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Vikings stadium plan won’t meet meaningless deadline

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The bad news for the proposed Vikings stadium in Minnesota is that supporters won’t meet a Friday deadline for coming up with a way to pay for $131 million in road improvements at the proposed Arden Hills location.  The good news is that the Friday deadline is meaningless.

It’s meaningless because, as Kevin Duchschere of the Minneapolis Star Tribune explains, arrangements still have not been made for a special legislative session later this month, at which time the stadium plan possibly would be converted into a finalized stadium bill.

“Obviously, it all depends on whether we have a special session the last week of the month, and at this point that’s still very much up in the air,” Rep. Morrie Lanning said Thursday, per Duchschere.

Further complicating matters is the fact that a proposed sports memorabilia tax will generate, on closer review, half of the amount previously estimated.  So instead of $17.6 million per year, the tax will produce $8.8 million per year — requiring the state to come up with another $8.8 million per year.

The bigger challenge in Minnesota remains solving the state’s budget crisis.  Absent a new deal, the government will shut down on June 30.

And, absent a deal for a new Vikings stadium, the team will be free to leave after the 2011 season.

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Tom Brady’s dad declares Wells Report “Framegate”

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Even if it didn’t come right out and say it, the main insinuation of the Ted Wells report on DeflateGate is that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady cheated, or at the very least was aware that cheating was happening on his behalf.

And that doesn’t sit too well with his father.

Tom Brady Sr. told Jim Corbett of USA Today that he’s not shaken in his belief in the upright nature of his son.

I don’t have any doubt about my son’s integrity — not one bit,” Brady Sr. said. “In this country, you’re innocent until proven guilty. It just seems Tommy is now guilty until proven innocent. This thing is so convoluted. . . . They say that possibly — possibly — he was aware of this. The reality is if you can’t prove he did it, then he’s innocent, and lay off him. That’s the bottom line.”

Actually, there’s a pretty considerable gulf between not guilty and innocent, and it’s hard to look at the evidence in the report and come away thinking Brady had no knowledge of what was going on.

But dad was unmoved, saying the league was more worried about its image than his son’s.

“The league had to cover themselves. The reality is they had no conclusive evidence. This was Framegate right from the beginning,” he said. “They had to protect their asses, and that’s what they’re doing. . . .

“To impugn somebody without conclusive evidence saying this is more probable than not? The reality is they have scientific evidence. Now they’re overriding the scientific evidence and badgering the Patriots. It’s disgusting.”

Brady Sr. is reacting how any father would, or should react. And the league obviously has a vested interest in the appearance of integrity, which is why this thing dragged on so long.

But to suggest they’d target a four-time Super Bowl champion seems like a stretch.

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Pats bring Brandon Spikes back for a visit

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It’s been a very quiet day around the Patriots on Wednesday, but there is a little bit of news about the team to inflate our pages.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the team had free agent linebacker Brandon Spikes in for a visit that probably didn’t spend much time on introductions. Spikes was a 2010 second-round pick in New England and spent the first four years of his career as a regular on the team’s defense.

Spikes left for Buffalo as a free agent last year and played in all 16 games for New England’s divisionmates before becoming a free agent again in March. He hasn’t generated a lot of interest on the open market, although there have been scattered reports of interest from the Bills in extending their working relationship. Spikes is a stout run defender, but doesn’t offer much help against the pass and that likely explains why his market has been chilly this offseason.

With Jerod Mayo returning alongside Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, linebacker isn’t a particularly pressing need for the Patriots at the moment. If they did want to add some more depth, though, Spikes would provide it without needing much time to acquaint himself to playing for Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.

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Finally, the halftime PSI numbers are known

footballs

One of the most puzzling aspects of the #DeflateGate controversy came from a series of contradictory reports regarding the PSI measurements taken at halftime of the footballs used by the Patriots in the AFC championship game.

Initially, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported that 11 of the 12 balls were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum. PFT later reported that 10 of the balls were closer to one pound under the minimum than two. Hours before Super Bowl XLIX, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported that “[m]any of [the footballs] were just a few ticks under the minimum.”

The real numbers remained unknown, until the issuance of the Ted Wells report.

As it turns out, two sets of measurements were made, by alternate game officials Dyrol Prioleau and Clete Blakeman.  The measurements involved only 11 Patriots footballs, with the ball that had been intercepted by Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson during the second quarter not included.

Prioleau’s measurements were, in PSI: (1) 11.8; (2) 11.2; (3) 11.5; (4) 11.0; (5) 11.45; (6) 11.95; (7) 12.3; (8) 11.55; (9) 11.35; (10) 10.9; and (11) 11.35.

Blakeman’s measurements were, also in PSI: (1) 11.5; (2) 10.85; (3) 11.15; (4) 10.7; (5) 11.1; (6) 11.6; (7) 11.85; (8) 11.1; (9) 10.95; (10) 10.5; and (11) 10.9.

Each of Prioleau’s measurements were higher, which suggests that: (1) Prioleau measured the air pressure before Blakeman; and (2) the mere act of insert a needle briefly into the football to test the internal PSI decreases the internal PSI noticeably.

Based on Prioleau’s numbers, NONE of the footballs were more than 1.6 PSI below the minimum.  One was exactly 1.6 pounds below the minimum. Six were were between 1.0 and 1.5 pounds under the minimum.  Three were between 0.5 and 1.0 pounds under the minimum. One was only 0.2 PSI below the minimum.

In other words, and as PFT reported at the time, 10 of the balls were closer to one pound under the minimum PSI than two.

Based on Blakeman’s numbers, only one ball was 2.0 pounds under the minimum.  Another one was 1.8 pounds under. One was 1.65 under. One was 1.6 under.  One was 1.55 under. Four fell between 1.0 and 1.4 PSI under. One was 0.9 PSI under. One was 0.65 PSI under.

The numbers show only one ball a full 2.0 PSI under — and that was based on a measurement that apparently happened after a different measurement showed that same ball at 1.6 PSI under.  Given that Mortensen’s report was: (1) taken as completely accurate; and (2) pushed the entire scandal to a new level, it’s important to look at those numbers objectively and to assess carefully whether there’s a plausible atmospheric explanation for the loss in air pressure.

Further complicating matters for the NFL is the lack of clear evidence that the starting point for each ball was 12.5 PSI.  Given that the NFL was aware of the issue before the game began, it’s stunning that a record of the measurements wasn’t made.

Moreover, and as suggested by the measurements made by Prioleau and Blakeman, the mere act of confirming that the balls were inflated to 12.5 PSI may have dropped them below the minimum.

The problem for the Patriots is that enough other evidence pointed to a violation to allow Ted Wells to conclude that the preponderance of the evidence suggests to deliberate manipulation.  Regardless, the raw numbers aren’t nearly as bad as they were originally portrayed to be.

In the interests of fairness to everyone, that fact can’t be disregarded.

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Wells Report: Brady, Pats staffer accused of manipulating footballs spoke at least six times after deflation allegations arose

Tom Brady Says He Didn't Alter Footballs In Colts Game Getty Images

Among the most notable assertions in Wednesday’s Wells Report on alleged football under-inflation by the Patriots was that investigators believe it was “more probable than not” that New England quarterback Tom Brady was “at least generally aware” that two Patriots gameday employees were letting air out of footballs.

Writing in the report, the investigative team points to the “material increase in the frequency of telephone and text communications” between Brady and a Patriots staffer alleged to have manipulated footballs as “evidence of Brady‟s awareness” of efforts to under-inflate footballs.

Those communications, the report alleges, picked up beginning on Monday, January 19, when the deflation allegations came to light.

According to the Wells Report, Brady and Patriots equipment assistant John Jastremski communicated via telephone at least six times before Jastremski turned in his telephone to the Patriots to be imaged forensically on January 21.

Overall, Brady and Jastremski had two conversations apiece occurring on January 20 and 21 and “at least” two conversations on January 19, investigators assert. Brady and Jastremski spoke for nearly an hour in total over the three days, the Wells Report found.

Moreover, investigators allege they found Brady sent text messages to Jastremski “seemingly designed to calm” the equipment assistant.

“You good Jonny boy?” read one of the texts allegedly sent by Brady to Jastremski.

Wrote Jastremski in one of his text messages to Brady, as found by the report: “Still nervous; so far so good though.”

According to the Wells Report, Jastremski and Brady had not texted or communicated over the phone for more than six months prior to January 19.

Brady is also alleged to have invited Jastremski to the Patriots’ quarterbacks room on January 19 — something that had never occurred previously, Jastremski was alleged to have told investigators.

After the inflation allegations against the Patriots surfaced after their win in the AFC title game on January 18, Brady told Boston radio station WEEI that it was “ridiculous” to believe New England was improperly altering footballs.

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Wells report chides Patriots for not cooperating with investigation

Robert Kraft AP

Patriots owner Robert Kraft promised his full cooperation with the Ted Wells investigation.

What Wells found from the Patriots was something that falls well below the threshold of full.

The Wells report said that the Patriots refused to make officials locker room attendant Jim McNally available for a follow-up interview which was requested, “despite our offer to meet at any time and location that would be convenient for McNally.”

The report said Patriots counsel apparently didn’t inform McNally of the request, and that the refusal “violated the club‟s obligations to cooperate with the investigation under the Policy on Integrity of the Game & Enforcement of League Rules and was inconsistent with public statements made by the Patriots pledging full cooperation with the investigation.”

That sets the stage for some significant punishment for the team, which began this process with bluster, demanding an apology from the league if no evidence was found.

The team wasn’t alone playing keep-away, as quarterback Tom Brady refused to provide text messages and e-mails “even though those requests were limited to the subject matter of our investigation” which means they weren’t just looking for cell phone pics of Gisele Bundchen.

The report also concluded that the Patriots “questioned the integrity and objectivity of game officials, various NFL executives and certain NFL Security representatives present at the AFC Championship Game or otherwise involved in the investigative process.”

That’s not surprising. People put on the defensive act defensively. But the team that boasted about full cooperation then refused to cooperate fully, and that’s something the organization will likely answer for soon.

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Brady assured Belichick he did nothing wrong in Deflategate

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During the week after the AFC Championship Game, when Deflategate became the No. 1 story in America, Patriots coach Bill Belichick privately talked to quarterback Tom Brady and asked him directly whether he had ordered anyone to deflate the team’s footballs. Brady assured Belichick he’d done nothing wrong.

That’s the word from the report from investigator Ted Wells, which says that Brady convinced Belichick that no rules had been broken.

“Belichick asked Brady directly whether he had any knowledge about any of the issues raised by the press since the AFC Championship Game,” the report says. “According to Belichick, Brady said ‘absolutely not.’ Belichick stated that he then asked if Brady or anyone Brady knew had tampered with or in any way altered the footballs. Brady again denied any knowledge or involvement. Belichick recalled that Brady also explained that once he inspects and approves game balls, those balls are exactly as he likes them and that he would not want anyone to do anything to them after that point. Belichick believed Brady. Belichick and Brady attended the team meeting, and Belichick told the team that there was ‘not one shred of truth’ to the deflation allegations. When given the floor, Brady repeated what he had told Belichick about wanting game balls to be exactly as he approved them.”

The investigation strongly suggests that Brady did, in fact, pressure the Patriots’ equipment staff to deflate footballs used by the team. But the investigation also suggests that Belichick was unaware. If the NFL is going to make a high-profile person within the Patriots organization suffer consequences over this, it’s going to be Brady, not Belichick.

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Text messages suggest Tom Brady had knowledge of deflating

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Of all the elements of the Ted Wells report which cast Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in a poor light, a series of text message exchanges between the pair of guys who got game balls where they needed to be and when are near the top of the list.

The messages, not all of which are able to be reprinted here on a family website, give a pretty strong suggestion that not only was Brady in on the deflation, but that he was signing autographs in exchange for special treatment.

The messages between Jim McNally [the officials locker room attendant] and John Jastremski [a Patriots equipment assistant] show a level of detail and planning that indicates this wasn’t a random, or one-time occurrence.

The first exchange was after an Oct. 17, 2014 game against the Jets when Brady complained about the pressure of the balls.

Jastremski wrote “Tom sucks. im going make that next ball a f—in balloon.”

McNally replied: “Talked to him last night. He actually brought you up and said you must have a lot of stress trying to get them done…”

McNally, apparently not a fan of Brady’s (or at least his level of attention of air pressure) made several references to pumping the balls up to “watermleon” or “rugby” size, since Brady preferred softer ones for better control.

Prior to the next game, McNally wrote: “The only thing deflating sun..is his passing rating.”

There was then a discussion of McNally receiving free shoes and gear, and prior to the Jan. 10 game against the Ravens, the two of them were in the equipment room with Brady when McNally “received two footballs autographed by Brady and also had Brady autograph a game-worn Patriots jersey that McNally previously had obtained.”

McNally later referred to himself as “the deflator,” and chided Jastremski by saying “im not going to espn……..yet.”

Those exchanges make it hard to imagine Brady had no knowledge of what’s going on, which he’ll need to answer for later.

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Ryan Grigson complained to NFL about Patriots’ footballs both before and during AFC Championship Game

Grigson AP

Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson complained to the NFL both before and during the AFC Championship Game that the Patriots were cheating by illegally deflating their footballs.

The Deflategate report released today says that Grigson first contacted the NFL the day before the game, sending the NFL’s football operations department an email stating that Colts equipment manager Sean Sullivan had told him it was commonly known around the league that the Patriots regularly violated the rules by deflating their footballs.

“As far as the gameballs are concerned it is well known around the league that after the Patriots gameballs are checked by the officials and brought out for game usage the ballboys for the patriots will let out some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better, it would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don‟t get an illegal advantage,” said the email from Grigson, which attributed that “well known” information to Sullivan.

NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino made a point of telling referee Walt Anderson before the AFC Championship Game to make sure the Patriots’ footballs were checked. But after the Colts intercepted two Tom Brady passes, both footballs were checked on the Colts’ sideline and found to be under-inflated. Word of that got up to Grigson, and he went to league officials to complain just before halftime.

“Grigson said that he made clear to [NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent and V.P. of game operations Mike Kensil] that he understood that there was a problem with the inflation level of a Patriots football—the precise issue the Colts had raised prior to the game—and that he was not happy about the situation. Kensil and Vincent told Grigson that they were on their way to look into the issue,” the Deflategate report says.

Now, more than three months later, the investigation has concluded that it’s more likely than not that those footballs were under-inflated purposely by the Patriots. Grigson was right to complain.

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NFL may discipline Tom Brady over Deflategate

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Tom Brady may face league discipline after the Deflategate investigation has come to an end.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged in his brief statement on the matter that the league will consider “possible disciplinary action.” Goodell didn’t mention Brady or anyone else by name in that statement, but the investigation concluded “it is more probable than not” that Brady was generally aware that Patriots employees were taking air out of footballs to give Brady a competitive advantage.

Given that, it also seems more probable than not that Brady will be disciplined. Brady’s name is mentioned 378 times in the Deflategate report. By contrast, Bill Belichick’s name is mentioned 32 times. If some high-profile member of the Patriots organization is going to be in trouble over this, it’s Brady.

What kind of discipline is Brady facing? That’s impossible to say, given that there’s never been a rules violation like this in NFL history. The league might consider a fine to be severe enough, but a suspension can’t be ruled out.

Brady is an NFL icon, perhaps the NFL’s biggest and best star of his generation. He now may have a permanently tarnished image.

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Bears agree with WR Kevin White, DL Eddie Goldman

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The Bears aren’t wasting any time striking deals with their draft picks.

Chicago announced Wednesday it had agreed to contracts with first-round pick Kevin White and second-round selection Eddie Goldman.

A wide receiver from West Virginia, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound White will push to start immediately opposite Alshon Jeffery in Chicago. He was timed at 4.35 seconds in the 40-yards dash at the 2015 NFL Combine, tied for third-best among wideouts.

Goldman (6-4, 336) is likely to contribute at nose tackle for the Bears. The Florida State product was voted a first-team All-American by The Associated Press in 2014.

Third-round pick Hroniss Grasu, a center from Oregon, is the lone Bears draftee yet to reach a deal with the club.

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Rex Ryan won’t stop players from speaking freely

LeSean McCoy AP

Bills tailback LeSean McCoy garnered widespread attention Wednesday for his published remarks in ESPN The Magazine claiming his former head coach, Chip Kelly, had gotten rid of “all the good black players” in Philadelphia.

At a press conference today, Bills head coach Rex Ryan indicated reporters would be best asking McCoy about his comments.

“Anything that’s brought up with a guy in his past, with a different team, is better addressed with him, not me,” Ryan said, according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak.

However, Ryan also noted that he was “not going to put a muzzle” on his players, as ESPN noted.

As policies go, this seems a fair one: you can speak freely, but you have to own your remarks. It’s a policy Ryan has applied to himself over the years, which makes it easy to set down for the rest of the team.

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Ted Wells: “More probable than not” Patriots manipulated balls

Tom Brady AP

The NFL has released the long-awaited DeflateGate report, and the short version of the findings by Ted Wells is that the Patriots seem to have done something funny here.

The full report was released moments ago, and in his summary, Wells writes that the irregularities in the balls used in the AFC Championship Game.

“For the reasons described in this Report, and after a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded that, in connection with the AFC Championship Game, it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules,” Wells concluded. “In particular, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally [the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots] and John Jastremski [an equipment assistant for the Patriots] participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee.

“Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady [the quarterback for the Patriots] was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”

That’s a huge finding, particularly as it relates to Brady, who has previously avoided adding much fuel to the fire.

We’ll be going through the full report this afternoon and bringing you the latest on a complicated story.

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Rex Ryan: I had dinner with La’el Collins and “that’s really the extent of it”

Rex Ryan AP

In response to questions about teams meeting with undrafted LSU tackle La’El Collins on Tuesday, the NFL explained in an email to PFT that “clubs are prohibited from visiting a player who was eligible for the 2015 Draft at his campus or residence if the player has withdrawn from school and final exams have yet to conclude at the school.”

That explanation came a day after Bills coach Rex Ryan reportedly had dinner with Collins in Baton Rouge, Louisiana after contacting Collins himself. On Wednesday, Ryan confirmed that he broke bread with Collins but shared little else beyond the fact that he had gumbo rather than a reported lobster appetizer.

“I did have dinner with him. That’s really the extent of it,” Ryan said, via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com.

Rodak described Ryan as “uncharacteristically quiet” about the dinner, their conversation and the Bills’ level of interest in bringing Collins on board. Teams will likely continue to be on the reserved side when it comes to interest in Collins, who will be free to meet with the Bills, Dolphins and anyone else when LSU wraps up the school year on May 9.

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The artist formerly known as Evan Dietrich-Smith shortens name

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Ndamukong Suh won’t have Evan Dietrich-Smith to kick around anymore.

And neither will anyone else.

The Buccaneers announced the offensive lineman would heretofore be known as Evan Smith, which was the name he went by until college.

He signed with the Buccaneers last offseason, after a stint with the Packers best known for being stomped on by the former Lions defensive tackle, who is now in Miami.

No explanation was given for the change, though we can only presume he was not adopted by Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith.

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Marv Hubbard passes away at age 68

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Former NFL fullback Marv Hubbard, a key cog for the 1970s Raiders, passed away Monday at age 68, the Raiders said.

A three-time Pro Bowler with Oakland (1971, 1972, 1973), Hubbard rushed for 4,544 yards and 23 touchdowns in eight NFL seasons. An 11th-round pick from Colgate, Hubbard played his first seven pro campaigns with the Raiders (1969-1975) before finishing his career with the Lions in 1977.

“He was a hard runner,” former Raiders head coach John Madden said of Hubbard in a statement issued by the club. “We used to use him — you think back now, people don’t do things like this, but we used to run him early to kind of wear the defense down and then in the middle we would pass and do all our stuff, and then when we got ahead we would run him to finish the game. He was a great game finisher.

“Once we got that lead, you weren’t going to get it back again. You weren’t going to get the lead back again. You weren’t going to get the ball back again, and we had the defense worn down, and we just kept feeding Marv Hubbard, and Marv Hubbard loved that part of football.”

Hubbard had been dealing with prostate cancer, his wife, Virginia, told the Bay Area News Group.

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