 Super Bowl.
He’s “very disappointed,” though, that the newspaper “wrote a story that was completely false and unsubstantiated,” Kraft said in an interview with The Associated Press.
He also said he doesn’t know why former New England video assistant Matt Walsh didn’t refute the story soon after it came out on Feb. 2, the day before the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants, 17-14, ruining their quest for an unbeaten season.
“I must compliment the Boston Herald for doing what is unprecedented in terms of recognizing their error in a major way,” Kraft said. “I’m really delighted with that, but I wish it never happened.”
The apology came a day after a meeting between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Walsh produced no major revelations about the team’s taping procedures.
“I think I speak for all Patriot fans,” Kraft said. “We’re relieved that this is over and you see that this is nonsense and we were unfairly accused and we’re moving on.”
Kraft spoke by telephone before Sen. Arlen Specter said in Washington that he wants an independent investigation of the Patriots’ taping of opposing coaches’ signals similar to the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
Walsh told Goodell he did not tape the walkthrough and had no knowledge that any other Patriots employees did so, Goodell said.
Goodell fined coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000 and took away a first-round draft pick this year after an investigation found the Patriots violated league rules by taping New York Jets coaches on the sideline during the season opener.
Kraft said he didn’t think the investigation that began then would leave a lasting stain on the club.
“I was unhappy with what transpired in the fall, the actions of some of our employees, and we were penalized severely for that,” he said. “We said back in September that we had disclosed all of our actions as an organization to the league. You can see this is true.’
“The erroneous story really led to a second round of inquisitions after September, and it really was a distraction. The sad part (is) that it took away from an 18-0 Super Bowl season.”
The Herald’s story cited unidentified sources.
“For 31/2 months that story has hung out there like a cloud and we denied it right up front,” Kraft said. “When the reporter called Stacey James with the story, he said it’s completely false and unsubstantiated.”
In the apology, published in the newspaper’s Wednesday edition and posted on its Web site, the Herald said the story was based on sources “it believed to be credible.”
“We now know that this report was false, and that no tape of the walkthrough ever existed,” the paper wrote.
“We should not have published the allegation in the absence of firmer verification.”
The newspaper featured a front-page headline reading “Sorry, Pats” next to a the Lombardi Trophy that goes to Super Bowl winners. It placed the three-paragraph apology on the back inside page of the newspaper.
The backpage headline said, “Our mistake”.
“I’m glad they stepped up and admitted their error and are doing the best they can to put it behind them,” Kraft said.

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