BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – If the New England Patriots win Super Bowl LII, quarterback Tom Brady already has a game plan for his jersey. This time around – after getting two previous Super Bowl jerseys stolen – he’s not letting anything out of his sight.
“I am taking it with me, man – if we win,” Brady said earlier this week. “If we lose, I’m throwing it in the garbage. If we win, I am taking it, so hopefully we win.”
If the NFL has anything to do with it, Brady won’t have to sweat it. One year after the highly publicized and bizarre fiasco of Brady’s jersey vanishing from the locker room in Houston following last year’s title game, the league will be ratcheting up on locker room protocol. The measures won’t be anything outrageous – no pat-downs or cavity searches – but the NFL will create a detailed footprint of the locker room travelings of media members through both human security and digital credential scanners.
This after former La Prensa news director Martin Mauricio Ortega absconded with Brady’s Super Bowl LI jersey, exposing an odd and apparently lucrative loophole that Ortega had been using for years. Most notably, the private celebration period that takes place prior to media members being allowed into the locker room. Ortega used that session to nab Brady’s jersey in Houston – later discovered on stadium and television footage sneaking into the locker room by blending into an entourage following Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
After milling around the locker room with players, executives and team family members, Ortega was caught on footage exiting with a bag under his arm that apparently contained Brady’s jersey. It was eventually recovered in Mexico City by the FBI and Mexican authorities, along with Brady’s jersey from Super Bowl XLIX and the Super Bowl 50 helmet of Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller.
It was an odd and embarrassing flap for both Mexico and the city of Houston – not to mention the NFL, which appeared to have little knowledge of the high-profile thefts that had been occurring in postgame Super Bowl locker rooms. That birthed this year’s protocol, which will include more human security eyeing reporters, and scanners at the entrance and exits of locker rooms that will record the movements of credentialed media members. There may also be some additional measures, but the league won’t notify its personnel of everything until the day before the game.
“We won’t know everything that’s going to be in place until the Saturday walkthrough, but it’s going to be more stringent,” one league employee handling security told Yahoo Sports. “There are definitely going to be more people watching.”
At the very least, the league won’t have to worry about Ortega, who wasn’t charged with the thefts, but was fired from La Prensa and has been banned from NFL stadiums for life. Interestingly, it was a member of the memorabilia community who tipped off the FBI about Ortega’s theft, following his bragging and sending photos to a man he had sold items to.
To date, Ortega hasn’t spoken about the theft publicly.