And here we go.
Outside the Lines is reporting allegations that Saints general manager Mickey Loomis had the ability to listen in on the game-day communications of opposing coaching staffs, and did so through via a device located in his personal suite. According to report, the system was in place in most of 2002, and all of 2003 and 2004—Loomis's first three years with New Orleans.
A Saints spokesperson told ESPN that "this is 1,000 percent false. This is 1,000 percent inaccurate."
It's not clear where this is coming from. Outside the Lines cites "sources familiar with Saints game-day operations," but the legal implications are already being investigated. The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana acknowledged being made aware of the allegations on Friday, and informed the local FBI office.
An NFL spokesman said the league is unaware of the allegations, which, if true, would mean this isn't a byproduct of the league's investigation into the bounty scandal. (It's much more likely these revelations are a byproduct of ESPN's investigation into the bounty scandal.)
According to Outside the Lines, an electronic system was in place before Loomis arrived, by which the New Orleans could listen in to Saints' coaches communications—radio chatter from the sideline to coordinators in the box. It's not clear if communications with the QB's on-field radio were available. When Loomis arrived, the report says, the device was rewired so it could only listen to the frequencies used by visiting coaches.
The sources said when Loomis took his seat during home games, then in the front row of box No. 4 in the 300 level of the Superdome's north side, he was able to plug an earpiece into a jack that was under the desk in front of him. The earpiece was not unlike those used to listen to inexpensive transistor radios, the sources said. With the earpiece in place, Loomis could then toggle back and forth with a switch that he controlled, enabling him to listen to either the game-day communications of the opposing offensive or defensive coaches.
Also underneath the desk in front of Loomis, said the sources, was a metal box that contained two belt packs similar to those worn around the waists of NFL head coaches during games. The packs powered the listening device available to Loomis, which was, according to sources, hard-wired to the audio feed of the opposing coaches.
The system was apparently disabled sometime in September 2005, before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Outside the Lines tries to drum up talk of criminal prosecution under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, but the statute of limitations appears to have passed. It might be possible to stretch the time frame to include the cover-up, and victims would still be able to file civil charges. Punishment from the NFL would be much more likely.
Not good news for the Saints or for Loomis. But this is what happens when you kick over an NFL team's rock—there are lots of wriggly, sunlight-averse things underneath.
Sources: Saints' GM could eavesdrop [ESPN.com]