NEW ORLEANS -- The Super Bowl is back in New Orleans for the first time since February 2002, when the Patriots upset the mighty St. Louis Rams.
On Tuesday, I asked Marshall Faulk if being back in the Superdome this week conjured up any emotions from that day.
"All of my memories about playing the game is all good feelings," Faulk began. "I only remember the Super Bowl I won in Atlanta (after the 1999 season). I couldn't even conjure up the feelings of what I felt after the game (against the Patriots). I'm sure I was heartbroken and maybe a little upset but when you talk Super Bowl, all of my feelings go directly to winning."
People in New England, Faulk was told, believe he still shows bitterness over the loss. And a dislike of the Patriots in his role as an NFL Network commentator.
"They misunderstand," Faulk corrected. "Am I over the loss? Yeah, I'm over the loss. But I'll never be over being cheated out of the Super Bowl. That's a different story. I can understand losing a Super Bowl, that's fine . . . But how things happened and what took place. Obviously, the commissioner gets to handle things how he wants to handle them but if they wanted us to shut up about what happened, show us the tapes. Don't burn 'em."
Faulk was referring to tapes the Patriots had of opposing coaches sending in defensive signals. It's a story from another epoch, to be sure, but as Faulk spoke, it became obvious the scab is still there. And with just a scratch to the surface, Faulk was soon rolling downhill in accusing the Patriots of having taped the Rams' walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said back in 2008 that he had no evidence that the Patriots -- and video assistant Matt Walsh in particular -- taped the Rams walkthrough.
In April of 2008, Goodell explained his findings and decision to destroy the tapes he'd confiscated.
"The reason I destroyed the tapes is they were totally consistent with what the team told me," Goodell said during his State of the NFL speech at the NFL Owners Meetings. "It was the appropriate thing to do and I think it sent a message. "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. "That doesn't change my perspective on violating rules and the need to be punished."Goodell said there were six tapes, some from 2007 preseason games and the rest from 2006. Another reason he destroyed them was one tape was leaked to the media just after the Patriots-Jets game. "We wanted to take and destroy that information," he said. "They may have collected it within the rules, but we couldn't determine that. So we felt that it should be destroyed."The NFL did present some tapes at the 2008 NFL Owners Meetings that it hadn't destroyed. The tapes showed the Patriots' taping defensive signals, shots of the scoreboard and even 15 seconds of cheerleaders performing.
Still, Faulk says circumstantial evidence from the game leaves him believing the Patriots gathered intel somehow.
"I understand Bill (Belichick) is a great coach," said Faulk. "But No. 13 (Kurt Warner) will tell you. Mike Martz will tell you. We had some plays in the red zone that we hadn't ran. I think we got to fourth down -- we ran three plays that we hadn't ran, that Mike drew up for that game -- Bill's a helluva coach . . . we hadn't ran them the whole year (and the Patriots were ready for them)."
Faulk said the only time those plays were practiced were at the walkthrough.
"I know, in that game, in the red zone, the plays we ran, most of them we hadn't ran most of those plays that year," Faulk noted. "And a couple of plays on third down that we walked through also . . . Any time that I was offset, I was always stationary. And we had creating motioning in the backfield at the same depth on the other side of the field. And they created a check for it. It's just little things like that. It's either the best coaching in the world when you come up with situations that you had never seen before. Or you'd seen it and knew what to do."
At one point in the conversation, Faulk said, "I don't even know why you brought this up now."
In fact, Faulk was the one who broached it.
Faulk attempted to temper his comments, saying, "Bill has done a great job. I love Mr. Kraft and what he's done. They almost drafted me. I remember (Kraft's) vision for that organization. I respect everything about that organization. But am I bitter about how that went? Am I bitter about how the league handled them taping people? If Bountygate was that bad and Sean got suspended for a whole year? If we want to talk about some unfair assessment of how we're assessing things? Man.
"If you lost a game and your brother cheated you," said Faulk, "you'll remember that."