The Seahawks had done a good job last week of dancing around #DeflateGate, with perhaps the strongest comment from cornerback Richard Sherman when he compared the potential handling of underinflated footballs to the league’s reported threat to prevent Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch from playing with gold cleats.
Sherman went all in on Sunday after arriving in Arizona, suggesting that the friendship between Commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft ultimately will lead to the exoneration of the Patriots.
“Will they be punished? Probably not,” Sherman told reporters, via Don Banks of SI.com. “Not as long as Robert Kraft and Goodell are still taking pictures [together] at their respective homes. I think he was just at Kraft’s house last week for the AFC Championship. Talk about conflict of interest. You know, as long as that happens, it won’t affect them at all. Nothing will.”
Sherman’s point is undermined by the fact that Goodell hammered the Patriots for Spygate in 2007, despite the fact that the team will still owned at the time by Kraft. Still, if the Patriots aren’t punished for the latest controversy, some will point to the strong support Kraft provided Goodell during the Ray Rice situation as proof of preferential treatment, even if the truth is that the league tried to catch the Pats in the act of underinflating footballs and ultimately failed to do so.
From the sideline of the Pro Bowl, Sherman had a chance to elaborate during an interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters, who asked about his belief that the Pats won’t face consequences.
“I don’t because how that’s gonna be,” Sherman said. “It’s the world we live in. It’s the league we play in.”
Sherman also addressed the substance of the NFL’s suspicion of deliberate underinflation, stopping short of poking a bear that already will be poised to prove to the world that the Patriots deserve to be in the Super Bowl.
“I think the perception is the reality,” Sherman said. “It is what it is. Their resume speaks for itself. You talk about getting close to the line. . . . I don’t really have a comment about that, but their past is what their past is, their present is what their present is.”
Still, we don’t know what their past or present is regarding ball inflation, because the NFL has never dealt with this type of situation before — and because the NFL apparently was woefully unprepared to link proof of underinflated balls to proof of foul play. Absent a clear plan to make that connection, the NFL never should have pulled the pin on this specific grenade.