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With no smoking gun, meeting results in anticlimactic end to scandal

NEW YORK -- Matt Walsh swept into the National Football League offices, talked with Commissioner Roger Goodell for more than three hours, was whisked to a black sedan afterward by his attorney and then waited.

And waited.

Cameras were clicking inches from the car windows, peering inside where Walsh sat. He is a thin, lean wisp of a guy and looked dazed -- yet serene -- before he entered the backseat of the sedan. He looked ready to bolt. Ready to bounce.

But he waited.

The car could barely move an inch from in front of the NFL offices. New York traffic often ensnarls the pressed, the rushed, the masses. Walsh was boxed in, at the mercy of the photographers and TV cameramen. No quick exit. No quick mercy.

Sort of like the way his meeting went with Goodell.

Here Walsh was finally on Park Avenue, ready to spill it, and the expectations were that he could push the story surrounding the Patriots' videotaping scandal farther. Much farther. Walsh supposedly had smoking guns. In this instance, he supposedly had pictures, video, worth more than a million words.

In the end, though, no video of a RamsSuper Bowl walkthrough.

No evidence of bugged locker rooms.

No manipulation of communication systems.

No crowd noise shenanigans.

No audio of live quarterback play-calling.

By the time Goodell reviewed his list of what was not there, of what Walsh could not corroborate, of what the Patriots had been charged and rumored to have clandestinely accomplished, the result was more fizz than sizzle.

Walsh told Goodell the Patriots players scalped eight to 12 Super Bowl tickets over two years. Walsh said they used a player on injured-reserve in a practice.

Goodell said thank you very much. We will investigate.

And you just heard the door shut on this story.

It's over and it should be over. Goodell said correctly, if even in exasperation, "I don't know where else I could turn."

Basically, the videotaping scandal turned into a coronation of the worst of Bill Belichick, and that's about it. It revealed that Belichick uncovers several stones -- including illegally taping other team's signals -- in his preparation. It showed that Belichick likely lied about his interpretation of the rules and why he did it (even Goodell admitted he never bought Belichick's explanation then, or now, that the coach thought he could tape the signals but simply not use them in that game).

Unless a new source or new information comes forth, this story is cooked.

Oh, and another thing about Belichick.

Goodell said that Walsh referred to Belichick as "The man behind the curtain."


Belichick brought the integrity of the Patriots and the validity of their three Super Bowl championships under question. He took the focus off the players' accomplishments and onto a seedier side of football. He and the Patriots suffered league-record fines and lost a first-round draft pick. He was initially cocky and arrogant about it.

But what Walsh did here today was reveal that for all of Belichick's misdeeds, he was not the cheater-driven coach that he has been portrayed. That his sins were real but did not run as deeply as advertised.

That means plenty to the Patriots family. To Patriots ownership.

This day could have been a complete disaster.

Only a few weeks ago at the NFL annual meeting in West Palm Beach, Fla., Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft stood and apologized to their peers for this scandal. The response was applause.

</center>![]( back in 2000, hitting its nadir in 2007 and continuing well into 2008, the 
Patriots' videotaping scandal reaches a climatic moment Tuesday when former 
Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh meets with Commissioner Roger Goodell. Here is 
 a complete timeline of the events surrounding the controversy. 

Imagine the fallout had Walsh delivered something more dangerous, more devilish?

Everyone in the Patriots organization just exhaled.

Every Patriots fan, too. Every high-ranking league official.

Actually, we all can. And let it go.

This story wound up being more about hard-headedness and arrogance than about excessive cheating and lousy cheaters.

Walsh wound up boxed in.

Everybody left with plenty to contemplate.

Was it worth it?

The truth always is.

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