As the ever-evolving #DeflateGate story continues to dominate the NFL headlines (which is bad for the league) and overshadow the postseason of two other major sports (which is good for the league), the latest twist relates to the possibility that the Patriots committed a separate rules violation with Thursday’s lengthy rebuttal to the Ted Wells report.
Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post quotes via Twitter language in the NFL’s Constitution regarding public criticism of the league by member clubs. The quote posted by Hubbuch, however, isn’t complete.
Here’s the full language of Article 9.1(C)(4), which provides that teams shall not “[p]ublicly criticize any member club or its management, personnel, employees, or coaches and/or any football official employed by the league.” The provision then requires that “[a]ll complaints or criticism in respect to the foregoing shall be made to the Commissioner only and shall not be publicized directly or indirectly.” (Emphasis added.)
In other words, the rule in question prohibits teams from publicly criticizing other teams or league officials. Thursday’s missive from the Patriots represented criticism of an independent investigator who is not connected to any team or the league office.
It’s still dangerous territory for the Patriots, since the aggressive, public criticism of Wells could eventually become aggressive, public criticism of other teams or of persons employed by the league. And it could be that the NFL has opted to remind folks in the media of this language the morning after the NFL alerted the media through a cascade of leaks that Commissioner Roger Goodell will be handling the appeal of Tom Brady’s suspension.
With the Patriots in full-blown attack mode, it’s possible that they’ll sound off about the Commissioner’s decision to handle the appeal himself without considering the consequences of doing so.