On Friday, the Falcons were having one of their final practices before Super Bowl LI when a drone was seen by security flying over their practice.
The NFL’s pool report says that security “grounded a drone” that was being flown over Falcons practice, which was near a residential area near the Rice University campus.
From Peter King, via NFL.com:
With the field situated next to a residential area abutting the Rice campus, there was extra security between the edge of the field (with a fence and high hedges) and the neighborhood, so the Falcons could feel secure running a practice as though they were at their home facility. There was only one brief security heads-up: Security officers grounded a drone that was sent airborne by one of the residents in the neighborhood on Thursday.
A drone flying over Falcons practice — considering they’re playing the Patriots — is notable. It doesn’t by any means the Patriots are spying on them, but questions will be raised because of their past.
The Patriots were punished by the NFL for Spygate, a scandal in which they reportedly filmed practice sessions of opponents over the span of eight years. Former Rams running back Marshall Faulk still believes to this day that the Patriots filmed the Rams final practice before Super Bowl XXXVI.
“[The practice] before the Super Bowl. The guy who worked for the Patriots,” Faulk told WEEI. “If you remember, that was someone mysteriously living in Hawaii, who made his way back to the states and delivered the tapes. [Roger] Goodell then watched those tapes and said there wasn’t enough there to deem anything being done.”
Faulk added, “Now, I didn’t see what was on the tapes, because we didn’t get to see that. The only thing I could say is that they taped our practice. That was wrong.”
In 2015, the Cowboys started using drones to film their practices. Head coach Jason Garrett told ESPN, “It’s interesting because it gives you the chance from behind to see all 11 guys on offense and all 11 guys on defense but from a closer angle,” Garrett said. “Oftentimes you have to kind of pull yourself away to get the all-22 shot. This allows you to get a little closer so you can coach better.”
Does any of this mean that the Patriots are spying on the Falcons practice? No. But it’s absolutely worth mentioning based on history.