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NFL important dates, 2015-16

A listing of upcoming National Football League deadlines and events…

August 28-30 – Third Preseason Weekend.
September 1 – Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must reduce their rosters to a maximum of 75 players on the Active List.
September 3 – Final Preseason Games.
September 5 – Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players on the Active/Inactive List.
September 5 – Simultaneously with the cut-down to 53, clubs that have players in the categories of Active/Physically Unable to Perform or Active/Non-Football Injury or Illness must select one of the following options: place player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness, whichever is applicable; request waivers; terminate contract; trade contract; or continue to count the player on the Active List.
September 6 – Claiming period for players placed on waivers at the final roster reduction will expire at 12:00 noon, New York time.
September 6 – Upon receipt of the Personnel Notice at approximately 1:00 p.m., New York time, clubs may establish a Practice Squad of 10 players. No club, including the player’s prior club, will be permitted to sign a player to a Practice Player Contract until all clubs have received simultaneous notification via the above Personnel Notice that such player’s prior NFL player contract has been terminated via the waiver system.
September 6 – After 4:00 p.m., New York time, a club is permitted to place a player on Reserve/Injured as “Designated for Return.”
September 10 – At 12:00 a.m., New York time, the Top 51 Rule expires for all NFL clubs.
September 10, 13-14 – Regular Season opens.
October 4 – NFL International Series, New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins, London, England
October 6-7 – Fall League Meeting, New York, New York.
October 16 – Beginning on the sixth calendar day prior to a club’s seventh regular season game (including any bye week) and continuing through the day after the conclusion of the 11th regular season weekend, clubs are permitted to begin practicing players on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform and Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness for a period not to exceed 21 days. Players may be activated during the 21-day practice period, or prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the day after the conclusion of the 21-day period, provided that no player may be activated to participate in a Week 6 game.
October 25 – NFL International Series, Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, London, England
November 1 – NFL International Series, Detroit Lions vs. Kansas City Chiefs, London, England
November 3 – All trading ends for 2015 at 4:00 p.m., New York time.
November 4 – Players with at least four previous pension-credited seasons are subject to the waiver system for the remainder of the regular season and postseason.
November 17 – At 4:00 p.m., New York time, signing period ends for Franchise Players who are eligible to receive offer sheets.
November 17 – Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for clubs to sign their unsigned Franchise and Transition Players, including Franchise Players who were eligible to receive offer sheets until this date. If still unsigned after this date, such players are prohibited from playing in NFL in 2015.
November 17 – Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for clubs to sign their Unrestricted Free Agents to whom the “May 12 Tender” was made. If still unsigned after this date, such players are prohibited from playing in NFL in 2015.
November 17 – Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for clubs to sign their Restricted Free Agents, including those to whom the “June 1 Tender” was made. If such players remain unsigned after this date, they are prohibited from playing in NFL in 2015.
November 17 – Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for clubs to sign their drafted rookies. If such players remain unsigned after this date, they are prohibited from playing in NFL in 2015.


January 3 – Week 17.
January 4 – Earliest permissible date for clubs to renegotiate or extend the rookie contract of a drafted rookie who was selected in any round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Any permissible renegotiated or extended player contract will not be considered a rookie contract, and will not be subject to the rules that limit rookie contracts.
January 4 – Option exercise period begins for Fifth-Year Option for First- Round Selections from the 2013 NFL Draft. To exercise the option, the club must give written notice to the player on or after January 4, 2016, but prior to May 3, 2016.
January 9-10 – Wild Card Playoffs.
January 10 – Assistant coaches under contract to playoff clubs that have byes in the Wild Card weekend may be interviewed for head coaching positions through the conclusion of the Wild Card games.
January 16-17 – Divisional Playoffs.
January 17 – Assistant coaches under contract to playoff clubs that won their Wild Card games may be interviewed for head coaching positions through the conclusion of Divisional Playoff games.
January 18 – Deadline for college players that are underclassmen to apply for special eligibility. A list of players who are accepted into the NFL Draft will be transmitted to clubs on January 22.
January 23 – East-West Shrine Game, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida.
January 24 – AFC and NFC Championship Games.
January 30 – Senior Bowl, Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama.
January 31 – NFL Pro Bowl, Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii.
January 31 – An assistant coach, whose team is participating in the Super Bowl, who has previously interviewed for another club’s head coaching job may have a second interview with such club no later than the Sunday preceding the Super Bowl.
February 7 – Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California.
February 16 – First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.
February 23-29 – Combine Timing and Testing, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana.
March 7 – Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.
March 6-9 – Beginning at 12 noon, New York time, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2015 player contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 9. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 9.
March 9 – The 2016 League Year and Free Agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time.
March 9 – The first day of the 2016 League Year will end at 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 9. Clubs will receive a personnel notice that will include all transactions submitted to the League office during the period between 4:00 p.m., New York time, and 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 9.
March 9 – Trading period for 2016 begins at 4:00 p.m., New York time, after expiration of all 2015 contracts.
March 20-23 – Annual League Meeting, Boca Raton, Florida.
April 4 – Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2015 regular season may begin offseason workout programs.
April 18 – Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.
April 22 – Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign Offer Sheets.
April 27 – Deadline for prior club to exercise Right of First Refusal to Restricted Free Agents.
April 28-30 – NFL Draft, Chicago, IL.
May 23-25 – Spring League Meeting, Charlotte, NC.

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NFL 2015 suspension tracker

Cleveland Browns v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Here is a list of all the NFL players who have been suspended in 2015.

16 games for substance abuse

Browns WR Josh Gordon

Dolphins DE Dion Jordan

10 games for substance abuse and 4 games for performance-enhancing substances

Free agent CB Jarrett Bush

10 games for performance-enhancing substances

Free agent S LaRon Landry

10 games for substance abuse

Free agent WR Ace Sanders

Free agent S Jakar Hamilton

Free agent CB Loucheiz Purifoy

6 games for substance abuse

49ers WR Jerome Simpson

4 games for Deflategate

Patriots QB Tom Brady

4 games for performance-enhancing substances

Chargers TE Antonio Gates

Free agent G Ryan Seymour

Broncos DE Derek Wolfe

Giants LB Victor Butler

4 games for substance abuse

Jets DE Sheldon Richardson

Cowboys LB Rolando McClain

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant

Rams RB Trey Watts

4 games for personal conduct

Cowboys DE Greg Hardy

3 games for substance abuse

Bears DT Jay Ratliff

Cardinals RT Bobby Massie

Chiefs CB Sean Smith

Packers DT Letroy Guion

2 games for substance abuse

Free agent WR Da’Rick Rogers

Vikings CB Jabari Price

Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell

1 game for substance abuse

Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount

Bills DT Marcell Dareus

Jets OT Oday Aboushi

Buccaneers DT Akeem Spence

Packers DE Datone Jones

Free agent RB Ahmad Bradshaw

Free agent OT Eben Britton

1 game for personal conduct

Saints TE Orson Charles

1 game for undisclosed reason

Free agent RB Quentin Hines

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Hard Knocks follows familiar template, delivers strong episode

Houston Texans OTA's Getty Images

Long before the third episode of Hard Knocks: Houston Texans dove into the news of the week and the team’s quarterback situation, it provided some downright entertaining television.

Texans rookie tight end Khari Lee delivering a spot-on impersonation of Texans coach Bill O’Brien — in front not only of O’Brien but the entire team — was the highlight, but not the only one.

Brian Cushing puked during practice. Repeatedly. For the first time in this edition of Hard Knocks, the cameras were behind closed doors as a player was released. Unknown and bubble players got their 15 seconds of spotlight. And a series that’s featured J.J. Watt and and the F-bomb was strong from the opening sequence, when Watt addressed his teammates in a practice huddle by telling them, “Together, we’re the baddest f—–g team on the planet and that’s how we’re going to attack every f—–g day.”

A little cheesy but almost fully unplugged, both that quote and the third episode as a whole followed the classic Hard Knocks model: private coach to general manager and player discussions, rookie skit night, candid non-football scenes and enough variety to satisfy the hardcore football fan, too. At one point O’Brien called for Watt to be put in a goal line play, and Watt of course came through the line unblocked and knocked the ball away from running back Alfred Blue.

“That’s why you put me in the damn game,” Watt told the cameras after retreating to the sideline.

Journeyman outside linebacker Kourtnei Brown, cut seven times over the last three years, was shown getting the business from outside linebackers coach Mike Vrabel for not performing and later shown returning an interception 69 yards for a touchdown in last weekend’s preseason game. Vrabel has made a handful of cameos in the series, almost all of them colorful, and what was shown of his halftime chat with Brown and others was short but powerful.

“We’re either gonna be an NFL player or we’re not,” Vrabel said. “It ain’t for everybody, but the ones it’s f—–g for, it’s f—–g great.”

He unintentionally summed up this episode of Hard Knocks well.

O’Brien likes cornerback Charles James so much he tried him at running back in a practice. The first appearance by general manager Rick Smith took viewers inside a workout by veteran safety Quintin Demps, the subsequent release of rookie defensive lineman Jasper Coleman and how Smith and O’Brien converse on what they’ve seen in practice and what they’d like to see more.

O’Brien was so disgusted with his offense’s showing at Denver that he was caught screaming from the sideline to the offense that it “looks like s—t. Speed the f—–g s–t up. I’m tired of watching this slow b——t.” In a different sequence he told a full-staff meeting that the coaches might be throwing too much at the players instead of just letting them play.

“Sometimes,” O’Brien said, “we’re trying to stuff 15 pounds of s–t in a 10-pound bag.”

That’s a new one. The episode template was not, but both the Texans and HBO’s producers delivered. It closed with O’Brien delivering the news to quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett that he’d picked Hoyer as the team’s starter, mostly due to consistency. Inexplicably, cameras did not catch much reaction from either Hoyer or Mallett.

Near the end of the episode viewers got their first mention of O’Brien’s 13-year old son Jack, who was born with a rare neurological disorder and suffers seizures every morning. The segment on Jack O’Brien was brief but open, and it transitioned back to football quickly.

An interview with O’Brien’s wife, Colleen, was highlighted by her saying her husband “doesn’t curse as much at home.”

She’s apparently been watching Hard Knocks, too.

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Hard Knocks recap: More F-bombs, more actual football in latest episode

Cushing AP

A week after Hard Knocks: Houston Texans started with a bunch of F-bombs from Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, the second episode started with more F-bombs from O’Brien and Vrabel.

Soon, too, came more of the J.J Watt infomercial that the first episode delivered. Watt is the unquestioned star of the Texans, and it’s almost like the Hard Knocks producers are trying carefully to avoid a Watt overdose.

Hard Knocks is supposed to be raw and real, and O’Brien hasn’t held back. Though Vrabel has played a secondary role, early in the second episode the cameras caught up him close with rookie Lynden Trail — like, practically inside Trail’s facemask — asking Trail how many times he was going to give up the same play.

The answer, apparently, was a bunch. Which brought the cameras back to Vrabel, who was screaming.

“Trail, let’s see if you can play,” Vrabel said. “Here’s what we’re gonna try, we’re all gonna worry about our own f—–g game. There’s plenty to worry about with Trail.”

That set the stage for some other Hard Knocks staples, like the segue from uncensored screaming to a personal off-field piece and, later, the jump from spotlighting an established veteran to a player struggling to make the team. Though this year’s second episode lacked the sizzle of the first, it was heavier on football and dove deeper into stories that didn’t involve Watt or O’Brien.

There was a great O’Brien moment, though, with the head coach addressing his assistants during a practice break. He made it known he was stopping the music that often plays over the speakers during team periods because “I want to hear the play. I want to see what these f—–s know. I want to know what these f—–s know.

“I know you know,” he told his coaches. “We’re telling them what to do on every play and if they don’t know, that’s part of the evaluation and we cut their f—-g asses. Let’s see what the f–k they know.”

From there, Hard Knocks went heavy on highlights of the Texans’ preseason debut last Saturday night. The Brian HoyerRyan Mallett quarterback competition, skimmed over in the first week, was spotlighted in the second half of the newest episode. A montage of both quarterbacks scoring touchdowns in practice was followed by game footage.

Hoyer, who started last week, left the game after one drive and one touchdown. Mallett, who’s starting this weekend vs. the Broncos, played well but mismanaged a two-minute drill and called his own number on a third down and three play, and the cameras caught his post-gaffe conversations with O’Brien.

Veteran linebacker Brian Cushing was shown apologizing to running back Alfred Blue for bumping into him after a play.

“Just kidding,” Cushing said. “I did it on purpose.”

Then came a two-minute sequence of Cushing and Blue battling in a one-on-one pass-protection drill. Cushing challenges Blue to one more try at the end of the drill, and in that additional rep Cushing basically throws Blue to the ground with one hand and touches the tackling dummy with the other. It was total domination and great television.

Blue was caught by the cameras walking away from the drill and saying of Cushing, “That mother f—-r is strong, boy.”

Blue had another quality cameo later when the cameras followed him to a local barber shop on the day before the preseason opener. The barber questioned Blue about his new role as the lead back following Arian Foster’s injury, then asked Blue if he had any insight on the quarterback competition.

Blue responded that he couldn’t talk about that because “I don’t want (O’Brien) cussing me out.”

Earlier in the episode, O’Brien discussed media responsibilities in a full-squad meeting and told his rookies they didn’t have to answer any questions about teammates or just generally made them uncomfortable. When he got a cliche answer from rookie linebacker Benardrick McKinney about just wanting to help the team, O’Brien smiled and called McKinney’s answer “beautiful.”

For three more weeks, though, the Texans have nothing to hide. Every meeting, every word and every battle are caught by cameras and microphones. Hard Knocks, even when it’s not riveting, is thorough.

Near the end of the episode, a play from the preseason opener during which rookie running back Kenny Hilliard found some yardage but took a very stiff shot was replayed from multiple angles. Hilliard was caught coming to the sideline and hearing from O’Brien, “Welcome to the NFL.”

To which Hilliard replied, “This s–t is really real, bro.”

That sums up Hard Knocks. The Texans, their quarterbacks and a bunch of F-bombs will be back next week.

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Hard Knocks recap: F-bombs and fists fly, Watt stars

J.J. Watt Getty Images

One episode into the 10th season of Hard Knocks, there are three clear stars.

One is Texans coach Bill O’Brien. The others are each spelled out in four-letter words: Watt and F–k.

Tuesday night’s HBO debut of Hard Knocks: Houston Texans featured a lot of J.J. Watt, the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year. It featured a lot of swearing, too, transitioning quickly from the traditional serene pre-camp practice field time lapse scene to a fiery O’Brien reminding his assistants that the Texans get no f—–g respect leaguewide. Later, the two themes were combined with Watt swearing just before the Texans and Washington Redskins scuffled during a joint practice.

As usual, Hard Knocks was a fun f—–g ride.

The first episode was short on football-related storylines. Watt, predictably, was the featured player, but the quarterback competition wasn’t spotlighted until almost 40 minutes into the show and Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster’s injury suffered early in camp that could keep him out for more than two months was only a quick side story, too.

Though O’Brien said before Tuesday’s debut he wasn’t proud of the language he’d used and was certain would show up in the series, the finished product of the first episode came off a little like the coach was the executive producer. His main messages of togetherness and team building were emphasized throughout the episode, right from the start.

Among O’Brien’s quotes from meetings with his staff or the full team that were featured…

**”Let’s be honest. This place has no respect in the league, just so you guys are all aware of that. Turn your TV on. No one talks about the Houston Texans.”

**”The only thing that matters in that f—–g locker room is are you willing to help? Are you willing to help the team win.”

**”You say this is the guy from Georgia? He’s got a name. I don’t give a f–k about Georgia. I care about people, This guy is Akeem Dent. Know him. Can we get 90 guys on the same page? I don’t know. I’m counting on the leaders. Everybody’s talented in the NFL. It’s more than that.”

**(To the team after Foster’s injury) “Personally I feel bad for him but listen very carefully. This is the National Football League and injuries happen every day. That’s why you have a competitive roster. The next guy has to stand up. If you listen to ESPN, (it’s like) ‘Oh s–t! Why the f–k are we even playing the games?’ Like f–k that. We’re a competitive football team. we’re going to work our asses off.”

Watt working his ass off — before camp, during practices and in a solo post-practice session — is featured prominently. Watt is shown tossing what he says is a 1,000-pound tire in a solo workout and later tells the camera crew that last offseason he tossed that tire 30 times in a day.

During this offseason, Watt says, he tossed that tire 51 times in a single day. Then, one day, he tossed a 1,000-pound tire 65 times.

Pretty f—–g strong, Watt is.

Hard Knocks, too, is off to a strong start. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins traded verbal jabs with Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall — then beat Hall so badly in a 1-on-1 matchup that Hall lost his footing and was injured. Candid sequences featuring defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and Mike Vrabel getting colorful with their players are featured, too, with Crennel telling his defense it’s “s—-y” and “going to get our ass beat” after one bad practice and Vrabel calling the Texans “soft as f–k, the nicest f—–g team I’ve ever seen” during one of the joint practices with the Redskins.

The first episode closed with frustrations boiling over on the third day of the Texans-Redskins practices and one shoving match turning into a fight, which turned into another fight, and soon there weren’t enough cameras to keep up with flying fists and bodies and even guys not in uniform mixing it up with guys who were.

In the final sequence, cameras caught Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph telling teammates, “Let’s get the f— out of Richmond.”

The Texans did. The good news for viewers is Hard Knocks returns next Tuesday.

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Patriots release emails to NFL on leaks of false information

Email Getty Images

Judge Richard M. Berman has told the NFL and the NFLPA to tone it down regarding the Tom Brady case. That directive apparently doesn’t apply to the Patriots.

The website created by the team in response to the 243-pages-and-nearly-as-many-flaws Ted Wells report has added a new story. It’s dubbed, “League failure to correct misinformation.”

The item consists of a chain of emails between Patriots general counsel Robyn Glaser and NFL general counsel Jeff Pash. The Patriots explain that it is “presented to illustrate the attempts by the Patriots to ask the NFL to correct initial misinformation being reported by the media and to investigate sources of such misinformation, which could only have been league personnel.”

The communications in question began on February 17, when ESPN’s Kelly Naqi reported that the Patriots tried to introduce an unapproved kicking ball into the AFC title game against the Colts. (PFT later reported what actually occurred.) The report from Naqi also contradicted, to a certain extent, the original report from Mortensen.

Patriots spokesman Stacey James complained to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello that “we have ANOTHER leak . . . resulting in a report providing details that no one else would possibly have in a story that tries to implicate a day of game employee.” James also mentioned in his email the NFL’s ongoing refusal to release the accurate PSI measurements, despite the original ESPN report that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum.

“I cannot comprehend how withholding the range of PSIs measured in the game is beneficial to the NFL or the Patriots,” James wrote. “I can only assume, based on the scientific evidence that has been provided to us by multiple independent scientists that the PSI numbers will be within the scientific range. If we had been provided this data within days of the original report, we could have changed the narrative of this story before it led all national news and the damage was done. It has been over 4 weeks and we still can’t get a simple detail that I assume was available the night of the AFC Championship Game!”

The next morning, Glaser forwarded the Stacey James email to Pash, reiterating the team’s earlier request that “the scope of Ted Wells’ independent investigation be expanded to include a review of actions by League personnel.” Glaser said that Pash had promised to “consult with the Commissioner” about the request, but that Pash never responded after that.

Pash replied within 30 minutes, saying that “I have no reason to think [the latest ESPN story] came from our office but I certainly do not condone leaks which I do not serve [sic] anyone’s interest.”

Glaser argued in response that “the leaks would only come from the League office as it would not serve anyone else’s purpose” and urging Pash “to bring your staff and office under control.”

“We have cooperated fully and expediently with Attorney Wells and are now seriously starting to question whether we should do that while our public image and brand continues to be unnecessarily and irreparably tarnished by the League,” Glaser wrote.

Pash later told Glaser that he has “doubts that piecemeal disclosures are likely to accomplish much,” and that “[i]f anything, I would think they are likely to prompt additional questions, additional stories, and additional irresponsible speculation and commentary.”

And then Glaser had enough.

After calling Pash’s responses “pretty disingenuous,” Glaser explained that “if the League is disclosing information that is correcting inaccuracies and misinformation that are currently are hammering away at our brand, we WELCOME the additional stories and commentary.”

“Jeff, you need to step up,” Glaser wrote. “I can’t tell you the number of times you’ve told me that you and your office work for us member clubs. It has been made resoundingly clear to us that your words are just a front. They have no substance at all. If you worked for us, you would already have released today a statement to the effect of, [‘]ESPN, you’ve got it wrong. You do not have full information, you are irresponsibly reporting information that is untrue and you need to stop. Furthermore, as you now know and report reporting yourselves, your original story that 11 of 12 balls were 2 pounds below the minimum allowable psi was just blatantly wrong, we know that because we have the information and here it is…[‘]

“I would appreciate it if you would please tell me everything you are doing, and will continue to do, to stop leaks from occurring. This is information we do not have. We know of not one thing you are doing internally to investigate the sources of the leaks and/or to curtail them. We do know that the one thing we’ve asked you to do — include the League leaks as part of the scope of the Wells investigation — has been rejected by you. So do you blame us for wondering just what the heck you mean when you said, ‘I will continue to do what I can to stop leaks from occurring’?”

The last message in the chain comes from Pash, who called Glaser’s message “personal and accusatory.” He also declined to provide a point-by-point reply, acknowledging that he works for all teams, not just the Patriots.

“Sometimes that creates tension, as it apparently has here,” Pash said.

Still, the messages make it obvious that the Patriots repeatedly asked the NFL to direct Wells to explore the leaks as part of his investigation, and that the NFL refused to do so.

That directly contradicts comments from Commissioner Roger Goodell at a press conference in May. Pressed by Tom Curran of on whether Ted Wells was asked to investigate leaks (including the original 11-of-12-balls debacle), Goodell said that Ted Wells “had the opportunity to evaluate that.”

Apparently, he didn’t. But that doesn’t make it too late for Wells or someone else to make another million or so finding out who in the league office turned #DeflateGate from an act of gamesmanship at worst into the crime of the century, all by leaking blatantly false information to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.

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Robert Kraft tees off on Brady ruling

Robert Kraft AP

[Editor’s note: On Wednesday morning, Patriots owner Robert Kraft unexpectedly provided a statement to the media before a previously-scheduled press conference from coach Bill Belichick. The full text of Robert Kraft’s statement appears below.]

I felt it was important to make a statement today, prior to the start of training camp. After this, I will not be talking about this matter until after the legal process plays itself out, and I would advise everyone in the organization to do the same and just concentrate on preparation for the 2015 season.

The decision handed down by the league yesterday is unfathomable to me. It is routine for discipline in the NFL to be reduced upon appeal. In the vast majority of these cases, there is tangible and hard evidence of the infraction for which the discipline is being imposed, and still the initial penalty gets reduced. Six months removed from the AFC championship game, the league still has no hard evidence of anybody doing anything to tamper with the PSI levels of footballs.

I continue to believe and unequivocally support Tom Brady. I first and foremost need to apologize to our fans, because I truly believe what I did in May, given the actual evidence of the situation and the league’s history on discipline matters, would make it much easier for the league to exonerate Tom Brady.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

The league’s handling of this entire process has been extremely frustrating and disconcerting. I will never understand why an initial erroneous report regarding the PSI level of footballs was leaked by a source from the NFL a few days after the AFC championship game, [and] was never corrected by those who had the correct information. For four months, that report cast aspersions and shaped public opinion.

Yesterday’s decision by Commissioner Goodell was released in a similar manner, under an erroneous headline that read, “Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.” This headline was designed to capture headlines across the country and obscure evidence regarding the tampering of air pressure in footballs. It intentionally implied nefarious behavior and minimized the acknowledgement that Tom provided the history of every number he texted during that relevant time frame. And we had already provided the league with every cellphone of every non-NFLPA that they requested, including head coach Bill Belichick.

Tom Brady is a person of great integrity, and is a great ambassador of the game, both on and off the field. Yet for reasons that I cannot comprehend, there are those in the league office who are more determined to prove that they were right rather than admit any culpability of their own or take any responsibility for the initiation of a process and ensuing investigation that was flawed.

I have come to the conclusion that this was never about doing what was fair and just. Back in May, I had to make a difficult decision that I now regret. I tried to do what I thought was right. I chose not to take legal action. I wanted to return the focus to football.

I have been negotiating agreements on a global basis my entire life. I know there are times when you have to give up important points of principle to achieve a greater good. I acted in good faith and was optimistic that by taking the actions I took the league would have what they wanted. I was willing to accept the harshest penalty in the history of the NFL for an alleged ball violation because I believed it would help exonerate Tom.

I have often said, ‘If you want to get a deal done, sometimes you have to get the lawyers out of the room.’ I had hoped that Tom Brady’s appeal to the league would provide Roger Goodell the necessary explanation to overturn his suspension. Now, the league has taken the matter to court, which is a tactic that only a lawyer would recommend.

Once again, I want to apologize to the fans of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady. I was wrong to put my faith in the league. Given the facts, evidence, and laws of science that underscore this entire situation, it is completely incomprehensible to me that the league continues to take steps to disparage one of its all-time great players, and a man for whom I have the utmost respect.

Personally, this is very sad and disappointing to me.

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NFL 2015 fine schedule

The NFL has released the following schedule of fines for the 2015 season.

(Violation; First Offense; Second Offense)

Physical Contact with Official; $28,940; $57,881

Verbal or other Non-Physical Offense Against Official; $23,152; $46,305

Striking/Kicking/Kneeing; $8,681; $17,363

Horse Collar Tackle; $17,363; $34,728

Face Mask; $8,681; $17,363

Leg Whip; $17,363; $34,728

Late Hit; $8,681; $17,363

Spearing; $23,152; $46,305

Hit on Defenseless Player; $23,152; $46,305

Blindside Block; $23,152; $46,305

Roughing the Passer; $17,363; $34,728

Low Block; $8,681; $17,363

Chop Block; $8,681; $17,363

Fighting; $28,940; $57,881

Unnecessarily Entering Fight Area (active involvement); $5,787; $11,576

Unnecessarily Entering Fight Area (no active involvement); $2,893; $8,681

Excessive Profanity, other Unsportsmanlike Conduct; $11,576; $23,152

Taunting; $8,681; $11,576

Football Into Stands; $5,787; $11,576

Foreign Substances on Body/Uniform; $8,681; $17,363

Chin Strap violations; $8,681; $11,576

Personal Messages; $5,787; $11,576

Other Uniform/Equipment Violations; $5,787; $11,576

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The first ever PFT Twitter mailbag


Usually, I ask for questions via the PFT Twitter handle in the hopes of generating discussion points for PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. I’m off this week from radio. But I’m not off this week from the website. So instead of answering your questions on the radio, I’ll answer them here.

And already I’ve realized it’s a lot easier to do this by talking than by typing.

Which means that this may be something I ever only do once. A lot of it depends upon whether any of you read it. Whatever the over-under is for clicks, I’m rooting for the under.

Even if Commissioner Roger Goodell chooses not to reject all or part of the multi-million-dollar efforts of Ted Wells in the #DeflateGate investigation in reaching a ruling in the Tom Brady appeal, the controversy engulfing his report makes it very difficult for the NFL to ever use him again. Thousands of lawyers could do the same job, without the baggage. (Based on the quality of the report, thousands of lawyers also could probably do the job better.)

Wells added to the controversy by angrily defending his work in a media conference call. Common sense suggests that his anger didn’t subside after the conference call ended, because the criticism continued. Common sense also suggests that Wells directed that anger to folks in the league office who weren’t working hard enough to defend his work.

It adds up to the NFL finding someone else to do the work if similar work needs to be done in the future.

The Cowboys and franchise-tagged receiver Dez Bryant have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal. After that, the rules of the tag allow only a one-year contract.

In late June, reports began to emerge from Dallas regarding the imminent announcement of a deal. As of Friday, July 3, some were suggesting that the team and the player were waiting until Monday, July 6 to make it official.

Three days later, nothing. While something could come at any point in the next six days (which undoubtedly would prompt those who have claimed a deal is “imminent” to declare victory), there’s no clear evidence at this point that the two sides are closing in on a contract.

Which wouldn’t be a surprise. It’s believed that the Cowboys are taking a hard line with Bryant because they think he won’t pass up game checks that will exceed $750,000 per week. Some wonder whether he’ll show up for training camp simply to get the training camp and the per diem.

From a broader standpoint, work stoppages don’t work because players don’t want to give up the money and the privilege of playing. In Bryant’s case, the Cowboys are banking on Dez quickly blinking, which limits what the Cowboys are willing to do.

Shortly after the Raiders and Chargers announced their intent to build a shared stadium in Carson, PFT reported that one of them would change conferences, if the plan becomes a reality.

The early thinking pegged the Raiders for the move, with either the Rams or Cardinals jumping to the AFC West.

The Seahawks spent 1977 through 2001 in the AFC West. Keeping them in the NFC West and moving the Raiders there would create a potentially intriguing twice-per-year round-robin rivalry among the Raiders, 49ers, and Seahawks.

It’s one thing for the Albert Haynesworth of today to offer advice to his younger self. It’s quite another for the younger Albert Haynesworth to heed it. I doubt that the younger Albert Haynesworth would have listened to anyone, including himself as a man in his 30s.

I agree with the idea that former Washington coach Mike Shanahan didn’t use Haynesworth properly, but I still wonder whether Haynesworth would have continued to be dominant after he no longer was chasing a long-term contract. Plenty of players lose their edge once they cash in, and it’s hard not to think Haynesworth would have struggled even if he had stayed in Tennessee.

You’re not. Whether because of injury or ineffectiveness, Sam Bradford is no lock to win the job as of Week One. Sanchez has the benefit of a year in the system, and in Philadelphia knowledge of the system and an ability to run it the way coach Chip Kelly wants it to be run becomes more important than it would be elsewhere.

The trade compensation given to the Rams for Bradford suggests that the Eagles think highly of him. The ongoing absence of a long-term deal invites fair questions as to how highly they think of him, and regarding whether he will be on the team in 2016.

Still, there’s currently no sense that Kelly plans for an open competition, like the one held two years ago between Mike Vick and Nick Foles. It doesn’t mean Sanchez can’t swipe the job from Bradford; it just means Sanchez will have to significantly overachieve — or Bradford will have to significantly underachieve.

Or that Bradford will have to get injured again.

I’m not convinced Tom Coughlin is retiring after the 2015 season, which undercuts the idea that the players will be playing harder than they otherwise would be. (I’m not sure they’d be playing extra hard even if they knew their head coach, regardless of who he is, were retiring.) But the Giants still have the potential to be competitive as quarterback Eli Manning becomes more comfortable in Ben McAdoo’s offense.

The key will be the offensive and defensive lines. Those units both played at a high level when the Giants won Super Bowls to cap the 2007 and 2011 seasons. They need to get back to that quality of performance, Left tackle Will Beatty’s offseason pectoral injury and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s fireworks mishap will make that more difficult.

At plenty of positions, the Giants have suffered more than their fair share of injuries in recent seasons. Declared to be “a cancer” by Coughlin when he was hired, failure to find a way to keep guys on the field could result in a forced retirement, not only for Coughlin but for plenty of other employees of the organization.

The NFL already didn’t have a salary cap, for a year. Sort of. The labor deals that instituted the salary cap made the final year uncapped in order to create an incentive to extend the contract before it expired. Before 2010, the labor deals never got to the final year.

In 2010, the labor deal did, and the cap went away. With express (and implied) exceptions.

The cap is now back, and it’s unlikely that the NFL and the NFL Players Association ever would agree to get rid of it permanently. Without it, a small handful of owners would overspend on players in an effort buy to championships, throwing the league out of its current competitive balance.

“You wouldn’t want to see the size of the check that I would write if it would for sure get the Dallas Cowboys a Super Bowl,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said last year.

We’ll never see it, because he won’t ever have the chance to do it.

That’s a great question, which is something I usually say during radio interviews to buy time. So I’ll sit here and take some time before answering this one.

For starters, Galette isn’t a star player. If this were a franchise quarterback or one of the short-list superstar defensive players in the league, it would have been a much bigger deal.

Also, the video lacked the kind of short, simple, one-pounch clarity from videos generated by the likes of Ray Rice and De’Andre Johnson. While there’s a moment where Galette hits a woman in the head with a belt, the entire video is too chaotic to allow for the kind of raw, visceral reaction generated by the Rice and Johnson videos.

The fact that the fans and media largely ignored the video doesn’t mean the NFL will. The problem for the league is that the behavior occurred before the Rice case forced the NFL to change its Personal Conduct Policy, limiting what the league could do to Galette.

Browns starter Josh McCown may be the best quarterback on any of those three teams. He played extremely well in 2013 when Bears starter Jay Cutler was hurt. McCown’s regression in 2014 was fueled by the absence of an offensive coordinator, which continues to be one of the most underrated story lines of last season. But the rest of the depth chart in Cleveland seems shaky, at best.

The Jets have a potentially great fit for Chan Gailey’s offense in Ryan Fitzpatrick, but Fitzpatrick doesn’t seem to be getting serious consideration to start. Bryce Petty quickly could develop into the best option, simply because there’s no reason to believe Geno Smith will suddenly become dramatically better in his third season.

In Buffalo, the bad news is that Tyrod Taylor could be the best option. Depending on how well Taylor plays, however, that could end up being good news. Whether it’s Taylor, EJ Manuel, or Matt Cassel, whoever gets the job will face plenty of pressure to take full advantage of the team’s impressive (but potentially volatile) collection of offensive weapons.

Ultimately, none of the three teams has a great quarterback situation, which means that Russell Wilson, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers will make plenty of money in 2016, either from their current teams or from one of the NFL teams desperate to find a franchise quarterback.

Like the three teams discussed in this answer.

For years, the silence of Rams owner Stan Kroenke fueled speculation that he’d move the team to Los Angeles. Now, some view his ongoing silence as proof that he’s ultimately trying to secure the best possible deal to keep the team in St. Louis.

Much of the outcome hinges on whether a public vote will be required to use public funds on a new stadium, and if so whether the public would vote in favor of the measure.

It’s far from over for the Rams in St. Louis. And the end result could be another opportunity to steal another team from another city, like St. Louis has done twice before with the Cardinals and the Rams.

Without question, running back Latavius Murray needs to have the kind of success that forces defenses to devote extra resources to stopping him. That will make it easier for Carr to find open receivers, and for the offensive line to protect him.

Sure, Oakland is holding out hope that Trent Richardson will finally become what he never has been in three NFL seasons. But the move of Taiwan Jones from cornerback back to running back shows just how desperate the Raiders are to develop a solid backfield.

For now, though, Murray is the player with the arrow pointing up. Even though he gained only 424 yards last year, he averaged 5.2 yards per carry and paid homage to Bo Jackson in prime time with a 90-yard touchdown run. If Carr is going to fully develop as a passer in his second NFL season, Murray needs to run more like Bo and less like pretty much every other running back the Raiders have had since Bo.

I do, primarily because Hoyer has more game experience than Mallett. The third-round pick in the 2011 draft, whose stock as a potential first-rounder plummeted due to off-field concerns, still hasn’t played in enough regular-season game situations to allow a full evaluation of his strengths and weaknesses.

The Texans apparently agree, because they gave Hoyer a much richer contract in free agency than they gave to Mallett.

Coach Bill O’Brien hinted during the offseason program that the competition between the two may be resolved before training camp. If true, that’s great news for Hoyer, since if they pick a horse before camp starts, Hoyer is going to be the winner.

Especially since Hoyer can run better than Mallett. Which also gives the former Brown an edge.

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Supplemental draft has had far more misses than hits

Bosworth Getty Images

The NFL launched the supplemental draft in 1977. Thirty-eight years and more than 40 picks later, it has generated only a very small handful of great NFL players.

The Saints thought they’d found one in 1981, taking quarterback Dave Wilson with a first-round pick. He stayed with New Orleans for eight seasons, generating a career-high 2,353 passing yards in 1986. By 1987, Bobby Hebert had taken over at the position — and the Saints had made it to the postseason for the first time in franchise history. Wilson took a back seat for the rest of his career.

Four years later, the Browns used the supplemental draft to land Bernie Kosar, who gamed the system to avoid being taken by the Vikings in the regular draft and landed in his hand-picked location of Cleveland as a first-round pick.

Two years later, the Seahawks used a first-round pick in the supplemental draft on linebacker Brian Bosworth, who ended up being a colossal bust.

Two years after that, the Cowboys used a first-round pick in the supplemental draft on quarterback Steve Walsh, despite having invested the first overall pick only three months earlier in quarterback Troy Aikman. It was a confusing move at the time, but a year later coach Jimmy Johnson pulled off a mini-Herschel swindling of the Saints, getting a first-round pick and a third-round pick from New Orleans for Walsh, who never did much of anything at the NFL level.

That same year, the Broncos devoted a first-round selection to running back Bobby Humphrey. After rushing for 1,151 yards as a rookie and making to the Pro Bowl with 1,202 yards in 1990, Humphrey held out deep into the 1991 season, ultimately appeared in four games, gained 33 yards rushing, and was traded to Miami for 1992 for tailback Sammie Smith. Humphrey generated 471 yards rushing in what was his final season of game action.

Also in 1989 — the only year with multiple first-round supplemental draft picks — the Cardinals selected quarterback Timm Rosenbach, who served as full-time starter for only one season (1990) before a knee injury wiped out his 1991 season. He returned to the field in 1992, but he played only three games before his NFL career ended.

In 1990, the Jets used a first-round pick in the supplemental draft on receiver Rob Moore, who after four seasons under 1,000 yards cracked four digits (by 10 yards) in 1994, making it to the Pro Bowl. Traded to the Cardinals for a first-round pick (which became Hugh Douglas) and running back Ron Moore, Rob Moore peaked with 97 receptions for 1,584 yards in 1997, earning another Pro Bowl berth.

Two years later, the Giants became the last team to use a first-round supplemental selection, taking quarterback Dave Brown. He became the starter in 1994, yielded to Danny Kanell in 1997, and finished his career as a backup with the Cardinals.

Since Brown was selected 23 years ago, 18 players have been taken in the supplemental draft. Most notably, the Packers acquired guard Mike Wahle with a second-round pick in 1998 (he became a Pro Bowler with the Panthers in 2005), the Chargers selected three-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Jamal Williams with a second-round pick that same year.

Linebacker Ahmad Brooks, taken by the Bengals in round three of the 2006 supplemental draft, later became a Pro Bowler with the 49ers after only two seasons in Cincinnati. The last Pro Bowl player found via the supplemental draft was receiver Josh Gordon, who currently is serving a one-year suspension after serving a 10-game suspension in 2014 for violating the substance-abuse policy.

Of course, the best player ever to come from the supplemental draft was only a fourth-round pick, and the vast majority of his exploits came with a team other than the one who drafted him. Receiver Cris Carter, picked by the Eagles in 1987 and dumped after three seasons, was claimed on waivers by the Vikings and became a perennial Pro Bowler and, ultimately, a Hall of Famer.

This year, the name generating the most buzz in advance of the supplemental draft is Clemson tackle Isaiah Battle. If neither he nor any other player is picked in the process that unfolds with little fanfare and a weird set of rules on Thursday, it’ll run the streak of no players being taken to four years and counting — the longest drought in supplemental draft history.

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Training camp reporting dates for 2015

Seahawks Getty Images

[Editor’s note: Yes, football will be back soon. Really soon. The NFL has released the dates for all team to report for camp, both rookies and veteran. The full list appears below, from earliest to latest.]

Steelers: July 25. (Rookies report the same day.)

Vikings: July 25. (Rookies report the same day.)

Ravens: July 29. (Rookies report July 22.)

Saints: July 29. (Rookies report July 22.)

Patriots: July 29. (Rookies report July 23.)

Browns: July 29. (Rookies report July 27.)

Washington: July 29. (Rookies report the same day.)

Dolphins: July 29. (Rookies report the same day.)

Jets: July 29. (Rookies report the same day.)

Chargers: July 29. (Rookies report the same day.)

Bears: July 29. (Rookies report the same day.)

Cowboys: July 29. (Rookies report the same day.)

Packers: July 29. (Rookies report the same day.)

Raiders: July 30. (Rookies report July 26.)

Bengals: July 30. (Rookies report July 27.)

Broncos: July 30. (Rookies report July 27.)

Jaguars: July 30. (Rookies report July 27.)

Bills: July 30. (Rookies report the same day.)

Titans: July 30. (Rookies report the same day.)

Falcons: July 30. (Rookies report the same day.)

Panthers: July 30. (Rookies report the same day.)

Giants: July 30. (Rookies report the same day.)

Seahawks: July 30. (Rookies report the same day.)

Texans: July 31. (Rookies report July 26.)

Rams: July 31. (Rookies report July 27.)

49ers: July 31. (Rookies report July 27.)

Buccaneers: July 31. (Rookies report July 27.)

Chiefs: July 31. (Rookies report July 28.)

Cardinals: July 31. (Rookies report July 28.)

Colts: August 1. (Rookies report the same day.)

Eagles: August 1. (Rookies report the same day.)

Lions: August 2. (Rookie report July 28.)

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Full text of Goodell’s letter to NFLPA regarding Tom Brady appeal

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On Tuesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rejected the NFLPA’s request that he recuse himself from hearing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s appeal of the four-game suspension the league handed down last month as a result of the investigation into the use of deflated footballs in the AFC Championship game.

The full text of the letter that Goodell sent to the union appears below.

Our Collective Bargaining Agreement provides that “at his discretion,” the Commissioner may serve as hearing officer in “any appeal” involving conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence in, the game of professional football.  I will exercise that discretion to hear Mr. Brady’s appeal.

I have carefully reviewed the NFLPA’s recusal motion of May 19 as well as Mr. Nash’s response of May 22.  (Neither party requested to be heard on the matter.)  Based on the unambiguous language and structure of the CBA, as well as common sense, I conclude that none of the arguments advanced by the NFLPA has merit.

First, the NFLPA argues that I may not serve as hearing officer because Mr. Brady’s discipline letter was signed by NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent rather than by me.  I disagree.  The identity of the person who signed the disciplinary letter is irrelevant.  The signatory’s identity does not influence in any way my evaluation of the issues; any suggestion to the contrary defies common sense.  (I note that NFL executives other than the Commissioner have signed disciplinary letters in numerous proceedings in which the Commissioner or his designee later served as hearing officer.  I am not aware of any objections by the Union to that practice.  To the contrary, as Mr. Nash’s letter points out, the Union has confirmed its acceptance of this procedure.)

There can be no dispute that this is an appeal of Commissioner discipline:  As the letter signed by Mr. Vincent explains in its first sentence, “The Commissioner has authorized me to inform you of the discipline that, pursuant to his authority under Article 46 of the CBA, has been imposed upon you ….”  I did not delegate my disciplinary authority to Mr. Vincent; I concurred in his recommendation and authorized him to communicate to Mr. Brady the discipline imposed under my authority as Commissioner.

Even if there were a procedural issue raised by the identity of the signatory to a discipline letter that I authorized, no reason or logic — and certainly nothing in the CBA — would support recusal as the remedy.  After all, the CBA provides that “the Commissioner may serve as hearing officer in “any appeal” involving conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game.

Second, the NFLPA argues that recusal is required because it believes that I may be a “necessary” and/or “central” witness in the appeal proceeding.  I have carefully considered this argument and reject its premise.  I am not a necessary or even an appropriate witness, much less a “central witness” as the NFLPA contends.

I do not have any first-hand knowledge of any of the events at issue.  (That fact makes this matter very different from the Rice appeal, in which there was a fundamental dispute over what Mr. Rice told me in a meeting at the league office.)  Nor did I play a role in the investigation that led to Mr. Brady’s discipline.  Furthermore, there is no reasonable basis for dispute — or for any testimony — about authority for the discipline reflected in the letter signed by Mr. Vincent.  The letter itself is clear on this point.  And there is no basis for my testifying about prior instances in which discipline was considered or imposed for similar conduct; if that were the case, the NFLPA could seek my recusal in every conduct detrimental proceeding, directly contrary to our agreement that I have the “discretion” to hear “any” appeal.

Regardless, my knowledge of any underlying facts in this matter would not provide a basis for recusal.  The CBA contemplates such knowledge and expressly provides that the Commissioner may hear and decide “any” appeal of conduct detrimental discipline.

Accordingly, there is no basis upon which I could properly be asked to testify in the appeal proceeding, which under Article 46 of the CBA is designed to afford Mr. Brady an opportunity to bring new or additional facts or circumstances to my attention for consideration.

Third, the NFLPA argues that recusal is required because I have “prejudged” the matter and cannot fairly evaluate the potential testimony of league staff members.  After carefully considering this argument, I reject it.

The process by which discipline is imposed for conduct detrimental, and by which appeals of disciplinary decisions are heard, has been in place for many years and is well known to the parties. That includes the role of league staff in the proceedings and the likelihood that the Commissioner will have some knowledge of the underlying facts.

When the parties agreed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement to continue the provisions confirming the Commissioner’s “discretion” to hear “any” appeal of a player facing discipline for conduct detrimental, they clearly understood (a) that such appeals regularly involve testimony by league staff about the issues and events in dispute and (b) that if the Commissioner has taken some action against the player for conduct detrimental and given him notice of impending discipline, he necessarily would have reached an initial conclusion about the player’s actions.  Nonetheless, the parties’ agreement that the Commissioner may serve as hearing officer in “any appeal” could not be more clear.  Thus, neither of those two factors can serve as a basis for recusal.

Nor have I “prejudged” this appeal. I have publicly expressed my appreciation to Mr. Wells and his colleagues for their thorough and independent work.  But that does not mean that I am wedded to their conclusions or to their assessment of the facts.  Nor does it mean that, after considering the evidence and argument presented during the appeal, I may not reach a different conclusion about Mr. Brady’s conduct or the discipline imposed.  That is true even though the initial discipline decision was reached after extensive discussion and in reliance on the critical importance of protecting the integrity of the game.  As I have said publicly, I very much look forward to hearing from Mr. Brady and to considering any new information or evidence that he may bring to my attention.  My mind is open; there has been no “prejudgment” and no bias that warrants recusal.

I have considered the cases cited by the NFLPA, MorrisErving, and Hewitt.  I agree with Commissioner Tagliabue’s reasoning in the Bounty proceeding, in which he denied the NFLPA’s motion that he recuse himself.  Those cases are not applicable in an appeal governed by a collective bargaining agreement, especially one that so clearly reflects the parties’ intentions about the Commissioner’s authority, discretion, and role.  As Commissioner Tagliabue stated:  “No change in the Collective Bargaining Agreements between 1977 and the present day has ever abrogated the sole authority of the Commissioner to preside” in appeals involving discipline for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game.  This recusal motion, and others like it, represent nothing more than an effort by the NFLPA to renegotiate Article 46 of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, signed in August 2011.

Because protecting the integrity of the game is the Commissioner’s most important responsibility, I decline to rewrite our Collective Bargaining Agreement to abrogate my authority and “discretion” to hear “any appeal” in a conduct detrimental proceeding.

The motion for recusal is denied. We will proceed with the hearing on June 23, as previously scheduled.

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Kraft: I disagree with Goodell, but I accept it and we won’t appeal

New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced today that his team will not fight NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to strip the team of a first-round draft pick, a fourth-round draft pick and $1 million as punishment for Deflategate.

In a long statement at the league meeting, Kraft explained that he thinks it’s in the best interests of the league if the Patriots take their medicine, even if they disagree with Goodell’s decision. Here is Kraft’s statement:

“It’s been an emotionally charged couple of weeks as all of you know, and I’ve been considering what my options are. And throughout this whole process there have been two polarizing audiences. At one end of the spectrum we’ve had Patriots fans throughout the country who have been so supportive and really inspirational to us and believing in us. But, also mindful, at the other end of the spectrum, there are fans who feel just the opposite. And what I’ve learned is the ongoing rhetoric continues to galvanize both camps. And I don’t see that changing, and they will never agree.

“But the one thing that we all can agree upon is the entire process has taken way too long. And I don’t think anyone can believe that after four months of the AFC Championship Game, we are still talking about air pressure and the PSI in footballs. I think I made it clear when the report came out that I didn’t think it was fair. There was no hard evidence, and everything was circumstantial. And at the same time, when the discipline came out, I felt it was way over the top. It was unreasonable and unprecedented, in my opinion.

“So I have two options: I can try to end it, or extend it. And I have given a lot of thought to both options. The first thing that came to mind is 21 years ago, I had the privilege of going to a meeting similar to what we have here, in Orlando, and being welcomed in an NFL owners’ meeting. So here’s a fan and a former season ticket holder, living a dream and being welcomed in that room. And I got goosebumps that day. And I vowed at that time that I would do everything I could do to make the New England Patriots an elite team, and hopefully respected throughout the country and at the same time, do what I could do to help the NFL become the most popular sport in America.

“You know, what I’ve learned over the last two decades is that the heart and soul and strength of the NFL is a partnership of 32 teams. And what’s become very clear over those very two decades is at no time should the agenda of one team outweigh the collective good of the full 32. So I have a way of looking at problems that are very strong in my mind, and before I make a final decision, I measure nine times and I cut once. And I think maybe if I had made the decision last week it would be different than it is today.

“But believing in the strength of the partnership, and the 32 teams — we have concentrated the power of adjudication of problems in the office of the commissioner. And although I might disagree with what is decided, I do have respect for the commissioner and believe that he’s doing what he perceives to be in the best interests of the full 32. So in that spirit, I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months. I’m going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us, and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric. And we won’t appeal.

“Now, I know that a lot of Patriot fans are going to be disappointed in that decision. But I hope they trust my judgment and know that I really feel at this point in time that taking this off the agenda, this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans and the NFL. And I hope you all can respect that.

“You know, I would normally take questions, but my desire is truly not to continue the rhetoric, and so I’m going to leave this discussion exactly here. Thank you very much.”

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady still plans to appeal his four-game suspension. But Kraft is done fighting.

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After further review, a theory on how #DeflateGate initially unfolded

Anderson Getty Images

The problem with the real-time news cycles is that anyone who presses pause on the generation of content to process information, to gather more information, and to carefully consider the situation fails to serve the audience — and in turn loses money. People want instant analysis; if one content provider isn’t providing it, the people will go to a provider that is.

At PFT, the goal is to provide instant analysis but also to keep an open mind, which means that analysis can be adjusted based on further information and consideration. It’s not easy to balance immediate-term and longer-term thought processes, but it’s necessary — especially when a story is constantly changing and evolving.

A full seven days into the life of the Ted Wells report, I’m ready to set forth a theory as to what happened at the outset of the investigation. The following assertions are opinions based on facts that have been reported and information I have gathered via many phones calls and other communications with league sources.

1. Before January 18, 2015, football air pressure had never been a big deal for the NFL.

Rule 2 of the official NFL playing rules states:  “The ball shall be made up of an inflated (12 1/2 to 13 1/2 pounds) urethane bladder enclosed in a pebble grained, leather case (natural tan color) without corrugations of any kind.” For decades, the 12.5-to-13.5 PSI range had been the prevailing standard. It’s the way it always was, and no one ever gave it much thought.

Despite the intense scientific analysis applied to the air pressures measured at halftime of the AFC title game, the issue of air pressure was not, as former NFL official and former supervisor of officials Jim Daopoulos said on Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, an exact science. Daopoulos added that officials generally didn’t know that footballs lost air pressure in cold weather; thus, even though Rule 2 seems to mandate that the ball “shall be” inflated in the range of 12.5 PSI to 13.5 PSI at all times, many games over the years were played with footballs at significantly lower pressures — especially when officials set the pressures to the lowest end of the range before kickoff.

“The practice has been to for the officials to check the pressure pre-game, then play the game,” a league spokesman told PFT on Tuesday. This means that, consciously or not, the NFL has allowed hundreds of games to be played with footballs having an air pressure that was increasingly less than 12.5 PSI.

2. Teams routinely make complaints to the league office before games, few of which are taken seriously.

Early in the development of this story, the fact that the Colts had alerted the league office to concerns about the Patriots tampering with football air pressure had considerable significance. The league’s receipt of the complaint and failure to act on it before the game created the impression that someone from the NFL had set a trap for the Patriots.

It was a compelling and troubling notion. In lieu of warning the Patriots and reserving the right to spot-check air pressure during the game, the NFL apparently opted to allow the game to proceed with non-complying footballs, in the hopes of catching the Patriots in the act.

The more likely reality is that the NFL simply didn’t take the complaint seriously. The league didn’t take the complaint seriously because teams routinely make complaints about opponents, whether due to paranoia, delusion, or gamesmanship.

The best evidence of the league’s failure to take the complaint seriously comes from referee Walt Anderson’s failure to insist that the footballs be kept out of play after the footballs went missing for the first time in Anderson’s 19 years as an official. If Anderson regarded the complaint as credible, Anderson likely wouldn’t have allowed the game to be played with footballs that may have been deflated during the time that they were beyond his supervision.

3. The Colts weren’t hoping to catch the Patriots cheating.

The Colts chose to share the information with the league the day before the game not to catch the Patriots in the act but, I believe, to ensure that the Patriots would be prevented from tampering with the footballs.  The timing of the complain suggests that the Colts hoped the Patriots would have minimal notice of the change in procedures, and in turn minimal time to adjust to not having the footballs at the preferred pressure. Based on the traditional nonchalance that applied to the filling of footballs with air, the Colts also may have been hoping that the officials would simply put extra air in the footballs for good measure, which would have resulted in the balls being inflated well above quarterback Tom Brady’s preferences.

4. Walt Anderson made a big mistake after losing track of the footballs.

Rule 2 states that “the balls shall remain under the supervision of the Referee until they are delivered to the ball attendant just prior to the start of the game.” That didn’t happen prior to the AFC title game; for the first time in Anderson’s 19 years as a game official, he lost the footballs. When he found them, Anderson used them.

He should have required that the alternate balls be used, and he should have ordered that the original balls be taken inside and tested. This would have avoided the use of potentially tainted footballs during the first half, and it would have provided much better evidence regarding whether the air pressures had been deliberately reduced below 12.5 PSI.

5. The game officials and league executives didn’t know about the application of the Ideal Gas Law.

The Wells report explains that, after the Colts made another complaint based on the perceived reduction in air pressure in the football intercepted by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson in the second quarter, two alternate officials (Clete Blakeman and Dyrol Prioleau) tested the pressure in the footballs, with league officials Alberto Riveron and Troy Vincent present. The 11 Patriots footballs were each below the 12.5 PSI minimum; the four Colts footballs tested by the officials were in the vicinity of 12.5 PSI. (It’s unclear whether the men conducting the testing or observing it realized that the Colts’ footballs had a higher initial inflation amount of 13.0 to 13.1 PSI.)

Based on the explanation on Tuesday’s PFT Live from long-time game official and supervisor of officials Jim Daopoulos that officials generally weren’t aware that air pressure shrinks during cold-weather games, the visceral reaction at that moment by the folks in the room quite likely may have been that the Patriots had been caught in the act.

6. The NFL initially made the numbers seem worse than they actually were.

Fueled by PSI measurements that seem low to someone who doesn’t instantly realize that air pressure drops significantly during prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, the league promptly launched an investigation. But NFL executive V.P. Dave Gardi inexplicably told the Patriots in the initial letter explaining the investigation that one of the balls was determined to have a pressure of only 10.1 PSI, even though none of the footballs had a pressure that low.

Then, someone from the league (it surely wasn’t someone from the Patriots) leaked to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that 11 of the 12 balls were a full two pounds below the 12.5 PSI minimum. The measurements reveal that this information was false.

The false information leaked to Mortensen gave the story more traction and a higher degree of significance. It also placed the Patriots on the defensive without the Patriots knowing the specific PSI measurements against which they were defending. If true and accurate information had been leaked to the media or given to the Patriots, coach Bill Belichick’s notorious Mona Lisa Vito press conference would have been far more persuasive, because the data from one of the two significantly conflicting gauges used to determine the air pressure generated measurements in line with the expected loss in pressure during 90 minutes in the elements of a January day in Foxboro.

Think of how different the narrative would have been if, in the early days of the scandal, the prevailing information from one of the largest sports-media outlets in America had been not that 10 of the 12 balls were two pounds under the minimum but that all 12 balls (including the one that had been intercepted by Jackson) tested within the range consistent with the application of the Ideal Gas Law.

Also, think of how different the narrative would have been if, in the early days of the scandal, the league had acknowledged that the officials used two different gauges with dramatically different readings generated.

It’s impossible to know exactly what happened within the confines of the Ted Wells ensuing investigation without having access to the raw transcripts of interviews and the full range of text messages. For now, though, it’s clear that this investigation proceeded aggressively despite a history of less-than-zealous attention to air pressure, an apparent lack of immediate understanding regarding the Ideal Gas Law, and a non-accidental attempt to make the tampering seem more obvious than the facts suggest it was. And that makes it hard not to wonder what other flaws may be lurking within the 243-page report and the underlying evidence on which it was based.

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NFL statement on Deflategate discipline

tombrady AP


The New England Patriots were notified today of the following discipline that has been imposed for violations of the NFL Policy on Integrity of the Game and Enforcement of Competitive Rules relating to the use of under-inflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game of this past season:

For the violation of the playing rules and the failure to cooperate in the subsequent investigation, the New England Patriots are fined $1 million and will forfeit the club’s first-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft and the club’s fourth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. If the Patriots have more than one selection in either of these rounds, the earlier selection shall be forfeited. The club may not trade or otherwise encumber these selections.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft advised Commissioner Roger Goodell last week that Patriots employees John Jastremski and James McNally have been indefinitely suspended without pay by the club, effective on May 6th. Neither of these individuals may be reinstated without the prior approval of NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent. If they are reinstated by the Patriots, Jastremski is prohibited from having any role in the preparation, supervision, or handling of footballs to be used in NFL games during the 2015 season. McNally is barred from serving as a locker room attendant for the game officials, or having any involvement with the preparation, supervision, or handling of footballs or any other equipment on game day.

Quarterback Tom Brady will be suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2015 regular season for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the NFL. Brady may participate in all off-season, training camp and pre-season activities, including pre-season games.

Commissioner Goodell authorized the discipline that was imposed by NFL Executive President Troy Vincent, pursuant to the commissioner’s disciplinary authority under the NFL Constitution and Bylaws and the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association.

“We reached these decisions after extensive discussion with Troy Vincent and many others,” Commissioner Goodell said. “We relied on the critical importance of protecting the integrity of the game and the thoroughness and independence of the Wells report.”

Following are excerpts from Troy Vincent’s letters to the Patriots and Tom Brady:

From Troy Vincent’s letter to the Patriots:
“On May 6th, independent investigator Ted Wells issued his report regarding the footballs used by the Patriots in this year’s AFC Championship Game. That report established that the footballs used by the Patriots were inflated at a level that did not satisfy the standard set forth in the NFL’s Official Playing Rules and that the condition of the footballs was the result of deliberate actions by employees of the Patriots. The activities of the Patriots’ employees were thoroughly documented in the report, including through a series of text messages and telephone communications, as well as evidence of a breach in pre-game protocol. In addition, the conclusions were supported by extensive scientific analysis, as detailed in the report.

“Based on the extensive record developed in the investigation and detailed in the Wells report, and after full consideration of this matter by the Commissioner and the Football Operations department, we have determined that the Patriots have violated the NFL’s Policy on Integrity of the Game and Enforcement of Competitive Rules, as well as the Official Playing Rules and the established guidelines for the preparation of game footballs set forth in the NFL’s Game Operations Policy Manual for Member Clubs. In making this determination, we have accepted the findings contained in the comprehensive report independently prepared by Mr. Wells and his colleagues.

“In determining that a violation occurred, we applied the standard of proof stated in the Integrity of the Game Policy: namely, preponderance of the evidence, meaning that ‘as a whole, the fact sought to be proved is more probable than not.’ This is a well-recognized legal standard, which is applied in courts and workplaces every day throughout the country. The evidence gathered during the investigation and reviewed in the report more than satisfy this standard and demonstrate an ongoing plan by at least certain Patriots’ employees to deflate footballs, to do so in a secretive manner after the game officials have certified the footballs as suitable for play, and to hide these activities even from their own supervisors.

“As you know, we regard violations of competitive rules as significant and deserving of a strong sanction, both to punish the actual violation and to deter misconduct in the future. In this case, the footballs were intentionally deflated in an effort to provide a competitive advantage to Tom Brady after having been certified by the game officials as being in compliance with the playing rules. While we cannot be certain when the activity began, the evidence suggests that January 18th was not the first and only occasion when this occurred, particularly in light of the evidence referring to deflation of footballs going back to before the beginning of the 2014 season.

“It is impossible to determine whether this activity had an effect on the outcome of games or what that effect was. There seems little question that the outcome of the AFC Championship Game was not affected. But this has never been a significant factor in assessing discipline. There are many factors which affect the outcome of a game. It is an inherently speculative exercise to try to assign specific weight to any one factor. The key consideration in any case like this is that the playing rules exist for a reason, and all clubs are entitled to expect that the playing rules will be followed by participating teams. Violations that diminish the league’s reputation for integrity and fair play cannot be excused simply because the precise impact on the final score cannot be determined.

“Here, there are several factors that merit strong consideration in assessing discipline. The first is the club’s prior record. In 2007 the club and several individuals were sanctioned for videotaping signals of opposing defensive coaches in violation of the Constitution and Bylaws. Under the Integrity of the Game Policy, this prior violation of competitive rules was properly considered in determining the discipline in this case.

“Another important consideration identified in the Policy is ‘the extent to which the club and relevant individuals cooperated with the investigation.’ The Wells report identifies two significant failures in this respect. The first involves the refusal by the club’s attorneys to make Mr. McNally available for an additional interview, despite numerous requests by Mr. Wells and a cautionary note in writing of the club’s obligation to cooperate in the investigation. The second was the failure of Tom Brady to produce any electronic evidence (emails, texts, etc.), despite being offered extraordinary safeguards by the investigators to protect unrelated personal information. Although we do not hold the club directly responsible for Mr. Brady’s refusal to cooperate, it remains significant that the quarterback of the team failed to cooperate fully with the investigation.

“Finally, it is significant that key witnesses – Mr. Brady, Mr. Jastremski, and Mr. McNally – were not fully candid during the investigation.

“In accepting the findings of the report, we note that the report identified no evidence of wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing on the part of any member of the coaching staff, including Head Coach Bill Belichick, or by any Patriots’ staff member other than Mr. Jastremski and Mr. McNally, including head equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld. Similarly, the Wells report is clear that Patriots ownership and executives did not participate in any way in the misconduct, or have knowledge of the misconduct.

“Nonetheless, it remains a fundamental principle that the club is responsible for the actions of club employees. This principle has been applied to many prior cases. Thus, while no discipline should or will be imposed personally on any owner or executive at the Patriots, discipline is appropriately imposed on the club.”

From Troy Vincent’s letter to Tom Brady:

“With respect to your particular involvement, the report established that there is substantial and credible evidence to conclude you were at least generally aware of the actions of the Patriots’ employees involved in the deflation of the footballs and that it was unlikely that their actions were done without your knowledge. Moreover, the report documents your failure to cooperate fully and candidly with the investigation, including by refusing to produce any relevant electronic evidence (emails, texts, etc.), despite being offered extraordinary safeguards by the investigators to protect unrelated personal information, and by providing testimony that the report concludes was not plausible and contradicted by other evidence.

“Your actions as set forth in the report clearly constitute conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football. The integrity of the game is of paramount importance to everyone in our league, and requires unshakable commitment to fairness and compliance with the playing rules. Each player, no matter how accomplished and otherwise respected, has an obligation to comply with the rules and must be held accountable for his actions when those rules are violated and the public’s confidence in the game is called into question.”

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