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Brett Favre says stealing signals might cross ethical line

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As a former high school baseball star, Brett Favre knows it's not unheard of for a ballplayer to sneak a peek at the signals a catcher is sending to his pitcher.

But if the New England Patriots really were using a video camera to steal opposing defensive coaches' signals - perhaps even in their game against the Packers last year - Favre said they might have gone too far.

"Can it cross the line? I'm sure it can," Favre said. "It can give you a huge advantage."

NFL security officials confiscated a camera and tape from a Patriots employee on the sidelines during New England's 38-14 victory on Sunday. The league now is investigating whether the Patriots were spying on signals from the Jets' defensive coaches.

The Packers also had an incident with a Patriots employee shooting unauthorized video during New England's 35-0 victory at Lambeau Field last November. Packers officials simply asked him to stop.

But given the current controversy, last year's incident has taken on added significance.

Favre called the sign-stealing allegations a "serious issue," one that goes above and beyond the normal scope of gamesmanship in the NFL - or sign-stealing in baseball, for that matter - mostly because of the use of technology.

"It seems different," Favre said.

Packers cornerback Al Harris was more direct in questioning the Patriots' ethics.

"When you look back, it's scary," Harris said. "I don't want to say anything wrong towards their organization, because I think highly of their coaching staff and their personnel. But if that's the case, that's not right. I would consider it cheating. I honestly would."

And New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan seemed to think the controversy could cloud the Patriots' recent success.

"It does make you wonder," Strahan said Wednesday, in a conference call with Wisconsin media members in advance of Sunday's Packers-Giants game. "You look at that situation and go, 'How much did it help, and if it did help, in what situations and what games did it help?' Because that team has won some big games. I'm not saying that stealing signals definitely did it, because they have extremely talented players. But obviously it didn't hurt if they were doing it."

Favre, who hurt his elbow during last year's Patriots-Packers game and didn't play in the second half, doesn't remember seeing anything out of the ordinary on the field.

But he does remember watching game film of the Patriots' 31-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings a few weeks earlier.

"They just were flawless," Favre said.

Almost like they knew what was coming.

Does that make Favre wonder what was really going on?

"Now? Maybe," Favre said. "Before? No."

Packers coach Mike McCarthy punted on the issue, saying he found out about the Patriots staff member after last year's game and wasn't sure if the Packers reported it to the league.

"We don't play that way," McCarthy said. "I don't know if other people do. I know the situation going on in New England, it's a league issue."

But isn't McCarthy at least a little curious as to what really happened in that game?

"We didn't play very well in that football game," McCarthy said. "All the other things that potentially went on around it, I don't really have a comment on it because I don't know the specifics of it. And to me it's kind of irrelevant, because I'm not going to sit here and talk about a game that we got beat thoroughly in and blame it on something like that."

Of course, with the Packers preparing to play the Giants this Sunday, it's likely that the Green Bay coaching staff is trying to glean as much information as possible from running back Ryan Grant, who was traded from New York to Green Bay before the season started.

So where does gamesmanship turn into cheating?

"We're playing Chicago and I hear Brian Urlacher say something, I'm thinking, 'He's trying to trick me,"' Favre said. "And (that's) no different than offense, really. Sometimes we say 'over,' and it's not an over. You try to give dummy signals and things like that. And I think that's just good competitive nature."

Favre said it would be difficult for a quarterback to steal a defensive coach's signals, mostly because he wouldn't have time in the huddle.

"Not to mention, that would be so obvious," Favre said.

Favre pantomimed a blank stare at the sidelines, then grinned and said, "Cover-2!"

But if somebody told Favre what was coming, he certainly could use it to his advantage. In fact, he sometimes does just that to his teammates in training camp.

"In practice, I hear our guys - especially early in training camp - safeties (saying), "Cover-2, Cover-2,"' Favre said, with a grin. "And, you know, OK. But from that standpoint, you're going to take advantage where you can."

But only to a point.

"Bottom line is, you still have to produce," Favre said. "OK, blitz is coming - you still have to make a good throw, you still have to block, you still have to run the route right. But there's no doubt it gives you an advantage."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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