PHOENIX (AP) – Spygate won’t go away.

Roger Goodell defended his decision to destroy notes and videotapes linked to the New England Patriots’ cheating scandal Friday, a day after Sen. Arlen Specter asked why the NFL commissioner trashed the evidence.

“The action that we took was decisive and it was unprecedented,” Goodell said during his State of the NFL address, an annual news conference at the Super Bowl.

“I believe it was helpful in making sure our instructions were followed closely by not only the Patriots, but also by every other team. I think it was the appropriate thing to do. Our discipline sent a loud message …”

Specter, R-Pa., said Goodell’s explanation, “didn’t make any sense at all.”

“If they are under lock and key at the NFL headquarters, they aren’t going to be available at all,” he said in Philadelphia.

But Goodell said a copy of one of six tapes made either in 2006 or during the 2007 preseason had, indeed, made its way to the media before all the tapes were destroyed.

“They may have collected it within the rules, but we couldn’t determine that. So we felt that it should be destroyed,” he said.

Goodell fined coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and docked the team $250,000 and a first-round draft pick. It was the biggest fine ever for a coach and the first time in NFL history a first-round draft pick has figured in a penalty.

Specter also wondered just how much information the Patriots were collecting on those tapes.

“They talked about defensive signals and don’t say if there was any taping or stealing of offensive signals,” he said. “The fine was for the totality of the circumstances, not just the taping. Well, wait a minute, what else is involved here?”

Spygate has touched a nerve with nearly everyone who follows the NFL and easily was the most prominent topic during Goodell’s address two days before the undefeated Patriots meet the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. He was asked about it a half-dozen times, from the first question until the last.

“The actual effectiveness of taping and taking of signals from opponents – it is something done widely in many sports. I think it probably had limited, if any effect, on the outcome of games,” he said. “That doesn’t change my perspective on violating rules and the need to be punished.”

NFL security confiscated a video camera and tape from a Patriots employee during New England’s 38-14 victory over the New York Jets in the season opener. The employee was accused of aiming his camera at the Jets’ defensive coaches as they signaled to players on the field.

Congress is interested because, according to Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the issue could put the league’s antitrust exemption at risk.

“I do believe that it is a matter of importance,” Specter said. “It’s not going to displace the stimulus package or the Iraq war, but I think the integrity of football is very important, and I think the National Football League has a special duty to the American people – and further the Congress – because they have an antitrust exemption.”

Though Spygate was the main topic, Goodell also said:

-The New Orleans Saints will host the San Diego Chargers at Wembley Stadium in London on Oct. 26 in the latest international game. He noted that many franchises were interested in playing in that game.

“Maybe part of it was because the Giants went last year and now they’re in the Super Bowl, so maybe they think there’s a connection,” Goodell said, prompting laughter.

-The league approved the Buffalo Bills’ plan to play a regular-season game in Toronto in each of the next five seasons, plus a preseason game in Canada every other year.

-For the first time in years, the league is considering revamping seedings in the playoffs to assure that more late-season games are meaningful. That could lead to a wild-card team actually hosting a first-round game if it has a better record than the division winner it is meeting.

Goodell admitted concern that some teams had virtually nothing to play for toward the end of the schedule.

“The incentive should be for every team to win as many games as possible,” he said. “We are going to look into the potential of seeding our teams differently after they qualify for the playoffs, so that you could potentially make more of the regular-season games have significance for the postseason.”

-There is no timetable for testing of human growth hormone in the NFL. The league has given anti-doping researcher Don Catlin $500,000 to look into an HGH urine test, and also invested $3 million with the USOC to be used for anti-doping research.

“It’s not at a point where there’s a valid test that is widely distributed that we can use, that we can be comfortable with,” Goodell said. “I don’t think there’s a significant amount of HGH use, but I have no factual basis for saying that.”

-He was confident owners and the NFL Players Association can make progress toward extending or revamping the collective bargaining agreement, which runs through 2010. Both sides can opt out of the deal in November, which would lead to no salary cap for the 2010 season.

-Violations of the player conduct policy decreased by 20 percent, including a large reduction among rookies. He also emphasized that the league, in the wake of the death of Sean Taylor and three other 24-year-old players, is doing “everything we can to educate players on simple things they can do to protect themselves and their families. They are celebrities.”



Sports Writer Bob Lentz in Philadelphia contributed to this story.

AP-ES-02-01-08 1916EST


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