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Patriots film crew has them sleepless in Cincinnati

New England Patriots

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

You would think after all these years, all the controversies they’ve dealt with in the past, the New England Patriots would bend over backward to avoid even the perception they’re doing anything surreptitiously to gain an advantage.

But that does not appear to be the Patriots way. And that’s the reason so many fans outside their domain wish Ton Brady and Bill Belichick would stub a toe on their way to another championship.

What is it this time, guys?

Glad you asked: On Tuesday, Belichick had to deny he had any involvement or bad intentions after the organization arranged for a videographer to tape the sideline of the Cincinnati Bengals during their loss on Sunday in Cleveland.

You’ll recall the Patriots were up to no good in 2007 when “Spygate” became a part of the sports lexicon. That’s when Belichick was fined $500,000 and the Patriots lost a first-round pick in that year’s draft when a team employee was caught recording unauthorized footage of the Packers and Jets.

Ever since that happened, the league’s teams have been paying special attention to the Patriots – just to make sure nothing like it ever happens again.

New England’s problem this time was the Bengals noticed someone suspicious filming them from the press box and immediately thought the worst – the sinister Patriots were at it again.

“We’re competitive and we’ll try to be competitive in every area,” Belichick said during a conference call with Cincinnati media Tuesday morning. “But we don’t knowingly, intentionally want to do anything that’s across the line.

“But since that’s (Spygate) happened, I’d say we’ve tried to keep a good distance behind the line and not maybe take it as far as we would might have in the past. But it’s never really fundamentally changed there.”

Here’s our problem with all of this: Even though Belichick said he had nothing to do with it, the team did confirm someone was taking footage of the Bengals on the field and the sideline.

Who other than Belichick would have the power and authority to sanction that type of surveillance? Apparently, New England’s marketing and communications department who hired an independent video crew to shoot footage for a documentary.

Of course, Belichick should have known the cameras were there and the only reason the Patriots admitted it was because they got caught with their hoodie down.

Just in case you haven’t already guessed, the Patriots play at Cincinnati on Sunday. The Bengals are 1-12. Do you think the Patriots need any inside information to handle them?

The Patriots explanation for this was one of their own advance scouts was being filmed for a series on employees being featured on their website, something called “Do Your Job.”

The film crew received a credential from the Browns to be there. But no one from the Patriots bothered to inform the Bengals – or Belichick, apparently – about its intention to shoot their sideline.

According to ESPN, a Bengals employee eyed them filming Cincinnati’s sideline throughout the first quarter and freaked out. The employee immediately sought out the Bengals communication staff and team security.

What would you have expected that person to think?

Did the Patriots media personnel think the film crew wouldn’t arouse suspicion? Do you think it would have been a good idea for someone to inform the Bengals about what was going on so no one would get all uptight about it?

Bill Belichick

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

On Monday, Bengals coach Zac Taylor said what you’d expect him to say, that his team had asked the NFL to look into it. Later in the day, the Pats announced they’d turn over all the footage to the league and essentially apologized for their conduct.

The Athletic quoted a source on Tuesday saying the tape included eight minutes of footage of the Bengals sideline and everything that goes on their during a game.

Opposing teams aren’t allowed to video an opposing team’s sideline during a game. Everybody knows that.

“I would say I’d keep that between us and the Bengals,” Belichick when asked if he’d spoken to anyone in the Bengals organization.

The Patriots also said the production crew was not affiliated with their organization in any way.

“All of our scouts, all of our video people and everything, they know what that is,” Belichick said. “Again, I have nothing to do with the TV production shows and stuff like that. I have no idea what they do. Or what their projects are and everything else.

“As I understand it, they were videotaping him, trying to show kind of what an advance scout does, or something Iike that, I don’t know. You’ll have to wait to see the show I guess and see how it’s presented.”

We’d imagine someone from the Patriots media department will be asked to see Belichick today. And that won’t be a pleasant conversation.