ESPN NFL analyst Bill Polian, a frequent critic of the Patriots, joined the Middays with MFB crew on Friday to discuss Deflategate and how the Patriots are perceived around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

ESPN NFL analyst Bill Polian, a frequent critic of the Patriots, joined the Middays with MFB crew on Friday to discuss Deflategate and how the Patriots are perceived around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Polian, a former longtime Colts executive, had high praise for Robert Kraft, who this week announced the Patriots would not appeal their punishment for Deflategate.

“I think it’s just typical of Mr. Kraft. He’s always been the NFL’s leading citizen. He’s a leader in every way. He’s a guy who thinks about the league first, last and always,” Polian said. “Anybody else you might be a little bit surprised by the reaction, but knowing Mr. Kraft, I’m not surprised at all. He did what was best for the league rather than his own franchise.”

As for speculation that Kraft gave in to other owners, Polian said that’s unlikely due to the Patriots owner’s standing.

“No, I don’t think so. He’s one of the leading owners in the league. There’s no one going to pressure him,” Polian said. “The bottom line is he looked at the issues and recognized that while he probably would have liked things to turn out better for the Patriots in the long run, what’s important for the league is what ultimately counts. That attitude was called ‘league think,’ that phrase created, at least to my knowledge, by Pete Rozelle. And Mr. Kraft follows it to the letter.”

Polian said the issue is not about what did or did not happen, but whether the commissioner has the right to do what he did.

“It wasn’t about the argument,” Polian said. “At this point it isn’t about the Patriots or Tom Brady, even. It’s about the commissioner’s right to handle unilaterally — and in conjunction with the rights given him in the collective bargaining agreement since 1968, and tradition dating all the way back to the Black Sox in 1919, with Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the first commissioner of baseball. The commissioner has the right to handle the integrity of the game. It is his responsibility. And that responsibility extends not only to the owners and players and coaches and general managers and staff people, but to the fans as well. Because if the integrity of the game is called into question in any way, it affects the overall health of the game and standing of the game in society.

“So to take that from the commissioner is an absolutely bad precedent. And of course Round 2 of that takes place in Tom Brady‘s grievance hearing. But the fact that Mr. Kraft went ahead and accepted the commissioner’s decision is in line with the longstanding tradition of the league and is what is best for the league in the long run.”

Many Patriots fans have expressed their disappointment with Kraft’s decision to give up the fight. Polian said those fans should appreciate what Kraft has done and continues to do.

“I would say they’re lucky to have him as an owner, just as the NFL is lucky to have him as an owner,” Polian said. “He’s doing what’s best for the league in the long run. It isn’t about this particular issue at this point in time. It’s about what’s good for the league in the long run. That’s what outstanding owners do, it’s what commissioners do, it’s what outstanding coaches and general managers do. At some point in time you have to take off your individual team hat and put on your league hat. That’s what protecting the shield is called.”

Regarding Brady’s four-game suspension, Polian pointed to the quarterback’s refusal to cooperate, noting that NFL investigator Ted Wells gave Brady’s agent, Don Yee, the opportunity to forward only relevant texts from Brady’s cell phone, but Yee refused.

“I think many fans missed this: As part of the policy that the commissioner enunciated back in 2007 or 2008, after Spygate, he set the standard of proof, which has been talked about a lot, and in addition to that he made clear that every single person in the league had a responsibility to cooperate with any investigation that the league undertook. By any standard, Tom and his attorney were not cooperative,” Polian said. “I don’t have any doubt that they took that into consideration when they assessed the penalty.”

Polian further noted that the league does not need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Brady cheated, only that it was more likely than not — which is the conclusion of the Wells Report.

“The investigation was conducted under a standard set by the commissioner back in 2008,” Polian said. “Everybody in the league knows it. Everybody in the league understands it.”

Polian added that based on the standard set by the NFL, the punishment was reasonable.

“I thought given the non-cooperation part of it — which, again, I understand that fans do not understand that, [but] people in the league do — I thought it was pretty fair,” he said.

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Stephen A. Smith of ESPN’s “First Take” appeared on Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to talk about Deflategate, Tom Brady and Robert Kraft. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith of ESPN’s “First Take” appeared on Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to talk about Deflategate, Tom Brady and Robert Kraft. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Smith said that while he believes Brady knew the footballs were deflated, a case can be made during the appeals process for his innocence and that he could see Brady’s suspension being reduced to two games. However, he thinks Brady’s lack of cooperation will hurt him.

“What I cannot see is the complete eradication of the four-game suspension that was ultimately handed down to him,” Smith said.

According to Smith, taking his case to the courts likely would not be fruitful because of Brady’s lack of cooperation.

“You can’t make the case that he was fully cooperative because they don’t get to make that judgment.  The commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, makes that judgment,” Smith said.

Ultimately, Smith doesn’t think the saga and its fallout are of particular importance and that the scandal should not blemish Brady’s reputation.

“I’m of the mindset that even if Tom Brady is completely guilty of this, this is not something that should impugn his integrity for years to come. … I’ve been on the record as saying I don’t give a damn if he threw a Nerf football, he’s still fantastic and I know that,” Smith said.

Smith also defended Kraft’s decision not to appeal the NFL’s sanctions against the Patriots, a move that hasn’t been popular among many Boston fans.

“You don’t always get your way. As an individual, you are never bigger than the brand. Robert Kraft did what he did because he is looking out for the NFL as a whole,” Smith said. “What he’s saying is that the fight that would be forthcoming isn’t worth it because you have to think about the bigger picture and the betterment of the brand.”

Smith said he understands why Patriots fans object to the decision, but that Kraft is “thinking about the NFL and not just the Patriots, and I think that’s something he should be applauded for.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

On the regular-season ramifications of Brady’s punishment: Tom Brady worst-case scenario is going to be back after four games. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have owned the AFC East. Tom Brady is considered the best quarterback of this generation, he is going to be totally ticked off. … So guess what? The worst-case scenario is that you’re going to have 12 games to make up ground in the AFC East. … I’m sorry, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll be fine.”

On blaming Brady for his lack of cooperation: “You can’t give the Wells investigation or the NFL any reason to brand you uncooperative, that’s not going to work for you. Ted Wells is on the record stating that he did not want to take your cell phone, he wasn’t going to leave the room, nor was he going to look through your phone. He was going to take your word for it, if you and your lawyers decide to show him text messages and emails directly related to Deflategate and you still refuse, you know the NFL and you know they’re going use that as an excuse to label you as uncooperative. You knew that and still elected to make that decision. Ladies and gentlemen, that is on Tom Brady.”

On Spygate fallout and the Patriots’ ability to respond to controversy: “Robert Kraft basically took Bill Belichick to the woodshed in 2007. What happened thereafter? They won every remaining game in the regular season, they went undefeated, they stormed through the playoffs before losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. The Patriots find a way to get it done and win on the football field. That has always been their answer in the Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick era. So what the hell is there to worry about now? They’ll be back on the football field, they’ll be winning football games and all will be well. Everybody needs to relax.”

On Robert Kraft’s capability as an owner: “I’m an incredible supporter of Robert Kraft. I think he’s a fantastic owner. … This man has presided over this organization for 21 years, he’s been as close to a paragon of virtue as an owner in this league. He has definitely assisted in the league’s elevation in terms of its popularity in America, particularly with the television contracts, he’s been on those committees. You’ve got four Super Bowl championships. You have arguably the greatest coach of the modern era, the greatest quarterback of the modern era, Mr. Kraft has something to do with that, so he doesn’t owe Bostonians nothing.”

Blog Author: 
Josh Slavin
Walt Anderson is one of the figures in the Wells Report. (Getty Images)

Walt Anderson is one of the figures in the Wells Report. (Getty Images)

In the wake of the Wells Report, one of the principle figures who came out looking less than impressive was veteran referee Walt Anderson.

The report alleges that while Anderson “is one of the most well-respected referees in the NFL” and “approaches his responsibilities with a high level of professionalism and integrity,” he was part of an officiating crew that misplaced the footballs shortly before the AFC title game. In addition, there was the level of confusion that has sprung up regarding which gauge Anderson used to measure PSI, as well as the fact that he apparently didn’t write down the air pressure of the Patriots’ footballs prior to kickoff or during halftime.

It all reflects poorly on Anderson, and whether or not the issues were result of foul play on the part of Jim McNally or errors on the part of Anderson — or both — given the level of dissatisfaction around the incident, it’s reasonable to speculate if Anderson has worked the last game at Gillette Stadium, and last game involving the Patriots.

“It’s certainly possible that the officiating department will put Walt Anderson under a do-not-schedule order for the Patriots. I wouldn’t expect it to last too long, maybe a season or two,” said Ben Austro of Football Zebras when asked about Anderson’s future as it relates to the Patriots. “It will be a little tricky, because Anderson already does not work Texans games at his request, since he lives in the Houston area. If they do decide to put him on a Patriots game this year, it would likely be an away game.”

Anderson does have an impressive resume as an official. A retired dentist and current Big 12 coordinator of officials, he worked Super Bowl XXXV (as a line judge) and XLV (as the lead official). At the same time, there is some precedent here when it comes to officials who may have a history with a certain team: it’s no coincidence that Walt Coleman — who was responsible for making the Tuck Rule call against the Raiders in the divisional playoff game in Foxboro in 2002 — hasn’t worked an Oakland game since that fateful evening.

For what its worth, Anderson has never had a whiff of trouble with New England in the past; he worked three Patriots games last season, serving as the referee in the games against the Dolphins in Miami, at home against the Broncos and the AFC title game against the Colts. Since he became a full-time referee at the start of the 2003 season, he’s served as the lead official in 14 games involving New England, and the Patriots have gone 11-3 in those games. (He was even involved in a dramatic 2007 contest between the Patriots and Ravens in Baltimore, a game where some conspiracy theorists believe New England got the benefit of the doubt on a few key calls to come away with a win.)

But given the way the league has made it a point not to have Coleman work any Raiders games since that night, it wouldn’t be out of the realm to say that the NFL would be more inclined to keep Anderson out of Gillette Stadium. Considering the mess of Deflategate and the subsequent fallout, it might be the best move for all involved.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Aaron Hernandez returned to court Thursday and pleaded not guilty to a charge that he tried to silence a witness to a 2012 double murder by shooting him in the face.

Aaron Hernandez returned to court Thursday and pleaded not guilty to a charge that he tried to silence a witness to a 2012 double murder by shooting him in the face.

Hernandez, in court for the first time since being convicted of murdering Odin Lloyd in 2013, sported a new tattoo on the right side of his neck — the word “Lifetime” above a star. As an inmate, Hernandez is not allowed to get a tattoo, and he is expected to face discipline for this transgression.

The former Patriots tight end reportedly was put in a segregation unit this week after serving as a lookout for an inmate who entered another prisoner’s cell in order to fight.

On his latest charge, Hernandez allegedly shot Alexander Bradley in the face as the two left a Florida nightclub in 2013. Bradley is believed to have been with Hernandez at a Boston nightclub on July 6, 2012, when Hernandez allegedly shot and killed two men shortly after leaving the club.

According to the prosecution, Bradley infuriated Hernandez by making a comment about the shooting while the two were in Florida in early 2013. Hernandez shot Bradley in the face while the two were in a car, resulting in Bradley losing his right eye. Bradley then was pushed out of the car and left on the side of the road as Hernandez drove away.

The prosecution asked that the witness intimidation case be combined with the murder charges in order to have the cases be tried together. The judge scheduled a hearing for June 4 to discuss that proposal and set a trial date.

In a separate hearing Thursday, Hernandez was hit with a 60-day extension of a restraining order batting him from selling his 2005 Hummer and keeping the money. The family of Odin Lloyd has sued Hernandez, and the family’s lawyers are trying to prevent Hernandez from hiding his assets. The car was found at a used car lot in Wrentham.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar
Despite the fact that he won a Super Bowl with the Patriots, Darrelle Revis left no doubt as to where his allegiance lies these days. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Despite the fact that he won a Super Bowl with the Patriots, Darrelle Revis left no doubt as to where his allegiance lies these days. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The comments from Darrelle Revis regarding the Patriots and Deflategate weren’t tremendously surprising — after all, the former Patriots cornerback went all-in on the heel turn among New England fans in March when he decided to return to the Jets. So when he said “(the Patriots) have a history of doing stuff. You can’t hide that. Tom was there when they did that stuff in the past,” it wasn’t all that shocking.

While Revis was quick to note that quarterback Tom Brady was a “Hall of Famer” and will “go down as one of the greatest — if not the best — quarterback that’s ever played,” his most recent comments stand in stark contrast to where Revis stood in the days before the Super Bowl. The week after the AFC title game, the cornerback was asked for his thoughts on how Brady handled things when he talked to the team about the Deflategate.

“He stood up and spoke and said, “I know this is a distraction and we have to keep focus as a team,'” Revis said of Brady. “We have a big game to play and that is something he wouldn’t do. (Brady) wouldn’t break any rules. It was basically just to clear the smoke.

“I think at that point you want your leader to stand up and say a couple of words for us to move forward because it can be a distraction and it can bother us,” he added. “This whole experience, this Super Bowl experience. Definitely it shows a lot of character in him to stand up and speak to the whole team.”

Not so sound overly naive, but such a dramatic 180-degree turn for Revis in a four-month period is truly jarring. Why did he do it? It’s always possible that time — and the benefit of hindsight — has given him the opportunity to speak more freely than he did in the past. So we’ll give him a pass there. Was it possible that he never really considered himself a Patriot, as Manish Mehta suggested on WEEI Thursday morning? Perhaps. After all, no player in the free-agent era has done a better job maximizing his financial potential than Revis, a practice that has left some questioning his loyalty. (Some would call him a mercenary.) Maybe this is just his own way of demonstrating brand loyalty.

In the end — despite all of the nice things they said about each other over the course of the 2014 season — the only thing certain is the fact that Revis’ flip-flop will provide more bulletin-board material for Brady when he goes up against his old teammate for the first time Oct. 25 at Gillette Stadium.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

There is no doubt that Shaq Mason has what it takes to succeed at the NFL level as a run blocker.

Mason was one of the reasons why Georgia Tech’s run-based scheme was so successful the last few seasons — behind an offensive line that included Mason at one of the guard spots, the Yellow Jackets were at or near the top of the NCAA in most major rushing totals in 2014, including total rushing yards (4,789, first), yards per carry (6.1, tied for fifth) and rushing yards per game (342.1, second).

While part of that was due to the fact that almost no one ran the ball more often last year than Georgia Tech (its 790 rushing attempts were second only to Air Force in total chances), the very fact that the rest of the NCAA knew what was coming and couldn’t stop it anyway is a tribute to the way the Yellow Jackets were able to run the ball as well as they did.

Chief among the reasons for their success was Mason, a three-year starter at guard who was a first-team USA Today All-American in 2014. Put on some of his highlights, look for the No. 70, and Patriots fans will start to be reminded of another offensive lineman who was described as salty and tough when he came out of Fresno State 10 years ago:

The questions for the fourth-round pick out of Georgia Tech lie with his pass-blocking skills, and whether or not he’ll be able to adjust to life at the next level. (Despite the fact that he has impressive run-blocking skills, there are only three pass plays in the above highlight reel.) When he does see his first NFL action, it’s not like he’ll be dropped into the deep end of the pool without a pair of floaties and asked to swim — the Yellow Jackets did attempt 203 passes last season — but at this point in his development he’s raw. As a result, the technique and footwork that comes with consistently working in pass protection at the NFL level could present something of a learning curve for the 6-foot-1, 310-pounder.

But as far as Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is concerned, there’s no concern about whether or not Mason — whose full name is Shaquille Olajuwon Mason — can make the transition.

“I don’t think there’s any question he’ll be able to make the move from college to the pros as an offensive lineman,” Johnson said of Mason, who was taken 131st overall by the Patriots earlier this month. “People make too big a deal out of that transition — there are plenty of players in his shoes who have done the same thing, and done it well. He’s a good player and has good feet and knows how to use that leverage to his advantage.”

One thing that should be encouraging when it comes to his acclimation to working as an offensive lineman with the Patriots is that he apparently picked up some of the intricacies involved with pass blocking pretty quickly. According to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Mason showed a “huge improvement” in his pass-blocking skills while working for a week this offseason at the Senior Bowl.

“Watching him at the Senior Bowl — I mean, it was only one week, but he made a huge improvement just in those, whatever it was, four or five practices, whatever it was down there,” Belichick said of Mason’s ability to pick up on some of the nuances of pass blocking at the NFL level.

“You could see each day progressively how he was taking to the coaching down there and his footwork and his hand placement and his body position. I know it was basic. It wasn’t like it was a big scheme thing at the Senior Bowl, but just doing things on a daily basis better than the day before, [he was] looking more comfortable doing them.”

The other thing that has stood out about Mason over the course of the offseason is a willingness to show some versatility. He was a guard at the collegiate level (he played 27 games at right guard the last two seasons) but because he’s slightly undersized when it comes to both height and arm length, he might be better suited to working as a center in the NFL.

“He and I talked about it toward the end of his senior year, because he had a burning desire to play in the NFL, and I told him because of his height, he might want to play center in some all-star games,” Johnson said of Mason’s potential switch to the middle. “I think he can adjust no matter where he plays. That won’t be a problem. He’s a very mart guy and he’ll be able to pick up schemes and styles very quickly.”

As for how he projects into the current New England offensive line, there are some questions about the Patriots and the guard position. Veteran Dan Connolly remains a free agent, while New England also drafted Florida State’s Tre Jackson, another guard who will be a part of the conversation come training camp.

In a perfect world, perhaps Mason follows the same rookie path as Cameron Fleming, also a fourth-round pick last season out of Stanford. While Fleming was mostly a tackle who worked as an extra tight end on occasion — he also played some right guard — his presence in the lineup usually signaled a run-heavy approach for the Patriots. (He was an absolute road-grader in the November win over the Colts, when he played 37 snaps and was a big reason for New England’s 246 rushing yards.)

Given Mason’s background as a run blocker — as well as his potential positional versatility — it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get work as a situational run blocker as a rookie while he continues to hone his pass-blocking skills. Throw in some work as an all-around backup for the likes of center Bryan Stork, as well as right guard Ryan Wendell and (perhaps) left guard Connolly, and you have a full set of responsibilities for Mason at the NFL level.

Regardless of where Mason ends up playing this fall, Johnson believes there won’t be any surprises when Mason puts the pads for the Patriots.

“I think he was a really, really good player for us. He was a leader who didn’t miss practice. He had the respect of his teammates. He was a tough guy who played through just about everything. He’s a tough guy — there’s no question about that,” Johnson said of Mason. “He led by example. He was a guy who did it by doing things the right way all the time. Guys don’t listen to guys who just talk. Guys listen to guys who play, and he produced for us, in critical situations and when the moments were biggest.

“I think the Patriots watched enough tape on his and they made their evaluation, and they could see that he was a really good player. They came down and worked him out a couple of times. There won’t be any surprises with him. He’s a good player who can make an impact on the next level.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

New York Daily News Jets columnist Manish Mehta joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk about Darrelle Revis’ comments to him regarding the Patriots and Tom Brady.