Pats need more motivation like Brady needs another dimple Print
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Saturday, 02 February 2008 09:23
NFL Headline News

 PHOENIX (AP) -It can't be coincidence that one of Bill Belichick's favorite movies is ``The Bourne Identity.''
The spy thriller begins when Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon, is found floating in the Mediterranean with two bullets in his back. He's rescued by fishermen on an Italian trawler and spends the rest of the movie trying to figure out who he is and why so many of the people he runs across - all dispatched by his former boss, a shadowy CIA chief named Conklin - are trying to kill him.
Belichick expressed his admiration for the movie early on in Super Bowl week, along with the less revealing fact that his favorite late-night snack is ``anything with salt.''
Even that tidbit could turn out to be fortuitous, though, since so many people still seem interested in rubbing salt in what Belichick and the Patriots consider an old wound - the sideline spying scandal that erupted in Week 1 of the regular season.
``I think there is a big question mark over it,'' Sen. Arlen Specter said Friday, threatening to hold congressional hearings into the nearly 5-month-old incident. ``You've had a determination that they stole the signals. You know that. I don't think the fines amount to a whole lot. ... I don't think the penalties amount to much, frankly.
``I want to know what the truth is,'' he added, ``what the facts are.''
Forgive NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for thinking the matter ended when he destroyed all the notes and videotapes provided by the team - that, after lightening Belichick's pay envelope with an unprecedented $500,000 fine, making him write an apology and then taking a first-round pick and another $250,000 from the New England organization.
``It sent a loud message to not only the Patriots, but every NFL team that you should follow the rules,'' Goodell replied to the first question asked during his state-of-the-league news conference Friday. ``I think what they did this season was certainly done within the rules on a level playing field.
``Of course,'' he added a moment later, ``I am willing to meet with the senator. I think there are very good explanations for why I destroyed the tapes or had them destroyed by our staff. They were totally consistent with what the team told me.''
My take on this hasn't changed since the Patriots got caught red-handed. Belichick may be monumentally arrogant or insecure, or both, but he's no fool. Whatever advantage his Patriots gained by stealing signals in their opener against the Jets, or in games before that, you can bet they took that extra video camera back to Circuit City soon after the little chat with the commissioner. Yet, they've only gotten better.
I still wish Goodell had whacked Belichick with a one-game suspension. That would have made the point much more effectively, perhaps even derailing the Patriots' quest for a perfect season somewhere along the way.
But the ball has already been snapped on that one. And if Specter's motivation is to pander to fans still upset that New England whipped his home-state Philadelphia Eagles in the 2005 Super Bowl, it's long past the time to get over it.
Every other team in the NFL has been stealing signals for as long as they've been in use. If Goodell is satisfied the Patriots are back to stealing them the same way everybody else does, that's good enough for me.
``I'm not sure there's a coach in the league that doesn't expect that their signals are being intercepted by opposing teams,'' Goodell said, then backed himself up by quoting two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells: ``Any coach that doesn't expect his signals to be stolen is stupid.''
Told Specter wanted assurances that New England's Super Bowl win in 2005 wasn't tainted, Goodell added: ``Coaches prepare for people being able to intercept their signals and they make modifications and changes. (Philadelphia coach) Andy Reid is a very smart coach and I'm sure he did the same.''
Another thing I wrote at the time seems just as relevant on the eve of the game. The Patriots already have the league's smartest coach, best quarterback, shrewdest player-personnel department and a deep-pocketed owner. They needed more motivation to win this game like Tom Brady needed another dimple in his chin.
But now, thanks to Specter, they've got it.
Earlier this week, when it seemed like ``Spygate'' was still a fading memory, the Patriots came off almost warm and fuzzy. As noted above, Belichick was willing to submit himself to one silly line of questioning after another, as opposed to earlier in the season, when he hid in a bunker plotting how to score late, meaningless touchdowns against any coach or team who dared go public with speculation that any or all of New England's wins might be tainted.
If anybody has a right to be outraged by all this, it's probably the New York Giants. Because like his hero, Belichick is back in touch with all that anger and ready to punish all those people taking potshots at him.
``I swear to God, if I even feel somebody behind me,'' Jason Bourne says near the end of the movie, ``there is no measure to how fast and how hard I will bring this fight to your doorstep.''
Unfortunately, the Giants happen to be standing on that threshold.
---
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitkeap.org
 

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