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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Revis spent one year with the Patriots, winning a Super Bowl title, but then departed for the Jets via free agency after the Patriots didn’t pick up his $20 million option. Mehta was asked if Revis never felt like a Patriot, and he said that would be “fair to say.”
“That’s probably fair to say,” said Mehta. “He hasn’t came out and told me that specifically, but judging by his reaction to coming back to New York and feeling comfortable in this area. It is a place he had played for obviously at the outset of his career and an area he likes a lot and an organization — even though it is a different coaching staff now.
“I think that is fair to say, although he hasn’t came out specially and told me he never felt like a Patriot because I think when he was with [Bill] Belichick he learned a lot from Belichick, he bought in and he obviously played a great deal in their Super Bowl title.”
Mehta said Revis wasn’t reluctant to say what he did about the Patriots on Wednesday, as he’s the type of player to speak his mind when he wants.
“No. I wouldn’t say that,” Mehta said. “He also has a history with the Patriots prior to playing for the Patriots, that a lot of these other guys who have played for Belichick didn’t have, so he does have a unique perspective. The thing I know about Darrelle Revis, knowing him since he came into the league years ago is that he does speak his mind. He took a brief rest there up in Foxboro, but his personality is such that if he believes in something he’s going to say it and he’s obviously a caliber of player that carries a lot of clout. He doesn’t really care what you think, if that’s what he believes he’s going to share it with you.”
Mehta did add Revis still has great deal of respect for Brady and feels like he will be a Hall of Famer.
“I will say that Revis was very clear that he’s always had a lot of professional respect for Tom Brady and he does think he’s going to be a Hall of Famer, without a doubt and he does think he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks,” said Mehta. “The way he described it was, ‘if not the best’ quarterback to ever play, so in terms of how any potential wrongdoing with these footballs affects Brady’s legacy, I think Revis believes that Tom Brady is an all-time great regardless of what happened. He just doesn’t have the fact, he doesn’t know what happened. He was unaware of it.”
“I only care about our fans,” said Kraft to reporters. “I did my part to be a good partner, I think. The most important thing to me is that the fans of the New England Patriots know that I’m always trying to look out for our team’s best interests now. I think this was in the best long-term interest of the team.”
The Patriots were fined $1 million and lost two draft picks — a first rounder in 2016 and a fourth rounder in 2017. Tom Brady and the NFLPA will still go ahead with their appeal of his four-game suspension.