(Reuters) - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell denied on Tuesday a report that he came down hard on the New England Patriots over “Deflategate” because the league was light-handed in dealing with the team over the so-called Spygate scandal in 2007.
An ESPN report released on Tuesday suggested the Patriots’ cheating in Spygate was more extensive than previously believed, and that Goodell abruptly ended the investigation before it could harm the league’s integrity.
One unnamed owner termed Goodell’s Deflategate punishment “a makeup call,” the ESPN report said.
“I have not seen this report, Mike, in any way, but I can just tell you I’m not aware of any connection between the Spygate procedures and the procedures we went through here,” Goodell told ESPN Radio’s Mike Greenberg.
“We obviously learn from every time we go through any kind of a process, try to improve it, get better at it, but there’s no connection in my mind to the two incidents.”
While the National Football League said the Patriots videotaped the signals of opposing coaches in just a handful of games in 2007, ESPN reported the team stole the signals from at least 40 games from 2000 to 2007.
The NFL fined Patriots head coach Bill Belichick $500,000 for his role in “Spygate,” fined the Patriots $250,000, and docked the team its first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
In “Deflategate,” Goodell suspended quarterback Tom Brady for four games, fined the club a record $1 million, and forced the Patriots to give up two draft choices for allegedly deflating footballs used in the team’s 45-7 playoff victory over the Indianapolis Colts in January.
A federal judge in New York, however, last week threw out Brady’s penalty, saying the procedure the NFL used to investigate the scandal was flawed. The league has appealed the decision.
Over the past year, Goodell has seen the penalties he imposed on several high-profile players who committed domestic abuse overturned by either an arbitrator or judge, including those involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy.
Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Goodell hands down the punishment and presides over the appeal.
“I‘m very open to changing my role in that,” Goodell said. “It’s become extremely time consuming. I have to be focused on a variety of other issues and that’s what I’ve discussed with many of the owners over the last couple of years.”
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Lisa Lambert