A Friday appearance by ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio on the Mighty 1090 in San Diego, coupled with prior reports suggesting that NFL owners are lobbying Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding appeal of the four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, sparked Sunday’s statement from Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti that he’s not pressuring Goodell.
On Monday, Paolantonio appeared on 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore to explain the situation in further detail. And, as some may characterize the remarks, to backpedal like Darrell Green in his prime.
“He hasn’t put any pressure on Roger Goodell,” Paolantonio said of Bisciotti. “And he hasn’t talked about DeflateGate at all, publicly or privately from what I was told. . . . Reports up in New England were that I said that owners were pressuring Goodell. . . . I never said that owners were pressuring Goodell. But what I said about Steve Bisciotti, I shouldn’t have even said that. Because it’s pretty clear when he read his statement, that it sounds like he doesn’t care what the Commissioner does. He just wants the Commissioner to act. . . .
“I think I was wrong to say what I said, because clearly it sounds like Steve Bisciotti doesn’t care. And what I was able to find out pretty clearly is that the owners are not pressuring Roger Goodell, at all. So I never would have reported that. And the other thing too is that it was not a report. It was just me talking on a radio station. It was my opinion, and it was speculation.”
Here’s what Paolantonio initially said on the Mighty 1090: “If they do vacate the suspension and exonerate Brady, then of course you’re totally undermining [executive V.P. of football operations] Troy Vincent . . . and you’re undermining the authority of the very Commissioner making the ruling, since he was the one that signed off on the initial four-game suspension in the first place. Not only that, you’re angering some of the hard core owners out there, And I know who they are, and I’m gonna name them right now. Jim Irsay of the Colts, Steve Bisciotti of the Ravens and others in the AFC who believe that the Patriots have gotten away with murder for years and have not been publicly punished properly.”
Paolantonio didn’t say that Bisciotti, Irsay, or anyone else was “pressuring” Goodell. Instead, Paolantonio said that Bisciotti and Irsay (and others) would be angered by a reduction. Some in the media apparently took the prior report that a small group of owners are pushing Goodell to uphold the suspension and the opinion/speculation/whatever from Paolantonio that Irsay and Bisciotti would be angered by a reduction as the parts of a two-piece puzzle.
And that would have been the easiest way for Paolantonio to explain the reaction to his comments from Friday.
Still, regardless of whether their potential anger with the outcome ever became affirmative pressure on Goodell, it’s possible that some owners would be angry with a reduction, but that those owners aren’t overtly pressuring Goodell.
It’s also possible that Bisciotti chose the term “pressure” in his Sunday statement not as a pun (although it was a good one) but in recognition of the possibility that he and other owners have merely communicated their views on the subject to the league office, without applying any “pressure” to the Commissioner.
Does anyone really think owners haven’t been lobbying the league office on this issue? One of the clearest points to emerge from the murky morass known as #DeflateGate is that teams piss and moan to 345 Park Avenue about so many issues that the league has gotten numb to the complaints. Otherwise, the league would have done a much better job checking the Patriots footballs only one day after the Colts complained about suspicions of underinflation. (At a minimum, referee Walt Anderson would have put two and two together when the balls went missing before the game, for the first time in his career.)
Likewise, does anyone think other owners were placated by the punishment imposed on the Patriots, and that they’ll all simply shrug if the Commissioner reduces or eliminates the Brady suspension? If that were the case, the suspension surely would have been reduced or eliminated by now.
With or without pressure, lobbying, or influence, the Commissioner understands the various pros and cons of his options. And that’s perhaps one of the reasons why he has yet to select one.