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Tape of 49ers' practice draws $50K fines for Broncos, McDaniels

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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The NFL fined the Denver Broncos and coach Josh McDaniels $50,000 each after the team's video operations director violated league rules by videotaping a six-minute portion of the San Francisco 49ers' Oct. 30 practice in London.

The Broncos and NFL made the announcement Saturday, nearly one month after the 49ers' 24-16 victory on Oct. 31 at Wembley Stadium.

The Broncos informed the NFL that Steve Scarnecchia filmed part of the 49ers' walk-through and presented the video that day to McDaniels, who declined to view it. However, McDaniels was fined because he failed to report the incident as required by league policy.

"I apologize for not reporting the improper conduct of our video director that took place on Saturday (Oct. 30) in London before our game against the San Francisco 49ers," McDaniels told reporters during a news conference Saturday. "I found out about the situation that day. We certainly did not view or do anything with the footage, and he was made aware that it was something we didn't condone in our organization. I failed to follow through and report it to the proper individuals in our organization and with the league.

"This incident is in no way representative of what the Broncos stand for, and in no way representative of what I stand for as the head coach of this organization -- and for that, I take responsibility. I understand the punishment that the league has handed me and our team, and we have addressed this situation with our entire organization to make sure nothing like this ever happens again."

McDaniels said he spoke with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday morning.

"We understand that it is not only our job individually, but as an organization, to uphold the integrity of the National Football League by what we do every day, and this certainly was not a good example of that," McDaniels said. "We don't condone this type of activity -- don't teach it, coach it and nor would we ever in the future. It was an isolated situation, an unfortunate situation, and again, I reiterate my sincere apology to (Broncos owner) Pat (Bowlen), this entire Broncos organization and all the people that support us."

The Broncos also were fined because they are responsible for their employees' actions.

"The Denver Broncos and I, as the owner, believe in the integrity of the National Football League and fair competition and do not, in any way, condone this type of behavior," Bowlen said in a statement. "The fact that an employee of the Denver Broncos would take such action is personally disappointing to me. I apologize to all affected by this incident. ...

"This incident cuts into the trust and respect our fans, our ticket holders, our community and our fellow competitors have for our organization. That is why the Denver Broncos, upon learning of this violation, immediately investigated this matter and reported the incident to the league."

The Broncos fired Scarnecchia, who remain involved with the team until mid-November before going on a leave of absence. Also, Goodell notified Scarnecchia that, as a repeat violator of rules relating to the integrity of the game, he faces a hearing to determine whether or not he should be barred from the league.

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An Associated Press call to a listing for Scarnecchia went to a voice message that said the mailbox was full.

Scarnecchia and McDaniels previously worked for the New England Patriots, who were found to have videotaped New York Jets coaches sending in signals during a game in 2007.

The league's investigation determined New England had violated rules over several seasons. Scarnecchia, who was a Jets employee when the Patriots were penalized, worked for New England between 2001 and 2005. He was found to have participated in the videotaping when he worked for the Patriots in the early 2000s.

The NFL bans such videotaping and issued $750,000 in fines against the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots also were stripped of their 2008 first-round draft pick.

McDaniels, who worked in New England from 2001 to 2009, hired Scarnecchia in Denver shortly after becoming the Broncos' coach 22 months ago.

Broncos chief operating officer Joe Ellis said the team was aware that Scarnecchia had been involved in the Patriots' videotaping, but not the specifics, when it hired him.

"He knew full well what was expected from him in terms of the types of behavior we would expect out of him, what Josh stood for, what Mr. Bowlen stood for, what the Denver Broncos stood for, how we conducted ourselves," Ellis said on a conference call with reporters. "It's disappointing that he chose the wrong path when he was in London, but he was fully aware of the standards here."

Ellis and NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash, who also appeared on the call, said McDaniels wasn't involved with the Patriots' videotaping.

According to Ellis, the Broncos promptly notified the NFL after their executives learned of the violation. However, he declined to reveal how they became aware.

"The Denver Broncos, their ownership, and their executives had their moral compass pointed in the right direction. They followed the rules," said Pash, who added: "I think they've set an example as to how incidents of this type are properly handled."

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Ellis said the Broncos fully accepted the discipline imposed on the organization and McDaniels.

"I stand by the fact that this particular incident has been handled the right way," he said. "We're not proud of it, but we feel we've cooperated fairly and appropriately throughout the course of the investigation, both on our own and then with the league. ... You know, it goes against the grain of what Pat Bowlen stands for in his 27 years as owner of this team. He's disappointed. He's embarrassed. But he's allowed this investigation to take place. He brought it forward to the league."

Ellis also said the incident wasn't viewed by Bowlen or the organization as grounds for firing McDaniels. But Ellis acknowledged that "Josh should have come forward as soon as he found out."

"We're disappointed with the season as it's gone thus far, but we have six games left to play," Ellis said. "This particular incident that one employee took advantage of does not sway Mr. Bowlen's feelings about Josh one way or the other."

Ellis emphasized that the organization's internal investigation didn't find evidence of a cover-up.

"I believe what has come out is what is true," he said.

Pash pointed out that if the league unearths evidence of additional violations, Goodell would immediately reopen the investigation, with the potential for further discipline.

According to Pash, the investigation revealed that the practice footage was housed on a single laptop.

"We did the forensic analysis on several laptops, I think just to find out if it had been copied and perhaps displayed elsewhere," Pash said. "I don't believe that we could tell whether the video had been played or not, but we could tell that it had been copied onto a laptop at one point."

The NFL determined that Broncos executives were made aware of the videotaping Nov. 8 and told the league about it four days later after an internal review. On Nov. 16, Bowlen and Broncos executives met with league officials in New York.

After that meeting, NFL Security began its investigation, which included interviews of Broncos personnel Nov. 18 and 19 and an analysis of laptop computers used by the team's video department. It was confirmed the 49ers' practice had been recorded, and the league retained that tape.

Ellis said Broncos officials had contacted their counterparts in San Francisco. The 49ers released a statement, saying the team had no comment.

"I don't really care about that stuff, seriously," 49ers coach Mike Singletary told reporters Saturday. "It didn't affect us. Let's just move on."

Scarnecchia acknowledged to NFL investigators that he taped the walk-through, according to excerpts from Goodell's letter to Bowlen.

Goodell's letter stated that Scarnecchia maintained he hadn't previously recorded a walk-through or other practice or "engaged in any other improper videotaping (such as recording coaching signals of an opposing team) since joining the Broncos."

The letter also said Scarnecchia "knew that what he did in London was wrong," that taping the walk-through was his decision alone and nobody instructed him to record the practice.

In addition, the investigation found that when Scarnecchia offered to show the tape to McDaniels, the coach replied, "No, I'm not doing that." Scarnecchia said he didn't show the tape to any other staff member.

Goodell's letter to Bowlen stated that McDaniels was interviewed "under circumstances that would have made it impossible for him to have spoken to Mr. Scarnecchia in advance" and that the coach's recollection of events matched Scarnecchia's.

"Although I find no fault with the way the club handled this matter once you and your executives became aware of it, I nonetheless believe that some penalty must be imposed," Goodell wrote. "We have no more important responsibility than preserving the integrity and competitive fairness of the game and avoiding any implication that games are decided by anything other than what takes place on the field."

The letter added: "This appears to be a single incident by an employee who acted entirely on his own; there was no competitive effect; and, most importantly, the Broncos promptly took the initiative to report the violation. Had any of those factors not been present, I would have almost certainly imposed much more substantial discipline on the club."

But, Goodell added, "clubs are ultimately accountable for the conduct of their employees."

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Goodell said that while McDaniels "apparently declined to look at the tape, I also believe that he should have immediately advised you or one of your senior executives when he learned what Mr. Scarnecchia had done."

Goodell cited a policy in which team executives, head coaches and others are obliged to promptly report violations tied to the integrity of the game. The commissioner said a "significant number of club employees" have certified in writing they are aware of no further violations of the policy.

The fines are the latest embarrassment for a Broncos team that has lost 15 of 20 games for the first time since 1971 and 1972. The Broncos were blown out 59-14 by the archrival Oakland Raiders last month in what many consider the worst home loss in the team's 51-year history.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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