New England Patriots

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick with Joe Judge during a preseason game at Gillette Stadium. (Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)

The New England Patriots got in trouble with the law National Football League again, and this one is a little curious.

This time, the Pats have been docked not draft picks or money – although Bill Belichick got hit with a big-by-NFL-standards $50,000 fine – but extra practices. They were caught holding voluntary special teams meetings that were improperly listed on their internal schedule, technically making them “mandatory,” and keeping players at the facilities for too long.

Question is, how did they even get caught doing this? Zolak & Bertrand on 98.5 The Sports Hub wondered if Belichick had a rat in his midst, but there’s a new report that makes more sense.

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  • As detailed by Phil Perry on NBC Sports Boston’s “Early Edition” on Thursday, a representative for the NFLPA happened to be at Gillette Stadium on one of the three days that the Patriots committed their meeting violations. In addition, this isn’t considered a major violation in a vacuum, but the fact they repeatedly did it and in view of a PA rep led to a harsher punishment and the publicized nature of it.

    “What I’ve been told is the [NFLPA] is not necessarily looking to hammer teams for violations like this,” Perry said. “A short meeting, it’s not contact at practice, it’s not really about health and safety. This is the kind of thing where, generally speaking, the PA would [only] say something like, ‘Guys, you stayed too late on Monday.'”

  • Everyone seems to agree that this violation isn’t a big deal, in and of itself. Neither is the punishment, although it seems the league made an example of the Pats and assistant head coach/special teams assistant Joe Judge for violating meeting rules so blatantly.

    It’s just an embarrassing look for Belichick, especially since Judge is at the center of this. Judge had an awful season coaching offense in 2022, then essentially got a promotion, and this is how he starts things off in his nebulous new role. Not to mention, he cost Belichick money in the process.

    This report doesn’t necessarily end any speculation of a “rat” in the building, but it’s easy to understand why committing these violations with an NFLPA rep present would lead to trouble, whether a Patriots player tattled on Judge or anything like that.

  • The Patriots abruptly cancelled what would’ve been the first OTA practice opened to the media earlier this week, ostensibly due to their punishment. They are now set to hold their first open practice next Wednesday, May 31 in Foxboro. We’ll be down there to cover the goings-on for 98.5 The Sports Hub.

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    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.