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Packers impressed by “genetic freak” Julius Peppers

NFC Championship Football

The Packers are used to seeing Julius Peppers twice a year.

Their first workout with him on their side had them excited about the possibility of 16.

Teammates were impressed by Peppers’ first OTA workout, and are already thinking about what he’s capable of.

“You obviously notice his athletic ability right off the bat,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said, via Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He’s 34 and runs like he’s 18. If ever there was a genetic freak put on this planet, it is Julius. He’s just a specimen. I have a ton of respect for how he works, too. What a great teammate just from Day 1. He’s a quiet guy that already knows what he is doing, so it is fun to be around a guy like him.

“Him being in Chicago all these years, and getting to see him up close and personal two games a year, is always something I’ve been impressed by. Now, to have him on our side, to see how good of a guy he is, how good of a teammate he is, he’s already lived up to — and exceeded — my expectations.”

Peppers has created a high bar for himself because of his natural gifts. While it’s easy for someone so large and so graceful to appear effortless and thus draw criticism, he’s compiled 118.5 sacks and ranks in the top 20 all-time in that category.

They’ve all come from a 4-3 defensive end spot with the Bears and Panthers, and the Packers are using him as a hybrid outside linebacker (hence the unfamiliar number 56).

But so far, they’re excited about what they’ve seen, and what he might add as a pass-rusher opposite Clay Matthews.

 

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Wednesday morning one-liners

Justin Tucker AP

The Dolphins have more receivers than they know what to do with.

The Patriots are inducting Willie McGinest into their Hall of Fame tonight.

Jets CB Antonio Cromartie says the secondary is the cornerstone of the team’s defense.

Bills WR Robert Woods doesn’t have a preference in the team’s quarterback competition.

Ravens K Justin Tucker hit a 64-yard field goal in practice.

Bengals DL Margus Hunt is off the PUP list but not ready for contact yet.

Browns RB Duke Johnson is falling behind while he nurses an injured hamstring.

Steelers WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is hoping to make an impact on special teams.

Don’t expect the Texans to sign Ray Rice.

Are the Colts’ practices tough enough?

Denard Robinson won’t give up the Jaguars’ starting running back job without a fight.

Is the Marcus Mariota bandwagon getting out of control?

Von Miller is looking dominant at Broncos camp.

Chiefs WR L’Damian Washington is feeling good after calf surgery.

Said Raiders RB Latavius Murray of coach Jack Del Rio, “He is a guy who played the game, so his energy is what a football player would want it to be. He knows how to push us. He knows how to bring energy to the practice field every day, knows what football players want to hear. He’s been in our shoes, so we love the energy he brings.”

Philip Rivers may have the upper hand in negotiations with the Chargers.

Tyler Patmon, who fought with Dez Bryant, is showing good competitiveness at Cowboys camp.

Zak DeOssie has never missed a game in eight seasons with the Giants.

Eagles RB Kenjon Barmer admits he was a screwup when he first played for Chip Kelly, at Oregon.

Washington OT Morgan Moses is trying to turn his injury into a positive.

Bears coach John Fox appears to be getting through to his players.

Lions TE Eric Ebron is showing more maturity in his second season.

Packers LB Andy Mulumba has come back stronger after an injury.

Of the 13 players in NFL history who have started 200 consecutive games, five of them are Vikings.

Falcons rookie Vic Beasley is off to a strong start.

There’s no doubt about who the No. 1 player in Panthers camp is.

Saints WR Nick Toon is ready for a big season.

Bucs RB Doug Martin wants to prove his doubters wrong.

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer got a rest day at camp.

The Rams are having a three-way battle at center.

The 49ers excused WR Jerome Simpson from practice for personal reasons, but he could be back today.

Expect the Seahawks to use more two-tight end formations this season.

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Chiefs trying to “be smart” with Eric Berry’s return

Eric Berry AP

Whatever happens between now and the start of the regular season, it’s tough to imagine that there are going to be any football stories better than safety Eric Berry’s return to the field after finishing treatments for cancer.

It’s less than a year since Berry’s diagnosis, but he was cleared to start camp on the active roster and Tuesday marked his fourth straight day going through individual and position drills. That leaves the question of when he’ll take the next step and move into 11-on-11 drills with an eye on playing in a preseason game. It’s one Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton isn’t willing to answer right now.

“We just have to be smart with him. He has to be smart and realize, ‘Hey, this is going to take a little time here,'” Sutton said, via the Kansas City Star. “When he came back originally, he was excited — he was on adrenaline. It’s going to take some time and we’ve kind of made a conscious effort of, ‘Hey, we’re going to manage as well as we can and let him be the lead dog in it and give him what he needs. He’s played a lot of football so we’re not too concerned about that. He’s just got to get back to where he feels comfortable, and reacts and that type of thing.”

Berry’s body has been through a lot and the only prudent way to proceed is to make sure that he responds well to each step of the process before giving him more to do. The end of that path has Berry on the field in the regular season and risking that ending so he can do more in the first week of August would be a disservice to both player and team.

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49ers will “work hard” to retain Aldon Smith

Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith AP

The big story of the 49ers offseason was the steady stream of departures from the team.

General Manager Trent Baalke would like to generate a different headline with linebacker Aldon Smith, who is in the final year of his contract. Baalke said that the team is going to “work hard to make sure” that Smith remains with the team and indicated that the team feels Smith has moved in the right direction after off-field issues led him to miss 14 games over the last two seasons.

“Aldon’s like any young player,” Baalke said, via ESPN.com. “He’s growing up, he’s maturing. You see that with a lot of these guys. Some of them get themselves in a few more situations that you wish they didn’t … [but I’m] really pleased with the way he’s handled things, the way he’s working both personally and professionally. I think he’s doing an outstanding job. He’s always been a great teammate. He’s always had an excellent work ethic. Those are things he’s even stepped up.”

Baalke didn’t give any timeline a deal might get done nor did he say where discussions about a new deal stood. After 2013’s trip to rehab and 2014’s suspension, Smith would likely see more money if he plays well and stays on the field for 16 games but the prospect of security ahead of those unknowns could lead things to play out more quickly.

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Sore foot brings early end to Eddie Lacy’s practice

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The Packers practiced without linebacker Clay Matthews for a second straight day on Tuesday as the knee soreness that kept him out on Monday led the team to continue resting an integral part of their defense.

An integral part of the offense also finished Tuesday’s session on the sideline. Running back Eddie Lacy was in and out of practice before leaving for good in the later part of the session and coach Mike McCarthy said a sore foot was the reason why Lacy’s day was cut short.

“Eddie had some foot soreness,” McCarthy said, via Tom Silverstein the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “They just pulled him out there near the end.”

Silverstein reports that Lacy didn’t look like he was limping and that he stayed on the field to watch the end of practice rather than going inside to get treatment from the medical staff. Both Lacy and Matthews will have Wednesday off as the Packers will only have meetings before returning to the practice field on Thursday.

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Saints fan found guilty of misdemeanor battery for shoving Bears owner

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You can’t touch the Bears at home — or at least their owner.

A 58-year-old Saints fan was found guilty Tuesday on charges of shoving Bears owner George McCaskey during an argument over seats at Solider Field last season.

According to Liam Ford of the Chicago Tribune, Richard Kohnke of New Orleans, was found guilty of misdemeanor battery with insulting or provoking conduct. He was sentenced to six months of court supervision.

The charges stem from the Dec. 15 Saints-Bears game, when McCaskey went to his seats and found several Saints fans in them. After a brief conversation, McCaskey went to get security when Kohnke went after him and pushed him to the ground. A Bears fan then tackled Kohnke, which is more than the Bears did to the Saints that day (a 31-15 New Orleans win).

Kohnke has to return to court in February at the end of his court supervision. There’s been no word whether the Bears signed the tackler.

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Jeff Fisher on Todd Gurley: This is going to be a process

Todd Gurley AP

Rams running back Todd Gurley avoided the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp, which was an encouraging sign about the 10th overall pick’s chances of helping St. Louis move the ball during his rookie season.

Being on the active roster isn’t the same thing as being a fully active member of the roster, however. Gurley is only doing individual work at Rams practices right now and spent Tuesday’s first padded practice of the summer as an observer rather than a participant. Coach Jeff Fisher wouldn’t outline a specific timeline for when that would change, saying only that the team is continuing to take the long view when it comes to letting Gurley loose.

“This is going to be a process,” Fisher said, via Yahoo Sports. “It’s not going to be a day-to-day thing. We’re looking at this as a long-term now. When I say long term, I mean let’s just go week to week and go through the preseason and we’ll see where we are when the season starts. He’s not had any setbacks. He’s getting walkthrough reps. He’s participating in all the meetings, and he’s doing fine. If we made it his choice, he’d be out there right now. To a certain extent, we have to hold him back just to protect him.”

Fisher said he didn’t know if Gurley would play in the preseason, but that “practice reps will suffice” for the running back to show the team that he’s ready for game action in the regular season. It looks like it will be a little while before decisions are made on any of those fronts, however.

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Ray Rice says he’s a “rehabilitated man,” as he looks for work

Ray Rice Press Conference Getty Images

Since the last round of exclusive interviews designed to drum up sympathy and/or a job didn’t work, Ray Rice gave it another shot Tuesday.

The former Ravens running back, who has been out of the NFL since punching his wife in the face, said he wants back in the league, but also to change the storyline of his career.

I’m not afraid to say right now I’m a rehabilitated man,” Rice said on ESPN’s SportsCenter, via USA Today. “Some people will probably never forgive my actions but I think, . . . over time I want to be able to rewrite the script.”

Of course, it’s not the script so much as the video, as the images of him punching Janay Rice in a casino elevator created a visceral reaction, forcing the Ravens and the NFL to wake up and realize a two-game suspension wasn’t going to be enough (and that triggered a whole other set of issues for the league).

Rice said he was taking accountability for his actions, and is worried about how his daughter will view him as she gets older. He also hopes she’ll get to see him play again.

“I have a lot of hope and faith that I’ll be able to hang ‘em up the right way. That’s what’s keeping me going, keeping me working,” he said. “I always preach, one or two bad decisions, your dream can become a nightmare. Well, I had to eat my own words. I truly lived a nightmare. I’m just really hopeful for a second chance.”

This isn’t the first time he’s made such statements, and the league has continued to collectively shrug. While players such as Greg Hardy can find work easily because they offer something other than bad P.R., Rice’s 3.1 yards per carry average remains a convenient reason for most to hope his second chance comes with another team.

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San Antonio officials says they’re still talking to Raiders

SanAntonio Getty Images

With the NFL continuing to flirt with Los Angeles, San Antonio is over the in the corner waving their arms, trying to make sure the NFL doesn’t forget about them.

And they think it’s working.

City Manager Sheryl Sculley told Scott Bailey of the San Antonio Business Journal that they’ve continued discussions with the Raiders and remain a possibility.

We have certainly raised the attention of the NFL,” Sculley said.

Of course, the focus of next week’s league meeting in Chicago will remain on the possibility of the Chargers, Raiders and Rams possibly heading to California, since the league is so clearly desperate to get a team or teams in the nation’s second-largest market.

“We are following closely what is going on in California,” Sculley said. “We expect to hear what [the Raiders’] plans are for the 2016 season after that meeting.”

The current discussions include the Raiders and Chargers working together on a shared stadium on Carson, but if that doesn’t come together, San Antonio will remain a fallback position.

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Texans bringing in Pierre Thomas for a workout today

Pierre Thomas, Jon Bostic AP

The Texans aren’t going to be able to replace the hole in their offense left by the news Arian Foster needs surgery and will miss part of the season.

But they can at least fill a spot on the depth chart, and are working on that as we speak.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans are bringing in former Saints running back Pierre Thomas for a visit today, along with Joe McKnight and Ben Malena.

Thomas was cut by the Saints this offseason, after eight years there. He filled a number of roles for them, showing he could run and be an effective receiver out of the backfield. And while his 4.6 yards per carry average is strong, he’s never been asked to be the kind of bell cow back the Texans are going to need.

Foster injured his groin Monday, and is going to need surgery which will likely require him to go on injured reserve/designated for return. That’s a huge blow to an offense which was built around him, and lacks other skill players to make up for it as they continue to look for a starting quarterback.

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Cardinals first-round pick D.J. Humphries OK after minor knee scare

D.J. Humphries Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals have suffered many injuries to offensive linemen in recent years. So when first-round pick D.J. Humphries left the practice field while having his right knee looked at, it would be no surprise if the Cardinals were holding their collective breath.

Apparently then can now all exhale.

According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Humphries knee injury isn’t serious and should only limit him for about a week.

Humphries is competing with 2014 starter Bobby Massie at right tackle. Massie was the Cardinals starter in 2012 and 2014 at the position, but Humphries will push for the right to start opposite left tackle Jared Veldheer.

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Brian Westbrook named to Eagles Hall of Fame

Brian Westbrook Getty Images

Brian Westbrook’s versatility made him a nightmare for opposing defenses to handle during his nine-year career spent predominantly with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now the Eagles are honoring him with a spot in their Hall of Fame.

Westbrook, an analyst for ProFootballTalk on NBCSN, will join linebacker Maxie Baughn as new members of the Eagles Hall of Fame. They will bring the number of members to a total of 40.

It means a lot to me. I mean it means a lot to my family as well,” Westbrook said, per the team’s website. “I worked hard to be honored like this, and I played with a lot of guys that got me to this place. I just mentioned out there that they say how did you get here? Well I played with an awful lot of good players, and they made my job a lot easier.

“For me to just go out there and make people miss and gain yards is the easy work, but those guys in front on the offensive line and those guys outside blocking helped me a lot. But, this is a great honor. I never really thought about it. I’ve seen guys like Dawk (Brian Dawkins) and Donovan (McNabb), those guys that carried this team for so long get inducted to the Hall of Fame, and I believe they got their numbers retired. Of course I congratulated, I celebrate those guys because I know that they were great players. I never really knew I was going to get the opportunity. But, my day came and it’s a blessing.”

Westbrook was a jack-of-all-trades for Philadelphia. He was an avid runner, skilled receiver and occasional kick returner for the Eagles. Westbrook rushed for 6,335 yards and 41 touchdowns in his career and posted a pair of 1,000-yard seasons. He also caught 442 passes for 3,940 yards and 30 touchdowns.

In 2007, he led the NFL with 2,104 yards from scrimmage, an Eagles all-time season-single record. Westbrook made the Pro Bowl twice and was twice named a first-team All-Pro.

Westbrook players eight seasons for the Eagles before ending his career with the San Francisco 49ers in 2010.

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Vincent admits Brady was disciplined under policy not given to players

vincent Getty Images

While basic P.R. concerns prevent the NFLPA from putting it this way, the primary argument against the suspension of Tom Brady is that, even if he did what he’s accused of doing, he can’t be suspended for it.

As to Brady’s alleged “general awareness” that one or more Patriots employees were deflating footballs, the NFLPA argues that the discipline was imposed under a policy that is not distributed to players. Which, as a matter of basic labor law, prevents the NFL from disciplining Brady for any violations of the policy.

The transcript of Brady’s appeal hearing includes admissions from executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent that prove these two key points.

“Where do you find the policy that says footballs can’t be altered with respect to pressure? Is that going to be in the competitive integrity policy that Mr. Wells cited in his report?” attorney Jeffrey Kessler asked Vincent.

“Game-Day Operations Manual,” Vincent said.

“Is it correct, to your knowledge, that the manual is given to clubs and GMs and owners, et cetera, but the manual is not given out to players; is that correct, to your knowledge?” Kessler said.

“That’s correct, to my knowledge,” Vincent said.

“In fact, when you were a player, you were never given that manual, right?”

“No,” Vincent said.

Earlier in the hearing, Brady testified he never received a copy of the Competitive Integrity Policy.

While the NFL will argue that Brady was disciplined generally for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game (indeed, that was the specific conclusion reached in the appeal ruling), the NFLPA will argue that labor law requires much more specificity and, fundamentally, notice as to what is prohibited.

By way of comparison, if a player were deliberately and intentionally using stickum, he arguably would be engaging in conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game, he’d be subject to only a fine, because the negotiated fine schedule allows a fine of $8,681 for having a foreign substance on the body or uniform. And other equipment or uniform violations result in a fine of only $5,787 for a first offense.

The NFL hasn’t secured via collective bargaining the ability to impose a suspension for these types of “cheating” violations, even when the player is personally committing the offense. More importantly, the NFL hasn’t informed players that they can be suspended for such behavior.

That alone, in the opinion of the NFLPA, will keep Brady from being suspended. The real question is whether Judge Richard M. Berman disagrees.

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Ruling mischaracterizes Brady’s testimony about communications with Jastremski

2013 Carnegie Hall Medal Of Excellence Gala Getty Images

When the NFL released the 20-page, single-space ruling upholding the four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady without also releasing the transcript, it was impossible to verify the accuracy of any conclusions reached in the ruling. The transcript has now been released, and plenty of comparing-and-contrasting is going on.

The idea for this one comes from Doug Kyed of NESN.com, who compared a key conclusion drawn by Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding Brady’s credibility to the raw testimony generated in Goodell’s presence. And it’s clear that Goodell’s characterization reflects an incomplete (at best) review of the overall testimony.

At page 8 of the ruling, Goodell writes: “Mr. Brady testified that he was unable to recall any specifics of [his] discussions [with John Jastremski] and he suggested that their principle subject was the preparation of game balls for the Super Bowl. But the need for such frequent communication beginning on January 19 is difficult to square with the fact that there apparently was no need to communicate by cellphone with Mr. Jastremski or to meet personally with him in the ‘QB room’ during the preceding twenty weeks of the regular season and post-season prior to the AFC Championship Game. . . . The sharper contrast between the almost complete absence of communications through the AFC Championship Game and the extraordinary volume of communications during the three days following the AFC Championship Game undermines any suggestion that the communications addressed only preparation of footballs for the Super Bowl rather than the tampering allegations and their anticipated responses to inquiries about the tampering.”

Within that quote, the ruling drops the following footnote: “In response to the question, ‘Why were you talking to Mr. Jastremski in those two weeks?,’ Mr. Brady responded, in sum: ‘I think most of the conversations centered around breaking in the balls.’ For reasons noted, I do not fully credit that testimony.”

(Before going any farther, there’s a subtle blurring of the lines between the text of the ruling and the footnote. The text suggests Brady said he and Jastremski “only” discussed football preparation; the footnote quotes Brady as saying “most” of the conversations focused on breaking in the balls.)

Basically, Goodell thinks Brady was trying to conceal or downplay that fact that he talked to Jastremski about the tampering allegations. If, under that theory, Brady was trying to hide that fact that he and Jastremski talked about the allegations, Brady would ultimately be trying to hide the fact that were hoping to get their ducks in a row, for illegitimate purposes.

If Brady had testified consistently throughout the hearing that they only discussed getting footballs ready for the Super Bowl, that would indeed be a little curious — even though Brady testified that he wanted to be sure that the 100 balls (not 12) used for the Super Bowl would be properly broken in, without the use of Lexol, which would have made the balls slick if it would have unexpectedly rained while the retractable roof at the University of Phoenix Stadium was opened. (Brady said it had rained after New England’s last game in Phoenix; it also rained there on several days during the week preceding the game.)

But here’s the thing. Brady ADMITTED on multiple occasions that he talked to Jastremski about the tampering allegations.

At page 79, Brady testified that he texted Jastremski “You good, Johnny boy?” because Jastremski was “obviously nervous [about] the fact that these allegations were coming out that they would fall back on him.”

Later, at page 130, Brady testified while explaining an 11-minute call with Jastresmki on January 19, the day after the AFC title game: “I don’t remember exactly what we discussed. But like I said, there was two things that were happening. One was the allegations which we were facing and the second was getting ready for the Super Bowl, which both of those things have never happened before. [Editor’s note: It wasn’t the first time Brady went to a Super Bowl, but it was the first Super Bowl for the Patriots with Jastremski in that specific job.] So me talking to him about those things were unprecedented, you know, he was the person that I would be communicating with.” (Emphasis added.)

At page 144, Brady further elaborates on the reasons for phone calls with Jastresmki on January 19, 20, and 21: “[T]he initial report was that none of the Colts’ balls were deflated, but the Patriots, all the Patriots’ balls were. So I think trying to figure out what happened was certainly my concern and trying to figure out, you know, what could be — possibly could have happened to those balls.” (Emphasis added.)

To summarize, the ruling concluded that Brady testified that he didn’t speak to Jastresmki about the tampering allegations, which caused Goodell to disregard Brady’s denial of “awareness and consent” to the deflation scheme: “[T]he unusual pattern of communication between Mr. Brady and Mr. Jastremski in the days following the AFC Championship Game cannot readily be explained as unrelated to conversations about the alleged tampering of the game balls,” Goodell wrote at page 8 of the ruling.

But Brady testified — on multiple occasions — that he and Jastremski talked about the situation. And why wouldn’t they have talked? At that time, the NFL had told the Patriots that one of their footballs was measured at 10.1 PSI, ESPN had reported that 11 of 12 footballs were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum, and the NFL had informed the Patriots that none of the Colts footballs measured below the 12.5 PSI minimum. Apart from the fact that each of these three contentions weren’t factual, they gave Brady plenty of reason to be talking to Jastremski, not to line up a lie but to try to figure out how someone could have taken so much air out of the footballs.

We now know that no one took that much air out of the footballs. For now, the new wrinkle is that the NFL forgot, conveniently or otherwise, that Brady had admitted talking to Jastremski about the tampering allegation when concluding that Brady had failed to admit to such communications, and in turn concluding that his denial of awareness and consent to a deflation scheme wasn’t believable.

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Why didn’t Goodell call Jastremski and McNally?

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Not long after PFT obtained a copy of the Tom Brady appeal hearing transcript, which was filed in federal court Tuesday by the NFLPA, I scrolled through the document to see how many pages I’d have to read.

When I got to the last page — 456 — I noticed a comment from NFL outside counsel Gregg Levy, who served as the legal advisor to non-lawyer arbitrator/Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“In your briefs, the Commissioner would like you to address the question of whether he should hear from Mr. McNally and/or Mr. Jastremski before resolving the issue, before deciding the matter,” Levy said.

At footnote 7 (where the good stuff always is hiding) of the 20-page ruling on the Brady appeal, the Commissioner explains that the NFLPA took the position that, because the two Patriots employees who exchanged the troubling Beavis-and-Butthead text messages denied a scheme to deflate footballs, there was “no need to call them as witnesses.” The NFL took the position that, since the NFLPA was questioning the findings of the Ted Wells report based on the interviews of McNally and Jastremski, “it was incumbent on them to call both witnesses.” The NFL also argued that the failure of the NFLPA to call McNally and Jastremski as witnesses requires an “adverse inference” that “their testimony would have confirmed Brady’s involvement.”

But that’s not what Levy requested. Levy wanted to know whether Goodell “should hear from” the witnesses before deciding the case. The NFLPA believed there was no need for it. The NFL essentially said that, because the NFLPA didn’t call them in the first place, the Commissioner should assume that whatever they said would prove Brady’s guilt.

So why didn’t Goodell simply insist on their testimony on his own? While it likely wouldn’t have changed the outcome, since Goodell would have needed a very good reason to scrap the decision he’d already approved based on the multi-million-dollar investigation he’d already authorized, it would have been far more prudent — and the record would have been far more clear — if the Commissioner had heard directly from them.

Making that testimony before Goodell even more important is the fact that Ted Wells wanted to re-question McNally because Wells and company inexplicably had failed to notice the controversial “deflator” text message before interviewing McNally the first time.

The fact that the NFLPA didn’t want them to testify suggests that the NFLPA was concerned about what they would say. But why didn’t the Commissioner — who wasn’t bashful about asking his own questions of Tom Brady — decide to pose his own questions to McNally and Jastremski?

If the Commissioner was intent on getting to the truth, he should have at least been curious to hear what they had to say, and to observe their demeanor while they said it.

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Ravens assistant alerted Colts to issue with footballs

bradycolts AP

In the days before they played the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, the Colts were alerted by the Ravens to pay special attention to potential problems with the game balls.

Colts equipment manager Sean Sullivan sent an email to G.M. Ryan Grigson before the AFC Championship saying that the Ravens’ special teams coach, Jerry Rosburg, had called Colts head coach Chuck Pagano to warn him of potential problems with game balls. According to the email, the Ravens had problems in their own playoff loss to the Patriots the week before, and urged the Colts to be careful.

“Two concerns came up as of yesterday on footballs at New England,” Sullivan wrote, via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “First off the special teams coordinator from the Baltimore Ravens called Coach Pagano and said that they had issues last week at the game that when they were kicking (Baltimore that is) they were given new footballs instead of the ones that were prepared correctly.”

Sullivan then added that the Patriots are known to play fast and loose with the rules regarding the game balls.

“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,” Sullivan wrote.

If it was “well known around the league” that the Patriots were breaking the rules about game balls, at Tom Brady’s request, it’s baffling that it never became public until Deflategate broke out after the AFC Championship Game. But Sullivan’s email makes clear that this was an issue the Colts were bracing for heading into the game.

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