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2009 Jets-Patriots incident becomes issue in Brady case

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From SpyGate to #DeflateGate to tampering allegations to two (and sometimes three) games per season, the Jets and Patriots have had a combustible relationship in recent years. Fittingly, a previously unknown chapter in the rivalry has made its way into the Tom Brady suspension litigation.

Paragraph 111 of the 54-page lawsuit filed Wednesday by the NFLPA elaborates on a point briefly addressed in the ruling from Commissioner Roger Goodell upholding the Brady discipline. In 2009, the NFL suspended a member of the Jets’ equipment for attempting “to use unapproved equipment to prep the K[icking] Balls” before a game against the Patriots.

As the NFLPA points out, the NFL did not investigate or discipline the Jets kicker for “general awareness” or specific involvement, even though the Jets kicker (like Brady in this case) was the player most likely to benefit from the behavior and, in turn, the player most likely to be aware of the conduct.

The NFLPA explains in its lawsuit that the decision not to investigate or discipline the Jets kicker “was perfectly consistent with the Competitive Integrity Policy’s application to Clubs, not players.”

So why suspend Brady under a policy that applies to teams and not players? At paragraph 108 of the lawsuit, the NFLPA claims that “a fine would not have quenched other NFL owners’ thirst for a more draconian penalty.”

The 54-page filing says nothing more about owners wanting a “more draconian penalty,” and no specific owners are named. Given the history between the Jets and Patriots, the NFLPA probably believes that one of them was Woody Johnson.

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Alameda County wants out of proposals for new Raiders stadium in Oakland

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Oakland officials planned to submit a letter to the Raiders on Wednesday outlining a proposal for a new stadium at the site of O.co Coliseum, but they never handed it over because they couldn’t get Alameda County to sign on to the deal.

Instead, the county wants the city to buy them out of their stake of the Coliseum land that they share with the city. County supervisor Nate Miley said that the county’s exit from the negotiations will make it easier to work toward an agreement on a new building.

“Having a two-headed government agency overseeing the management of a sports and entertainment venue is not necessarily the most effective way for any of the parties to function properly,” Miley said, via the Bay Area News Group.

The county’s exit from talks would be complicated. There’s $100 million in bond debt that needs to be paid back and the city and county would need to come to agreement on a payment plan because, as Miley acknowledged, “the city doesn’t have the money.” That could take time and the clock is already ticking on Oakland’s chances of holding onto the Raiders with plans for a stadium in Los Angeles already in motion.

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Darrelle Revis: AFC East will be toughest division in the league

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Cornerback Darrelle Revis won a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots last season, but he isn’t going to be showing it off this summer.

Revis is now a member of the Jets, of course, and said Wednesday that “you’ll see [a ring] in New York Jet green when we get it.” That may sound like a continuation of his recent Sports Illustrated photo shoot mimicking famous shots of former Jets quarterback and noted guarantee-maker Joe Namath, but Revis’s other comments didn’t make it seem as if he thought a trip to Santa Clara was definitely in the team’s future. They’ll have to navigate the AFC East first and Revis doesn’t think that will be easy.

“I feel like this would be the toughest division in the NFL,” Revis said, via the New York Daily News. “Just how all the pieces have moved: me being back here, Rex [Ryan] going to Buffalo, you have [Mike] Tannenbaum down in Miami. It’s a lot of moving pieces.”

The moves didn’t just include former members of the Jets organization shuffling around. Ndamukong Suh and several new receivers are in Miami, the Bills traded for LeSean McCoy and the Jets brought Brandon Marshall, Leonard Williams and Antonio Cromartie into the fold in addition to Revis. And then there are the Patriots, whose offseason tumult can’t erase their long history of success under Bill Belichick in the face of whatever circumstances they might need to navigate.

It should make for a competitive group and will be an especially imposing one if the Jets and Bills can get better quarterback play than they enjoyed last season. That’s a big if and one that will likely determine whether Revis’s second tour with the Jets features a shot at the hardware he earned in February.

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Le’Veon Bell unsure why suspension was reduced to two games

Ryan Shazier, Le'Veon Bell AP

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell doesn’t know why his suspension was reduced from three games to two.

He’s just glad it was.

“I just want to go out there and continue to practice with my team as long as I can,” Bell said, via Ralph Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I don’t want to go through all the details. I’m just glad I got the suspension reduced.”

Bell was initially given three games after being charged with DUI and marijuana possession, but may have gotten a break down to the DUI baseline because he admitted to having smoked the weed, effectively making it two penalties for one crime.

Either way, he’s made a good first impression on teammates, even as the team has wagged the finger of disapproval at him.

“Having him back a game earlier makes a difference for us,” guard Ramon Foster said. “He’s worked his butt off, and everyone sees the difference. Having that game back is what we needed. He fought for it and won it.”

Of course, he’s still going to miss the first two games, leaving the Steelers in the hands of veteran free agent DeAngelo Williams during that time.

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LeGarrette Blount lands on non-football injury list

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Tom Brady’s fight with the NFL isn’t the only thing going on with the Patriots these days.

The team placed eight players on the physically unable to perform list earlier this week as they set up their roster for the start of training camp and they also placed quarterback Matt Flynn on the non-football injury list. Three players joined Flynn on that list Wednesday, including running back LeGarrette Blount.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports that Blount failed the conditioning test given to Patriots players when they reported to camp. Players had to run 20 sprints of 50 yards in under eight seconds each time and, per Volin, Blount was only able to complete 12 of them. He’ll likely be making further attempts at the test and should be activated once he completes it. Blount is suspended for the season opener, but is eligible to practice and play in the preseason.

Defensive tackle Alan Branch and offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann also landed on the NFI list ahead of Thursday’s opening practice of camp.

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Judge Kyle recused himself from prior NFL-Brady litigation

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When I saw that the NFLPA lawsuit filed Wednesday in Minnesota had been assigned to Judge Richard H. Kyle, the name rang no bells. It should have.

As noted by Gabe Feldman of Tulane Law School, the antitrust lawsuit filed in 2011 against the NFL by, among others, Tom Brady initially was assigned to Judge Kyle. And Feldman’s tweet includes a link to the PFT story from 2011 regarding Judge Kyle’s prompt decision to step aside from the case.

At the time, Judge Kyle cited 28 U.S.C. § 455 as the basis for the move. Section 455 requires disqualification under certain specific circumstances pointing to an actual or potential bias, including “[w]here in private practice he served as lawyer in the matter in controversy, or a lawyer with whom he previously practiced law served during such association as a lawyer concerning the matter.”

As explained in the 2011 PFT post (which carries my name but which I have no recollection of writing), Judge Kyle practiced with the firm of Briggs & Morgan at the time he was appointed to the federal bench in 1992, and Briggs & Morgan served as the lead local counsel for the NFLPA in the original Reggie White antitrust case.  Even if Judge Kyle never worked on the White case, Section 455 potentially would apply if any of the lawyers with whom he worked while at Briggs & Morgan handled the case.

But there’s a big difference between the 2011 antitrust lawsuit and the current controversy. The complaint filed by Brady and other players following the expiration of the labor deal that traced back to the original Reggie White antitrust lawsuit, giving the two cases a real connection.

The current case has no connection to claims of antitrust or anything else that would be related to the case that Judge Kyle’s former firm was handling. Although his former firm represented the NFLPA, he apparently had no involvement in the representation.

Thus, recusal seems less likely in this case.

Of course, the NFLPA may secretly be rooting for a recusal, in the hopes that the case will land back on the docket of Judge David Doty. Even if Judge Kyle keeps the case, the NFLPA will argue that Judge Doty’s decision from earlier this year in the Adrian Peterson lawsuit should be applied to the Tom Brady case, since it stands for the proposition that the NFL must give players proper notice of the things for which they can be disciplined.

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Brady testimony: No one said I’d be disciplined for not producing phone

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The four-page lawsuit filed Tuesday by the NFL in Manhattan says nothing about the nuts and bolts of the Tom Brady suspension. The 54-page lawsuit filed Wednesday in Minnesota by the NFLPA says plenty.

On the question of whether Brady can be suspended for failing to cooperate with a league investigation, the NFLPA argues that the NFL cannot suspend him because the NFL had never suspended a player for failing to cooperate with an investigation. In support of that position, the NFLPA quotes former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s ruling that exonerated all Saints player in the 2012 bounty scandal.

“In my forty years of association with the NFL, I am aware of many instances of denials in disciplinary proceedings that proved to be false, but I cannot recall any suspension for such fabrication,” Tagliabue wrote. “This is no evidence of a record of past suspensions based purely on obstructing a League investigation.”

As further evidence of the applicable precedent, the NFLPA points out that Brett Favre was fined $50,000 and not suspended after the league concluded he was “not candid” during a sexual harassment investigation, a circumstance Tagliabue expressly cited in throwing out the Saints suspensions based on alleged obstruction of the NFL’s investigation.

Beyond the big-picture question of whether the NFL has secured via collective bargaining the ability to suspend a player for obstructing an NFL investigation, the NFLPA lawsuit contends that no one told Brady that discipline could be imposed for failing to surrender his private text messages and emails. At paragraph 72 of the petition to vacate the arbitration, the NFLPA alleges that “Brady testified that it anyone had told him he could be suspended for declining to produce the private communications, he would have produced them — notwithstanding the advice of his agents-lawyers.”

On one hand, it’s easy for Brady to say that now. On the other hand, why didn’t Wells warn Brady that he could actually be suspended for failing to cooperate? Apart from ensuring that Brady was fully aware of the consequences of refusing to comply, this is one of the legitimate tactics available to a $1,000-an-hour (or even a $10-an-hour) lawyer to get to the truth.

“Tom, I know you don’t want to give me the phone. But you need to realize that, if you don’t, you could be suspended.”

If Ted Wells truly never said that, then maybe he should be suspended.

Which leads back to the bigger question of whether Wells wanted to get to the truth, or whether Wells wanted to get to a predetermined conclusion. Based on the lack of cooperation, Wells drew an “adverse inference” that Brady was at least “generally aware” of alleged tampering by John Jastremski and Jim McNally. Which allowed Wells to get to a conclusion that cheating occurred, and which arguably bolsters NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith’s previously-stated position that “the Wells report delivered exactly what the client wanted.”

For more from the NFLPA’s lawsuit on the actual “independence” of the investigation, stay tuned.

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Tom Coughlin dismayed Jason Pierre-Paul “doesn’t want our help”

Tom Coughlin AP

The Giants want to help Jason Pierre-Paul, and they seem hurt that he won’t let them.

Coach Tom Coughlin was the latest to weigh in on his franchise-tagged defensive end, who isn’t going to be there for the start of training camp after losing a finger in a Fourth of July fireworks accident.

“I want to help. I want to be there for him. But he’s decided that he doesn’t want our help,” Coughlin told Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com. “He thinks that something will come of it. But, all I care about, all any of us care about, the whole organization, is the well-being of the kid. Something traumatic has taken place here, and we have all kinds of experts here in this city that are at our disposal. Putting those things together is very easy.”

Like co-owner John Mara earlier this week, Coughlin seemed dismayed by Pierre-Paul’s keeping the team at bay. He said as soon as he learned of the accident, he texted Pierre-Paul “How can I help you?,” but that text had not been returned.

And until they hear from him, they aren’t quite sure how to proceed.

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Jermaine Gresham starts Cardinals tenure on PUP list

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Tight end Jermaine Gresham had to wait until July to land a job for the 2015 season because he had back surgery this offseason.

Now he’ll have to wait to get on the field during training camp with the Cardinals for the same reason. The team placed Gresham on the physically unable to perform list Wednesday, which leaves him ineligible to practice until the team activates him from the list.

He’s not the only tight end that the Cardinals will be waiting on as camp gets underway. Troy Niklas landed on the non-football injury list with a hamstring injury that he presumably suffered while doing work away from the team in the last few weeks. He also had ankle surgery in June, which may have joined John Carlson’s retirement as a reason for the Cardinals’ interest in Gresham.

The two injuries should leave Darren Fells with plenty of work in the opening practices of camp.

Linebacker Zack Wagenmann was also placed on the NFI list because of a foot injury he had before signing with the Cardinals as an undrafted rookie this offseason.

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Gosder Cherilus back to Detroit for visit

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Tackle Gosder Cherilus spent the first five years of his career with the Lions and he may get a chance to resume his career there after being released by the Colts.

Cherilus visited with the Bills on Wednesday, but, according to multiple reports, will be in Detroit on Thursday to renew acquaintances with the Lions. Cherilus started 71 games at right tackle for the Lions during his first stint with the team and his visit comes at a time when the team could use a healthy option at the position.

The Lions placed LaAdrian Waddle on the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday as a result of the torn ACL that kept him from taking part in the team’s offseason activities. Cherilus has had knee troubles of his own, but, if healthy, the Lions might prefer his experience to going with Cornelius Lucas in the event that Waddle doesn’t get healthy in time for the regular season.

The Lions also placed running back Joique Bell and defensive end Jason Jones on the PUP list. Bell had knee and Achilles surgeries that also kept him on the sidelines for spring work while Jones is out with an undisclosed injury.

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Even though Robert Kraft doesn’t, Jerry Jones backs Roger Goodell

Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, Roger Goodell, John Mara AP

Patriots owner Robert Kraft changed his tune this week, going from a conciliatory shrug to defiance, saying: “I was wrong to put my faith in the league.”

But another owner who has had his share of punishment from the NFL said he thinks commissioner Roger Goodell is still doing a good job.

He’s got obviously a very tough job,” Jones said, via Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com. “Now I see some people doing that, that’s that old violin that’s not feeling too sorry for him because that’s why you pay the big bucks is to deal with the big problems. But he’s doing an outstanding job. I can tell you firsthand that in his spot you have to with people that you are counting on to help build and to help excel as far as the National Football League, I’m talking about the owners, you have to know that you’re going to make some decisions that are very unpopular with that particular group. This is the case.

“I can speak to that because on a personal basis as well as for my franchise and our Dallas Cowboys franchise, we’ve had that happen to us. I’m sitting there living with the result of the commissioner’s decision still today that I didn’t agree with when it happened. And so some of the very people sometimes that have the biggest complaints, they’re the ones who give you a phone call and say, ‘Hey let’s be a team player now and let’s all get in here and realize that this happens to everybody and let’s go on and compete. We’ve got a great league and a great game.'”

Kraft had previously been a team player, saying it was best for the league for him to drop any complaints over the team’s #DeflateGate penalties. But when Goodell upheld quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, Kraft lost it, and went back on the offensive against the league in general.

While the $1 million fine and loss of a first- and fourth-round pick is harsh, so was Jones losing $10 million of salary cap space for taking advantage of the uncapped year.

“He has to make hard calls,” Jones said of the commissioner, “and more often than not, you’re going to have a season or you’re going to have a period of time where those go against you as an owner in the NFL.”

Of course, Jones’ pro-Goodell stance (and those are getting fewer and farther between) might be helped by the fact a four-game suspension keeps Brady out of a game against the Cowboys.

Much like Kraft, Jones knows that what’s good for him is still what’s best for him.

 

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Roddy White downplays knee issue, says he’s ready to roll

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Falcons wide receiver Roddy White is entering his 11th NFL season, and that requires some maintenance.

Whether it’s an issue going forward remains to be seen.

White told Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com that he had his left knee drained prior to minicamp, but he wasn’t worried about it affecting him this season. He had the same procedure done last year in minicamp and missed two days of practice, but otherwise wasn’t bothered by it.

“It’s not a concern to me because it’s just like a little irritation,” White said. “My cartilage in my knee is not smooth. It’s kind of rippled. You can elect to have surgery, but I just decided not to because I’m not a surgery guy. I just don’t want to do it.

“They gave me the option two years ago to have surgery. They said they would have to slice off the top of my cartilage, and I was like, ‘I don’t want to do that.’ I don’t want them to keep shaving my cartilage off until there’s no more cartilage. Then you start to get arthritis.”

He said getting the knee drained again during the season was a possibility. Neither of the two games he missed last year was because of the knee problem.

“If I get my knee drained on a Monday, I can practice on Wednesday,” White said. “It’s not an issue where I’m going to miss a game, because it’s such a small issue. I’m not worried about it — not at all.”

Perhaps not, but as players age, the recovery times for any procedures get longer. And the 33-year-old wideout needs to be well and on his game, as the Falcons have many other unknowns on the roster they should be worrying about a whole lot more.

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Jets place Stevan Ridley on PUP list

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Running back Stevan Ridley was among three veterans placed on the physically unable to perform list by the New York Jets on Wednesday.

In addition, guard Willie Colon and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson were also placed on the PUP list.

Ridley and Colon are recovering from knee injuries while Vickerson has a hamstring issue.

On a positive note, 2013 first-round pick Dee Milliner was not placed on PUP. Milliner was limited this offseason as he continued to recover from a torn Achilles suffered last October.

Players on PUP can be activated at any point during the preseason, but players must be placed on the list before the start of camp to be eligible to remain on the list during the regular season.

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Report: Washington to meet with Junior Galette on Thursday

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The Washington Redskins may have locked up Ryan Kerrigan with a five-year extension on Wednesday, but that isn’t keeping them from looking for further pass rushing help.

According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, the Redskins are set to host former New Orleans Saints defensive end/linebacker Junior Galette for a visit on Thursday.

Galette was released by the Saints last week after video surfaced of him twice hitting a woman. He passed his physical with New Orleans before being released.

Galette will meet with the Redskins at their training camp home in Richmond, Va. and take a physical with the team.

Galette racked up 22 sacks with New Orleans over the last two seasons.

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Browns cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu expected to miss entire season

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A former potential first-round draft pick, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu fell all the way to the seventh round in this year’s draft after an ACL tear and dislocated knee ended his college career.

The injuries will keep Ekpre-Olomu off the field in 2015 as well.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns head coach Mike Pettine said Ekpre-Olomu will likely miss his entire rookie season as he continues to recover from the injuries suffered last December.

“Players that have had this injury before, it’s rare that you would return that season,” Pettine said. “Given our depth, we’re very comfortable with him sitting out. That’s just one that we felt it was a low-risk, high-reward move when we took him in the seventh round. There’s no reason to rush it back given the depth in that room now anyway.”

The Browns took a flier on Ekpre-Olomu with their final selection, No. 241 overall in the seventh round, in hopes that he can return to his former self in time. Ekpre-Olomu posted 244 tackles and nine interceptions in four seasons at Oregon. He was injured in a December practice in preparation for the Rose Bowl against Florida State.

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