August 27, 2015
The NFL likes its first regular-season game on the Thursday of Week 1 to be a showcase event. The way things are going, it'll look more like a continuation of the preseason with backups playing prominent roles for each team.
Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant, expected to be the team's No. 2 option in one of the league's best passing attacks, is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy according to multiple reports. He is appealing the suspension, according to reports including ESPN's Adam Schefter.
If Bryant is out for the season opener at the New England Patriots, that means the Steelers will also be without All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell, who is suspended two games, and center Maurkice Pouncey, who will miss a large portion of the season after ankle surgery. The Patriots are also missing some key pieces for Week 1, including suspended quarterback Tom Brady (unless his court battle leads to his four-game suspension being vacated) and running back LeGarrette Blount, who is suspended for one game.
The NFL will love that so much time on the opening night broadcast will be spent explaining to viewers which players on each side are suspended and why.
Bryant's absence is a big setback for the Steelers, because without Bell they likely were going to lean more heavily than usual on the passing game. As a rookie last year, the 6-foot-4, 211-pound Bryant had 26 catches for 549 yards and was expected to take a big jump in his second season. Third-year receiver Markus Wheaton likely becomes the No. 2 target opposite Antonio Brown, and rookie Sammie Coates will fill a bigger role while Bryant is out.
The Patriots-Steelers opener will be interesting, perhaps just to see which players from both sides will actually be eligible to participate.
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Now we have a good idea why the NFL sought extra security for league commissioner Roger Goodell at his Maine residence last month.
A radio sales director, Mike Marcello, relayed the story to WHOM-FM radio (h/t NECN.com) of walking into a Scarborough, Maine grocery store to buy some green peppers and trash bags (can’t have one without the other). And who did he see but Goodell and his wife, who may or may not have been there for the lobster bisque.
(Thirty-second timeout here: Goodell does his own shopping? Perhaps it was date night. Hmm. OK, onward …)
As his Tom Brady-loving blood boiled, the New England Patriots fan Marcello faced the fight-or–flight response. He chose a verbal version of the former.
"I had two choices — continue on my way in life or go there,” he said, “and I decided to go there."
There was, naturally, to invoke the battle-cry refrain of an entire region: He chanted, “Free Tom Brady.”
What Goodell did next, or whether Marcello had anyone else join in (he admits to a bit of hyperbole on this front), is a matter of conjecture. Marcello said Goodell and his wife booked it out of the store, met with more Brady chants in the parking lot, and then admits that’s not really the way it went down.
But the story of Marcello’s weekend grocery exploits did somehow get back to his coworkers, and he was greeted the following Monday at work with a hero’s welcome.
It underscores the idea that Goodell, right now, is living in the lion’s den, just a few miles outside Portland, Maine and a little over a two-hour drive to Gillette Stadium. He might not be running to the store for a gallon of milk anytime soon.
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has become a pinata.
Almost a year after Goodell was under extreme criticism following the release of the Ray Rice elevator video, he's still getting it. One of the league's best players, Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, was critical of him over the weekend. The son of one of the league's most prominent owners and a prominent figure himself, New England Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, said Goodell's power over disciplinary matters needs to be reconsidered.
Goodell hadn't been publicly questioned by ownership, so Kraft wondering if Goodell needs to give up some of his power in disciplinary matters is worth noting. It's also worth noting that the Patriots are bitter at the NFL for how deflate-gate was handled, and for good reason. Kraft said that deflate-gate had nothing to do with his criticisms, but does anyone believe that?
"I think the world has changed and the complexity of some of the situations -- things that I don't think we ever thought we would be dealing with, we're dealing with," Kraft said on 98.5 The Hub, via ESPN.com.
"I think the league office, with the business of football, there is so much to handle day to day, and so much to do," he said. "I think there needs to be a prescribed process for how certain parts of the discipline process are going to work, especially probably the appeals, so that the spotlight and the attention doesn't all have to fall on Park Avenue. I'm not saying Park Avenue is capable or not capable. I'm not making a value judgment with what I'm saying. I think I'm just making a big-picture macro observation."
That isn't an outright verbal attack on Goodell, but it seems like an elaborate way to get those in power to wonder why Goodell has so much power, something he obviously covets. Again, it would probably be a stronger statement coming from someone in power whose team hasn't been outwardly hostile toward the league about a recent punishment.
Many players have taken shots at Goodell, but it was still interesting to hear Thomas' thoughts. Thomas, perhaps the league's best offensive lineman with eight Pro Bowls in eight years, is talented and thoughtful. And he criticized Goodell and the four-game suspension for Tom Brady in the deflate-gate controversy.
"I would equate what [Brady] did to driving 66 [mph] in a 65 speed zone, and getting the death penalty," Thomas told Pat McManamon of ESPN.com.
"If you want [quarterbacks] to play with a brand new football that comes out of the box, then make that the rule," Thomas said. "If you're going to allow them to break it in because you want more passing yards, then let them do whatever they want."
He also wondered — as many have through the summer while the NFL dominated the headlines during its supposedly dead time — if Goodell secretly liked the attention deflate-gate brought the league through what Thomas called a "witch hunt."
"I'm not sure if he realizes what he's doing is brilliant, but what he's doing is brilliant because he's made the NFL relevant 365 [days] by having these outrageous, ridiculous witch hunts," Thomas said. "It's made the game more popular than ever and it's become so much more of an entertainment business and it's making so much money."
Goodell's job security has been a constant topic of discussion, even before the Rice issue blew up. Part of his job and his enormous salary is to take on that criticism. And he's surely getting it from all angles lately.
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August 23, 2015
Everyone thinks they can make a comeback. But maybe people might believe Randy Moss if he tried.
Moss showed up at the joint practices of the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots the other day in his native West Virginia, backed Tom Brady in the deflate-gate things and hinted he might be interested in playing in the NFL one day.
On Sunday, Moss added more fuel to that fire.
Appearing on Fox's pregame show, Moss told co-host Curt Menafee that his fire still burns.
"I actually have not lost the itch,” Moss said. “I’ve been working out with a few guys over the offseason. I have been retired for the last two years, but you never know, Curt. But it’s the love of the game that I still have inside of me.”
Asked by Menafee is Moss was reneging on his Fox analyst role and was considering rejoining the league, Moss said — with Cheshire cat-like smile:
“Hey, I don’t know. The sky’s the limit for me, Curt. So we’ll just have to wait and see.”
OK, so that's not the same as a team reportedly calling Moss (which could have happened) and Moss not denying mutual interest. But with two teams, the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers, having just lost their No. 1 receivers respectively to ACL injuries, it certainly means the market for Moss might be a tad warmer. And who knows? Moss always has professed his love for Brady, even though the Patriots are reportedly working out Reggie Wayne on Monday.
Moss, 38, who last played for the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 season (with his final game being Super Bowl XLVII), is third all time in receiving yards in league history — 642 behind Terrell Owens with 15,292 — and 11th all time with 982 catches, but only 42 catches away from eighth place (Isaac Bruce).
Could it happen? Moss sat out the entire 2011 season before joining the 49ers and becoming a key contributor of sorts for that very good team. He's never gone by anyone else's path, so you can't rule it out, and you certainly can't rule out one of the most naturally gifted pass catchers the NFL ever has seen being in football shape.
Now, if you do come back, Randy, can you please do it in the vein of this amazing 2010 news conference? Thanks from all of us in advance.
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One of the most interesting subplots of the preseason was how the New England Patriots would use Jimmy Garoppolo in games.
They're still planning on Tom Brady playing 12 games at least, and maybe more if they get a favorable ruling in court. But they have to figure Garoppolo will start four games, and he needs to be ready. The Patriots don't have an easy schedule through those first four games.
Saturday night made sense. Brady played three series, all three-and-outs. And after nine plays, it was Garoppolo's time to get some experience. He played the rest of the game and for the most part, he played very well. Garoppolo finished 28-of-33 for 269 yards. It's only the preseason and Garoppolo did most of his work against second- and third-stringers, but suddenly the first four games without Brady might not seem so daunting.
The Patriots had to feel good about how Garoppolo finished. The Patriots got the ball back with two minutes left in the fourth quarter trailing 24-23. Garoppolo made a beautiful pass to a tightly covered Jonathan Krause for a 22-yard gain. That put the Patriots in field-goal position, and after a couple of runs, Stephen Gostkowski kicked the game-winning field goal. The result doesn't count, but it has to give the Patriots confidence seeing how Garoppolo came up with a big play in a pressure situation.
Garoppolo's highlight play came near the end of the first half, when he spun away from a pass rusher who seemed to have him wrapped up for a sack, and Garoppolo planted just long enough to throw a 24-yard touchdown to Chris Harper. Ideally the Patriots would like Garoppolo to get rid of the ball in that spot before the rush got there, but it was a very athletic play to make something good out of nothing.
Garoppolo had an interception in the second half in which he overthrew his target, but mostly he played in control and was efficient. He didn't take a ton of chances deep downfield but was good at getting the ball out on quick, short throws and also finding receivers at intermediate levels. That's what the Patriots offense is built on anyway, and Garoppolo looked comfortable running it. If you thought the Patriots would be vulnerable with Garoppolo likely starting the first four games, watching Garoppolo complete pass after pass on Saturday night couldn't have been fun.
Until we hear otherwise, we have to assume Garoppolo will start the first quarter of the regular season as the Patriots' starting quarterback. If he plays like he did Saturday night against the Saints, the Patriots will be in pretty good shape by the time their Super Bowl MVP returns.
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Enemies on the field, allies off it. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, last seen offering a hand in congratulations to Tom Brady at the end of the Super Bowl, is now taking up Brady's cause in the ongoing deflate-gate saga.
Speaking to USA Today, Sherman took direct aim at the NFL and its differential between punishment for players and punishment for owners.
“You’re fining players more than you’re fining organizations?” Sherman said, referring to the potential $2 million Brady could lose if he's suspended four games.
Sherman also noted that Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay received a punishment for DUI that didn't quite seem to measure up to what Brady would face.
“Last year, Jim Irsay got fined what, 500 grand?” Sherman said. “Owners can only be fined so much. There’s a cap. And Brady gets fined [roughly $2 million]. Whether the crimes are the same or not, a suspension is a suspension, a fine is a fine. Game checks.”
Sherman had said during Super Bowl week that the NFL likely wouldn't punish the Patriots because NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and New England owner Robert Kraft posed for pictures together. Now that the team has, in fact, been fined a million dollars, Sherman noted again that there's a differential:
“People are just so focused on, ‘Oh, that’s a huge fine for the organization,’ “ he said. “It’s not. A million dollars is peanuts to the Patriots, who will make [hundreds of] million dollars this year. Brady ... you take away four game checks, and you’re doing this to the organization.”
As to whether Brady is innocent of the whole deflating-footballs thing, which, lest we forget, is how this whole mess began, Sherman said, “It wasn’t just him. There’s no way nobody else knows about it. So, he shouldn’t be punished so severely.”
And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.
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The great thing about deflate-gate is that it allows us to indulge in the most ridiculous, outlandish theories about the New England Patriots ... and we might well be right!
Bill Belichick keeps an army of Tom Brady clones available for every new series? I believe it!
Microwaves on the opposition's bench slowly cook teams from the inside? Sure, why not?
The Patriots harvest the organs of veterans before cutting them? Hey, I believe it!
Now, we can add another theory to the conspiracy bonfire: Peyton Manning believed the Patriots may have bugged the visitors' locker room at Gillette Stadium. This isn't necessarily new; Manning expressed concerns many years ago, according to Peter King.
"I've always heard, reliably, that the Colts never trusted that they were totally alone in the Colts' locker room in Foxboro," King wrote, "and that when Manning had something of strategic significance to say to offensive coordinator Tom Moore, they both stepped outside into the concourse outside the locker room."
Now, Tony Dungy, Manning's coach with Indianapolis, confirmed that yes, Manning did take extra precautions when talking Xs and Os at Gillette Stadium. "That is very true," Dungy told Dan Patrick. "As Peyton talked to guys who played for the Patriots and some of the guys who came over [to the Colts], whether it is true or not, he treated it as true and we didn't have a lot of strategy discussed inside the locker room [at Gillette Stadium]."
Let's consider: Manning has faced the Patriots on New England's turf 10 times as both a member of the Colts and the Broncos. Over that 10-game span, the Patriots have won seven games (including two playoff games), Manning has won three. Shoot, that's enough verification for us!
Seriously, it's both completely plausible and utterly insane to believe that the Patriots bugged the visitors' locker room. Believe what you want; you had your mind made up when you read the headline.
And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.
We're inching closer to the New England Patriots pretty much operating as a rogue operation, acting in contempt of the NFL offices and the 31 other teams.
The latest DGAD move ("don't give a darn," for this is a family site) was to tweet NFL broadcast partner ESPN's apology for twice referencing a report about Super Bowl XXXVI in recent weeks. The report ESPN was referencing was presumably the one that the Patriots taped the Rams' practice before that Super Bowl, and it was proven by the NFL to be untrue long ago.
If ESPN was trying to hide the apology late at night, by saying it on air during "SportsCenter" at 12:20 a.m. ET, it didn't slip by the Patriots, who tweeted out the clip to their 1.52 million followers.
The Patriots have been upset about another ESPN report that shaped the public's perception of deflate-gate. In the organization's only remarks about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upholding Tom Brady's four-game suspension, owner Robert Kraft angrily referenced a report that 11 of New England's 12 game balls in the AFC championship game were significantly deflated, a report that was proven to be incorrect once Ted Wells' investigation report was released. That 11 of 12 story is still on ESPN's site.
NFL senior vice president of football operations David Gardi sent a letter to the Patriots in the days after the AFC championship game informing them of an investigation, and the letter included incorrect information such as one of the balls being 10.1 psi (none were less than 10.5 on either gauge used) and that each of the inspected Indianapolis Colts' balls were in the legal range (three of the four balls tested by alternate game official Dyrol Prioleau were less than 12.5 psi). The NFL has never explained why or how there were incorrect facts in that letter, and the league has never indicated it has looked into the source of the "11 of 12" leak to ESPN.
The Patriots haven't tried to hide their contempt about how the NFL has handled the situation, and now they're making sure ESPN shares some of their displeasure as well.
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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his deflate-gate defense team might be open to a suspension, but only for his failure to fully comply in the league’s investigation, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Wednesday.
Brady has maintained his innocence and has allowed this process to play out publicly and extensively in order to clear his name of guilt in the ball-deflation portion of this case.
Given the wording of attorney Jeffrey Kessler in his statements and questioning in the deflate-gate hearings in front of Judge Richard Berman in the settlement talks with the NFL, this Schefter report is hardly surprising.
Kessler tilted his words toward maintaining Brady’s innocence in the matter while verbally offering up a possible olive Branch with Brady refusing to hand over his phone, which later was destroyed, during the investigation or even after Ted Wells' report was issued.
Brady traveled to West Virginia with the Patriots for their joint practices with the New Orleans Saints, who are holding training camp practices there. He was originally scheduled to go to New York on Wednesday for the hearings, but settlement talks had hit a standstill according to various reports, which changed Brady’s itinerary.
That said, the two sides are back in court Wednesday, so it remains to be seen if the NFL would consider such a proposition, as the league is — to use a poker term — just as "all in" as Brady. Folding now doesn't seem to fit the league's M.O. typically in these cases where its view tends to be that money is dispensible but that pride flows freely as the Hudson River.
And if no settlement is reached prior, the two sides will be back at it again (yay!) in two weeks, with a decision to be rendered on or prior to Sept. 4.
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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has missed practice twice the past two Tuesdays, but is he planning to attend Wednesday's hearing in New York over the lingering deflate-gate case?
Initially, USA Today's Tom Pelissero reported that Brady would, but Pelissero later indicated that Brady — believing that settlement talks between the NFLPA and the NFL — are going nowhere and that the QB has had a change of heart.
Brady was told — as was NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — that he was not required to attend Wednesday's session. If you want to use a metaphor, the Wednesday hearing with Judge Richard Berman in the NFLPA's fight against the league over Brady's status is like a non-mandatory offseason workout ... the kind of thing Brady normally might attend, especially as he's fighting this thing to the end, trying to prove his innocence.
A lot is at stake, of course, as Brady currently stands to miss the season's first four games, and if Jimmy Garoppolo's 2015 preseason debut is any indication, and of course Brady being Brady, the Patriots would of course welcome their star QB to attend if they or he felt it could positively sway the decision in their favor.
But with the outlook for a settlement prior to Berman's decision is rendered, Brady might think: Why bother? If he skips, the Patriots are scheduled to arrive in West Virginia for their scheduled joint practices with the New Orleans Saints prior to the teams meeting in a preseason game this weekend.
Both the NFL and the union have written their final briefs for the case to Berman over why Brady should/should not have his suspension reduced, or even wiped out entirely. Reports indicated that the stone-faced Brady maintained a serious tone throughout last week's hearing and that he never once looked in the direction of Goodell, the man who posed for smiling photos with the quarterback the day after the Super Bowl and then proceded to throw the book at him over his role in deflated footballs.
You get the feeling, though, that no matter how this case ends up, it has had an effect on the Patriots. As masterful as Bill Belichick and his staff have been at turning the page over the years — through controversy, holdouts, injuries, players leaving and even, yes, following up their incredible success — Brady's ongoing case and now his two missed sessions have not gone without an effect on last season's Super Bowl champions.
Wednesday might not be the final chapter in the deflate-gate saga, but it could be an important one. Will Brady's presence or absence have an effect on the outcome? It technically shouldn't, as the arguments made and the facts presented in the case should be the prevailing conditions toward a decision. And even though Brady being there might send a message that he's not hiding from anything, he also feels he has a job to prepare for as a football player.
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