Saints appear to be in hot water again

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Saints appear to be in hot water again

From Comcast SportsNetNEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The New Orleans Saints denied an anonymously sourced ESPN report on Monday which alleges that general manager Mickey Loomis' booth in the Superdome was wired so he could listen to opposing coaches' radio communications during games.ESPN could not determine if the system was ever used. The report on Monday's "Outside the Lines" said Loomis would have been able to eavesdrop on opponents from 2002 to 2004. The report also said the system was disabled in 2005, when the Superdome was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina.Saints spokesman Greg Bensel called the report "1,000 percent false.""We asked ESPN to provide us evidence to support their allegations and they refused," Bensel said. "The team and Mickey are seeking all legal recourse regarding these false allegations."Loomis explained his use of an earpiece and described his game-day setup in the Superdome booth in an emailed statement."I have a monitor in front of me in my booth that provides the league issued stats for the game," Loomis stated. "I have a small TV with the network broadcast and I have an earpiece to listen to the WWL-AM radio game broadcast."To think I am sitting in there listening and actually ... doing something with the offensive and defensive play calls of the opposing teams makes this story and the unnamed sources that provided the false information that much more less credible," Loomis' statement continued. "It just didn't happen."Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was the Saints' head coach from 2000 through 2005. In a comment the Saints forwarded to the AP by email, Haslett denied knowledge of any system that would have allowed for eavesdropping on opponents."At no time during my tenure as head coach with the New Orleans Saints did Mickey and I discuss monitoring opposing team coaches communication, nor did I have any knowledge of this," Haslett said. "To my knowledge this concept was never discussed or utilized."If the Saints had installed a system allowing them to listen in on their opponents it would have violated NFL rules and also could have infringed on federal wire-tapping laws."We were not aware of it," league spokesman Greg Aiello said. "We have no knowledge of the allegations."FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne said the agency's New Orleans office was aware of the situation, but wouldn't comment further.U.S. Attorney Jim Letten in New Orleans also said his office had been told about "general allegations" involving the Saints and possible wiretapping, but he did not elaborate. Letten declined to discuss who made the allegations, and whether they involved Loomis or any other Saints officials.For the Saints, the report in itself added to a slew of recent bad publicity, which began in early March when the NFL released a report describing a crunch-for-cash bounty system that provided improper cash bonuses to defensive players who delivered hits that hobbled targeted opponents.Commissioner Roger Goodell has suspended head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season in connection with the bounty probe. Loomis was suspended for the first half of the regular season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended six games.The team also lost its second-round pick in this week's NFL draft and was fined 500,000. Goodell took away the Saints' second-round pick in 2013 as well, but has said he may lessen that punishment if he is satisfied with the club's cooperation in the ongoing investigation.The NFL still has yet to hand down punishment to between 22 and 27 current and former Saints defensive players whom the league has said participated in the bounty program.

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass-rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.