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NFL announces ex-FBI chief will lead probe into league’s handling of Rice case

09.10.14 at 11:27 pm ET
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The NFL announced Wednesday night that former FBI director Robert Mueller will lead an independent investigation into the league’€™s handling of the Ray Rice case.

According to the NFL, Mueller’s investigation will be overseen by owners John Mara of the Giants and Art Rooney of the Steelers, and the final report will be made public. Commissioner Roger Goodell has pledged that Mueller will have the full cooperation of NFL personnel and access to all NFL records.

The announcement of the probe came less than 24 hours after a law enforcement official told The Associated Press  that he sent a tape of Rice striking his then-fiancee at a casino to an NFL executive in April. That report runs contrary to statements from Goodell, who said no one at the league had seen the tape prior to Monday, when it went viral online via TMZ.

Mueller served as director of the FBI for 12 years (2001-13). He currently works as an attorney in Washington, D.C.

The NFL has launched several similar independent investigations in recent years, including the bullying scandal last year involving the Dolphins

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Robert Kraft’s longstanding friendship with Roger Goodell could be tested

09.10.14 at 10:35 pm ET
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Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell have forged a tight bond over the last decade. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Robert Kraft (right) and Roger Goodell (center) have forged a tight bond over the last decade. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

While the future of the embattled NFL commissioner is in doubt, over the years there’s no question as to where he’s stood with Patriots ownership.

Since Roger Goodell first assumed the job in August 2006, he’s always had a staunch ally in Patriots owner Robert Kraft. In the days after Goodell took the position, Kraft called Goodell’s ascension from NFL intern to commissioner “pretty special.”

“He is ready for this job,” Kraft told USA Today. “It’s nice to know, you give 25 years to an organization, you’re trained hard, you work hard and you wake up in the middle of the night worrying about things, and your dream comes true, sort of like me buying the Patriots. Roger becoming commissioner is pretty special.”

Despite the fact that Goodell popped Bill Belichick with a $500,000 fine and the Patriots $250,000 and a draft pick in the wake of the Spygate scandal just over a year later, Kraft and Goodell have never publicly been at odds. In fact, according to some accounts, with a possible labor stoppage looming, Kraft was one of the driving forces in awarding Goodell a new contract after four years on the job.

“We’re going into a major negotiation. It will be very difficult probably in many ways and we want to have someone who has his own views, who’s going to have to make some hard decisions that maybe some of us won’t like,” Kraft told The Associated Press in a 2010 telephone interview.

“But in the end, I think we’re confident that he and his team will do what’s for the best long-term interest of the league,” added the Patriots owner. “Having stability in our management team is critical.”

The nice words have been returned in kind on several occasions over the last few years. In a joint appearance at UMass-Lowell commencement in 2010 when the commissioner received an honorary degree, Goodell was effusive in his praise of Kraft.

“Robert Kraft has given this area and this region a lot to cheer for,” Goodell said, while adding he considered Kraft a “friend and mentor.”

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Dan Connolly, Nate Solder vow better effort in protecting Tom Brady

09.10.14 at 8:58 pm ET
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Dan Connolly is focused on leading the Patriots offensive line to a better performance. (Mike Petraglia/

Dan Connolly is focused on leading the Patriots offensive line to a better performance. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — There’s a time-tested expression in the NFL that the film don’t lie.

This week, every Patriots offensive lineman had to sit through meetings early in the week and take a look at what happened in Miami and figure out why it was open season on Tom Brady last Sunday.

Teams that take a look at that film are going to think that they can pin their ears back and get to Brady. It’s up to veterans like Nate Solder and Dan Connolly to bring the unit together and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“I think that’s a goal a lot of times when teams play us,” newly appointed captain Dan Connolly said Wednesday. “It’s up to us to make sure we firm up the pocket and protect the quarterback. We just have to put the last game behind us.”

“Man, we’re working on everything,” Solder added. “We didn’t feel real happy with anything we did last game so we went back to our fundamentals and are working on everything. It’s a lot of basic stuff. It’s a lot of stuff that we know how to do and can improve.

“There is a process of developing your own skills, no matter who you’re playing against. But as the week goes, you have to hone in on your skills for a particular opponent. It’s a combination because (the Dolphins) are very good players and that made it tough on us when we didn’t use the proper techniques.”

In a game that featured musical chairs along the line, Connolly was the only lineman to play two positions, as he alternated from starting center to left guard.

“I was the guy moving. I do my job in both spots and just focus on that,” Connolly said.

The biggest difference at right guard and center?

“I don’t have to snap the ball,” Connolly said of playing right guard. “I’m looking at the same thing the center is looking at. The center is a little more vocal, making sure everybody is on the same page but as a whole, we all need to know what’s going on, see where the linebackers are and kind of anticipate where pressures are coming and ultimately, just block the front.

Connolly, when at center, is calling out protections along the line and is the man responsible for bringing together the likes of Solder, Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey, Cameron Fleming, Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork and Sebastian Vollmer

“There’s definitely a chemistry involved but I think we do a good job here of rotating guys through and building a chemistry with multiple groups, and not just playing with five guys in practice and throw somebody else in there and it’s confusion,” Connolly said. “We play with different guys so I think we’re ready when other guys come into the game.

“You never know when you’re going to lose a guy so guys always have to be ready.”

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Matt Cassel recalls his time in New England, what he learned from Tom Brady

09.10.14 at 8:00 pm ET
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Matt Casell will face the Patriots for the first time on Sunday. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Matt Casell will face the Patriots for the first time on Sunday. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It’€™s been six years since Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel was a member of the Patriots, but that doesn’€™t mean he still doesn’€™t refer back to his time in New England.

“I think I constantly refer back to some of the things that I learned in New England and throughout my career,” Cassel said on a conference call Wednesday. “It was a great stepping stone, and it also gave me time to mature as a player and as a quarterback. I got to learn from one of the best in the game to ever play the game in Tom [Brady], and he was such a great mentor to me. Not only that, but the way that they prepared, the attitude they had, the way they went about their business –€“ I really carried that to every place that I’€™ve gone.”

Cassel’€™s 2008 season with New England was what put him on the map as Brady went down in Week 1 with a torn ACL and Cassel stepped in, despite not starting a game since high school and led the Patriots to an 11-6 record. The performance received attention throughout the league and Cassel along with linebacker Mike Vrabel were traded to the Chiefs in Feb. of 2009.

“€œA tremendous amount of confidence, obviously,” Cassel said of the 2008 season. “€œI think that everybody was skeptical –€“ probably even to a point myself — when I first got the nod and got the opportunity because I hadn’€™t started a game since high school. But at the same time, I knew through my preparation and also working diligently throughout the course of the week and also over the years that I had the ability to do it. Then it was just a process of getting out there and getting the game time action.”

After starting for two seasons with the Chiefs, Cassel was delegated to a back up role for the next two seasons. In 2013 he moved up north to Minnesota and started in seven games. He’€™s kept that starting job for 2014 despite Minnesota taking quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with the No. 32 overall pick in this year’€™s draft.

Sunday, the Vikings will host the Patriots in their home opener and Cassel will face his former team for the first time. The quarterback will be reunited with his former mentor and someone he now views as a good friend in Brady.

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Despite struggling Week 1, Patriots defense ready for Adrian Peterson and Vikings

09.10.14 at 6:28 pm ET
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The Patriots will have their hands full with Adrian Peterson on Sunday. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Patriots defense will have their hands full with Adrian Peterson on Sunday. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

FOXBORO –€“ Facing Adrian Peterson and the rest of the Vikings rushing attack, many opposing defenses may look at it as a tough task, especially for the Patriots who allowed 191 rushing yards for a five-yard per carry average in their season-opening loss to the Dolphins.

But, unlike many may think, the Patriots are actually looking forward to facing Peterson and the Vikings this Sunday.

“We have a lot of ball to play, it’€™s really early in the season so as long as this doesn’€™t become a continuous thing,”€ said linebacker Dont’a Hightower. “€œIt was definitely something we strived to work on today and keep going each and everyday.

“For us to be a great defense — which is something all of us agree that’€™s what we want to do — you definitely can’€™t allow an offense to run the ball like they did so we’€™re definitely going to pride our self on the running game — we’€™re going to do our best and this is the perfect week to go out and do that.”

Peterson, for good reason, is considered one of the best running backs in the game, as he’€™s coming off a 1,266 yard season last year and a 2,097 yard season in 2012. Hightower and the rest of the Patriots defense know they need to know where he is on every play and know that it may take more than one tackler to bring him down.

“He’€™s definitely one of the better running backs in the league,”€ said Hightower. “He’€™s big, fast, strong, smart, great vision –€“ he has everything in a good back that you want. It’€™s going to take all 11 guys being at the point of attack and getting to the ball so he isn’€™t getting a 1-on-1 matchup to break a tackle and get the extra yards. Just everyone getting to the ball and playing with good technique.”

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Report: Ravens knew video of Rice existed, but team never asked to see it

09.10.14 at 5:48 pm ET
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The Ravens knew that a surveillance video of Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancee in a February incident in an Atlantic City casino existed and that Rice’s lawyer had a copy of the video, but the team never asked to see it, according to ABC News.

In addition, there’s considerable doubt being cast on the fact that commissioner Roger Goodell was unaware of the severity of the assault because a police report stated clearly Rice committed assault ‘€œby striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious.”

Goodell has maintained all along that no one at the NFL witnessed the video of Rice’s punching his now-wife in the elevator until the video from the incident released this week by

“We assumed that there was a video. We asked for video. But we were never granted that opportunity,” Goodell said.

However, a story from the Associated Press Wednesday quoted a law-enforcement official as saying he sent the videotape of the incident to the league three months ago, and the league had simply failed to act, beyond giving Rice a two-game suspension.

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Report: Law enforcement official says he sent Ray Rice video to NFL

09.10.14 at 5:07 pm ET
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A law enforcement official told the Associated Press Wednesday he sent the infamous elevator video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee to an NFL executive three months ago, despite the fact that league officers insisted they had not seen the images until they were released by TMZ this week.

That would run contrary to statements from the NFL that they had asked for the video of Rice hitting Janay Palmer ‘€” who is now his wife ‘€” at an Atlantic City casino in February, but were not able to obtain it.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told CBS News on Tuesday that “no one in the NFL, to my knowledge” had seen a new video of what happened on the elevator until it was posted online.

“We assumed that there was a video. We asked for video. But we were never granted that opportunity,” Goodell said.

Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games following the incident, which took place in an Atlantic City casino in February. However, the Ravens released Rice on Monday and the NFL suspended him indefinitely following the release of a lengthier video of the incident which showed Rice punching his then-fiancee.

Late Wednesday, the NFL issued a statement on the report.

“We have no knowledge of this. We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it,” the statement said.

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