- Associated Press - Saturday, November 27, 2010

ENGLEWOOD, COLO. (AP) - The Denver Broncos placed their video operations director on leave while the NFL investigates whether the team broke league rules by filming the San Francisco 49ers’ walkthrough in London last month.

The Broncos confirmed a report in the Denver Post on Saturday, telling The Associated Press that Steve Scarnecchia is on a “personal leave of absence.”

Taping another team’s practice can result in severe penalties from the NFL.

Scarnecchia and Broncos coach Josh McDaniels previously worked for the New England Patriots, who were found to have videotaped New York Jets coaches sending in signals during a game four years ago. The NFL bans such videotaping and issued $750,000 in fines against the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots also were stripped of their 2008 first-round draft pick.

The league did not immediately reply to an e-mail from the AP. McDaniels wasn’t available for comment Saturday because media are not allowed to watch the team’s walkthroughs. The Broncos play the St. Louis Rams Sunday at Invesco Field.

Scarnecchia worked for the Patriots between 2001-05. McDaniels, who worked in New England from 2001-09, hired him in Denver shortly after he became the Broncos‘ coach 22 months ago.

Scarnecchia hasn’t been at practices this week and the Post reported he didn’t make the trip to San Diego for their game on Monday night.

The matter concerns practices at Wembley Stadium on Oct. 30, the day before the 49ers’ 24-16 win over the Broncos. It was the only time the teams worked out on the same field while in London.

When McDaniels was hired to replace Mike Shanahan he was asked how the Patriots‘ scandal, dubbed Spygate, might affect his head coaching candidacy and whether the issue was raised during his interviews with Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and chief operating officer Joe Ellis.

At that time, McDaniels said: “That was a situation that happened. I was not aware of that. I wasn’t aware of it and all the things that did happen in terms of that whole scenario. It didn’t really affect us, to tell you the truth. … I don’t think it is good. To have that kind of attention was a distraction, and I think that is how we all treated it. We tried to do whatever we could to limit those distractions every week and it will be no different here.

“Certainly, we are never looking to do anything that is not within the rules established by the National Football League. They determined the punishment on that, and it was what it was and we moved on.”

If the new videotaping investigation results in punishment similar to what the Patriots received, the Broncos might lose a high draft pick that many see as the only silver lining to what looks like a fifth straight season without a playoff berth. Only four teams have a worse record than the Broncos‘ 3-7 mark.

The investigation is the latest embarrassment for a Broncos team that has lost 15 of 20 for the first time since 1971-72. The Broncos were blown out 59-14 by archrival Oakland last month in what many consider the worst home loss in the team’s 51-year history.

After they turned the tables and routed Kansas City on the same field two weeks later, Chiefs coach Todd Haley snubbed McDaniels in the traditional post-game handshake, wagging a finger at him.

Haley apologized the next day but refused to say what set him off. It might have been McDaniels‘ chest-bumping his players on the sideline during the blowout, challenging calls late in the game or maybe blitzing a gimpy Matt Cassel well into the fourth quarter.

The teams face each other again in Kansas City on Dec. 5.

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