Bills Say Patriots Signed Ex-Buffalo Receiver Just to Pick His Brain
Posted Sep 11th 2006 10:56AM by Michael David Smith
Filed under: Bills, Patriots, AFC East, NFL Rumors

The life of a marginal, practice-squad quality football player isn't easy. You're working just as hard as your teammates but often getting paid as little as 1 percent of their salaries. When you meet someone in a social situation and tell them you're a professional football player, you usually hear, "Really? I've never heard of you." And, if what the Buffalo Bills are alleging is true, you can be signed to a team, asked to give up trade secrets about your previous team, then released as soon as you've given up your information.

That's what the Bills claim happened with receiver Jonathan Smith. The New England Patriots signed Smith away from the Bills last Sunday, then cut him before yesterday's game between the two teams. Some of Smith's former Bills teammates are saying the Patriots never really wanted Smith, and that they simply brought him along to pump him for information about the Bills' playbook.

If this actually happened, it's dishonest, unethical, and the NFL ought to investigate. The league's eight-man practice squads exist to enhance player development, but they'll quickly turn into little more than espionage units if everyone is allowed to join another roster just long enough to give information about an opponent. In the business world there are clauses in contracts that prohibit giving trade secrets to competitors, and it should be the same in sports. No player should do this and no coach should allow it within his organization.

The Boston Herald also floats the idea that Smith could have been a double agent, actually helping the Bills during the week he was on the Patriots' roster. If that's true, this incident is more intriguing than that Brady Bunch episode where Marcia's boyfriend, who plays for a rival school, tries to steal Greg's playbook, leading Greg to create a phony playbook, allow him to steal it, and score an easy victory for his team when the opponents are ill-prepared. In any event, the Bills say the information Smith has about their offense definitely could have helped Bill Belichick's game-planning.

"No doubt," [Bills wide receiver Lee] Evans said. "He's been with the (Bills) organization for the last few years. He's been through three training camps. He knew what we were doing over here. I'm not saying he gave up everything, but I'm sure they tried to get some questions answered out of him. That's just the way the game goes."