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Patriots apologize for ‘unknowingly violating league policy’ by filming the Bengals’ field

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That should clear things right up, right?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

If you got that 2:30-on-a Monday-afternoon feeling and hopped on the ol’ Internet instead of putting new cover sheets on your TPS reports, you got in just in time to see what was looking like the shortest-lived scandal in Patriots history. Beginning to end, the whole controversy about someone from the Patriots allegedly taping in violation of league rules at the Bengals-Browns game on Sunday appeared to be over in roughly the same amount of time that you need to cook a take-and-bake pizza:

Here’s what Matt’s referring to: ESPN’s Diana Russini reporting that there was a question at Bengals’ coach Zac Taylor’s press conference where he answered a seemingly random question about the Patriots videotaping their play calls (couldn’t we have at least waited till Throwback Thursday for this?)

And here’s the follow-up, with NESN’s Doug Kyed and the NFL’s usual cast of useful idiots insiders all reporting the same thing: yes, someone from the Patriots was filming, but it was for that Do Your Job series they’ve been doing all year, with no issues until just now.

And then right around halftime in Monday Night Football, the Patriots, who had been quiet on the matter all day long, dropped this apology on Twitter and the team’s official site. TL;DR - someone on the production crew F’ed up.

The full version:

“For the past year, the New England Patriots content team has produced a series of behind-the scenes features on various departments within the organization. The seven previous “Do Your Job” episodes are archived on patriots.com. On Sunday, Dec. 8, the content team sent a three-person video crew to the Bengals-Browns game at FirstEnergy Stadium in order to capture one part of a longer feature on the Patriots scouting department, in this case a Patriots pro personnel scout while he was working in the press box.

While we sought and were granted credentialed access from the Cleveland Browns for the video crew, our failure to inform the Bengals and the League was an unintended oversight. In addition to filming the scout, the production crew – without specific knowledge of League rules – inappropriately filmed the field from the press box. The sole purpose of the filming was to provide an illustration of an advance scout at work on the road. There was no intention of using the footage for any other purpose. We understand and acknowledge that our video crew, which included independent contractors who shot the video, unknowingly violated a league policy by filming the field and sideline from the press box. When questioned, the crew immediately turned over all footage to the league and cooperated fully.

The production crew is independent of our football operation. While aware that one of the scouts was being profiled for a “Do Your Job” episode, our football staff had no other involvement whatsoever in the planning, filming or creative decisions made during the production of these features.

We accept full responsibility for the actions of our production crew at the Browns-Bengals game.”

And now the NFL finds themselves in the unenviable position of having to decide between letting what the team says was an honest mistake slide, and being accused of going easy on the team everybody loves to hate, or coming down hard to “send a message” like they did in 2007 when they docked New England’s first-round pick because it would (Goodell’s words, not mine) “....have a longer-lasting impact on the franchise”.

On the other hand, at least we’re back to talking about the Patriots cheating instead of Antonio Brown.

UPDATE (10:30pm EST): Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann predicts there will be a fine from the league.