Patriots

Bill Belichick responds to Bengals' videotaping allegations against Patriots

Bill Belichick responds to Bengals' videotaping allegations against Patriots

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has responded to the Bengals' allegations of a Pats staffer videotaping the Cincinnati sideline during its Week 14 road game versus the Browns.

As NBC Sports Boston's own Tom E. Curran reported, Kraft Sports Productions was in the Cleveland press box producing content for Patriots.com's “Do Your Job” series. Belichick noted that in his Monday appearance on WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni & Fauria" and vehemently denied the team's involvement.

"Yeah, I heard about this and evidently this is the production people on the TV show that were there and I have absolutely nothing to do, we have absolutely nothing to do with anything that they produce or direct or shoot," Belichick said.

"I have never even seen any of their tapes of anything else. This is something that we 100 percent have zero involvement with. This is something that you'd have to talk to the production people about and what they were doing, or whatever it was. We have never seen anything that they've shot, other than what has come down on TV."

The NFL is investigating the situation, according to Bengals head coach Zac Taylor.

The Patriots (10-3) will visit the Bengals (1-12) in a Week 15 matchup on Sunday.

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Patriots 2020 NFL free agency primer: Answers at tight end available in free agency

Patriots 2020 NFL free agency primer: Answers at tight end available in free agency

Editor's Note: Phil Perry will be taking an in-depth look at each of the Patriots' position groups between now and when the NFL's 2020 free agency period begins, spotlighting the current roster and what names might be available on the market.

Arguably the weakest tight end group in the NFL, the Patriots got little production from the trio of Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo for much of the year — both as receivers and run-blockers. After featuring a Hall of Famer at that position for the previous decade in Rob Gronkowski, it was a steep drop-off in terms of the performance here.

All three options missed time while hurt, and Watson was suspended the first four games of the year. None cracked 200 yards receiving. They combined for two touchdowns. They held the No. 56 (LaCosse), 96 (Watson) and 130 (Izzo) spots among run-blockers at the position in 2019, per Pro Football Focus.

Watson has announced he'll retire, but both Izzo and LaCosse are both on the roster for 2020. Still, this position needs addressing maybe more so than any other on the roster. 

PLAYER-BY-PLAYER LOWDOWN

Matt LaCosse: Signed on Day 1 of free agency last March, LaCosse never seemed to fully get his legs under him in the Patriots offense. He missed the season-opener injured and played just two games before the Patriots bye. He caught six passes in the team's final four games. The Patriots could release him and save over $1 million against the cap with just $150,000 of dead money counting toward their books.

Ryan Izzo: The second-year tight end out of Florida State took a red-shirt year in 2018 and played in six games last season. He was targeted nine times, caught six passes and scored once in Washington. He's under contract through 2021.

Ben Watson: Watson's year got off to a rocky start as he was released before he could be activated off of the suspended list. A week later, he was signed to try to provide the Patriots passing game with a bit of a boost. With LaCosse injured and Izzo the only occasional contributor, the position was in dire need. In Week 11 he caught three passes for 52 yards in a win over the Eagles, which was his highest yardage output of the year. He turned 39 on December 18 and will apparently stay retired after 15 years in the league. 

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James Develin: We'll include Patriots fullbacks in this conversation since those players meet with the tight ends on a daily basis in New England. Develin suffered a neck injury and was placed on injured reserve after just two games. He did remain with the team and served as somewhat of a coaching assistant, serving as a presence on the sidelines on game days and in the locker room during the week. He's under contract for one more season. 

Jakob Johnson: Brought to the Patriots via the International Player Pathway Program, Bill Belichick was very open about the fact that the Patriots would have never taken a chance on Johnson had it not been for the league mandating that each AFC East club take on an international player to serve as an 11th player on their practice squad in 2019. Johnson impressed to the point that the Patriots actually activated him to the roster. He played in four games before suffering a shoulder injury that landed him on IR. He's under contract for 2020.

POTENTIAL FREE-AGENT FIXES: BIG SWINGS

Hunter Henry: The Patriots may want to dip into free-agency to address their tight end spot. It's a difficult position to grasp for young players for a variety of reasons — the volume in the running and passing games, in particular, can be overwhelming — meaning a veteran might be a better option for a team that has an immediate need like New England.

Henry is arguably the best of the bunch. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder recorded a career-high 652 yards last season on 55 grabs. He's not a game-changer in the running game — PFF ranked him as the league's 73rd best run-blocker at the position last season — but the Patriots need weapons, and Henry might be the best where they need the most help. Would the Patriots be willing to pony up about $9 million per year for him, though?

Austin Hooper: This 6-foot-4, 254-pounder has done a better job of staying healthy (missed only three games the last three seasons) than Henry (missed all of 2018) and he's been more productive in a pass-happy offense. Hooper had 75 catches for 787 yards and six scores last year. The catch? It might cost about $10 million per year to lock him up. Or he may never become available. He's a candidate to be franchised this offseason. Like Henry, Hooper's not moving mountains in the run game (PFF's No. 77 run-blocker), but he's a dynamic receiver in the short-to-intermediate range. 

POTENTIAL FREE-AGENT FIXES: FLAWED BUT INTRIGUING

Tyler Eifert: He's a seven-year veteran. He's played 59 of a possible 112 games in that time. He's a career Bengal. But the knocks on Eifert's resume should make him incredibly affordable in 2020. And though he played just six games in 2017 and 2018 combined, he bounced back this season to play in all 16, catching 43 passes for 436 yards. 

Eric Ebron: The Colts didn't seem thrilled with the way Ebron's season went. He landed on injured reserve with an ankle issue after catching 31 passes for 375 yards and three scores. After the season, general manager Chris Ballard told reporters the team would be moving on. Ebron is only a season removed from catching 66 passes and 13 touchdowns. If he's healthy, there's no doubt he'd provide the tight end group in New England a talent upgrade.

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Members of Patriots bid farewell to Dante Scarnecchia via Instagram

Members of Patriots bid farewell to Dante Scarnecchia via Instagram

Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia announced his retirement Tuesday, and he can't believe how far he's come.

“I’m 72 years old, I feel like it’s time," Scarnecchia said, according to Ian Rapoport. "It’s been an unbelievable career, I would’ve never expected anything close to this. We’ve been blessed for a 1000 different reasons."

Patriots owner Robert Kraft had some unbelievably incredible things to say about Scarnecchia in a recent statement released by the Patriots.

"Dante Scarnecchia has been unbelievable in every way. His contributions to our team and to the game of football are unprecedented over the last four decades," said Kraft. "As a coach, he was extraordinarily talented at teaching his players and bringing the most out of each of them. Dante put everything he had into helping his players achieve their maximum potential -- the mark of a great coach. Yet even more remarkable is the impact Dante has had on countless players, coaches and staff members who have walked through our doors. He modeled the principles he believed in through his hard work, diligence and integrity. He held himself accountable. He trained alongside his players. He treated everyone with respect. There truly is no way to sum up the incredible career he's had, the positive impact he's made on our franchise or how much he will be missed. We are forever grateful for Dante and wish him the absolutely best in his next chapter, along with his lovely wife Susan and his family. The New England Patriots are better because of Dante Scarnecchia, and he will always have a home with us."

And of course Bill Belichick also included a statement -- short and sweet.

"It was a privilege to coach with Dante for so long," said Belichick. "I knew that long before his initial retirement and throughout a second act of continued excellence. Dante is among the very best assistant coaches ever."

Talking about his "unbelievable career," multiple former and current Patriots bid farewell to Scarnecchia via Instagram -- wishing him nothing but the best in retirement.

Damien Woody, who spent his first five NFL seasons with the Patriots, had some high praise for Scarnecchia -- "this man taught me more about the game than I could ever imagine."

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Just saw the report that #Patriots OL coach Dante Scarnecchia is retiring. First let me say that it was a privilege to play and be coached by this man. From my predraft visit, where we sat through and watched the worst game of my college career (Syracuse), to my last game in a Pats uniform, this man taught me more about the game than I could ever imagine. Never relenting on the details, I always used to wonder why he was so damn hard on me my first couple yrs in the league and looking back on it...he did me a HUGE favor! That foundation is what carried me for 12 yrs in the #NFL and beyond. I want to thank coach from the bottom of my heart for helping turn a young pup from BC into a pro on and off the field...LUV!#patriotsnation

A post shared by Damien Woody (@damienwoody) on

David Andrews, who was unable to play last season due to blood clots, was also among the first people to thank Scarnecchia for all he's done in New England.

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Former Patriot, Trent Brown, also bid his former coach a farewell and even included the goat emoji because Scarnecchia simply is one of the greatest offensive line coaches in NFL history.

Scarnecchia has been with New England in a slew of different roles since 1982, and has been the offensive line coach since 1999.

He'll be greatly missed by not only members of the Patriots organization, but fans as well.