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Stephen A. Smith on MFB: ‘Patriots’ legacy may very well be on the line’

01.21.15 at 1:07 pm ET
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Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss Deflategate and how it will affect the legacy of Bill Belichick and the Patriots. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Smith initially defended the Patriots, but the news that all but one of the 12 offensive footballs were underinflated had him questioning the situation.

“I’m not going to lie to you: It devastated me,” Smith said. “Anybody that knows me, first of all I’m a native New Yorker. I am no Patriots fan, per se, in terms of being a team from Boston. I’m a New Yorker. I root for the Yankees. I root for the Giants. People like that. I love the Steelers, too. But not the Patriots. I just have such profound respect for the organization, for the leadership of Robert Kraft, the greatness of Bill Belichick, and of course the greatness of Tom Brady, and their consistent success over the years.

“I thought that it’s utterly ridiculous to look at Spygate and what transpired years ago and then try and say, ‘Well, you know what, it delegitimizes everything that they’ve accomplished over the years.’ I thought that was utterly ridiculous. But you make those arguments, you think about the haterism, for lack of a better phrase, that’s thrown out there toward them, and then you wake up this morning and see that 11 of 12 balls were deflated to some degree. Clearly there appears to be intent to that, which brings into question fair play and the Patriots’ willingness to engage in it, which all of a sudden brings all that old stuff back to the forefront, combined with questioning who they are and what they stand for now. And I find that to be incredibly unfortunate.

“And I’m of the mindset that I still don’t want to believe, nor do I really believe, that Bill Belichick authorized this, condoned this, oversaw this directly. But if he had anything to do with this and that can be proven, to me, his egregious error in that regard would be tantamount to what Sean Payton did with the NFL that got him suspended for the entire year [for his role in the Saints’ Bountygate scandal].”

Smith said Belichick should miss a full season just as Payton did if he is found to have played a role in Deflategate.

Said Smith: “If we are to discover that Bill Belichick authorized this and was directly involved — which I don’t believe, but partially because I don’t want to believe he would do something like that. If we are to find that he was directly involved, and that when he spoke to you guys in Boston after whipping Indianapolis’ butt Sunday and flat-out told y’all he didn’t know anything about it until he heard about it the next morning … If he did that and lied about it, to me that’s just as egregious as what the NFL proclaimed Sean Payton did, and he should be suspended for the entire 2015 season.”

Smith said he does not agree with those who use Spygate to devalue the Patriots’ previous success, but he noted that a loss to the Seahawks will look bad.

“I believe that the Patriots’ legacy may very well be on the line. Because if you lose this Super Bowl, that makes you 0-3 in Super Bowls since Spygate. … With all the heat being brought down upon them in light of those allegations, assertions or findings, you’ve got a Super Bowl to go up against the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, with a defense known as the Legion of Boom, who is elite. And if they ramrod you the way that they ramrodded Denver last year, this is definitely a black mark on the Patriots organization. Because the people are going to surmise that when the field of fair play was established, they didn’t know what to do with themselves.”

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Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Deflategate, Stephen A. Smith, Super Bowl XXXIX

Report: Officials properly checked footballs before game

01.21.15 at 12:33 pm ET
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According to a report from Pro Football Talk, the NFL reviewed its game officials’ actions Sunday and determined that they properly checked the footballs before the AFC championship game.

It was later determined that 11 of the 12 footballs the Patriots were using on offense were substantially deflated from the minimum accepted pressure of 12.5 pounds per square inch (PSI).

The Pro Football Talk report, which credits a league source, also indicated that the two-pound difference in PSI would not be obvious to an official handling the ball unless specifically looking for it.

The Colts reportedly alerted the officials to the issue during the first half, and the balls were tested at halftime and reinflated to the proper amount. It did not have a detrimental affect on Tom Brady and Co., as the Patriots outscored Indianapolis 28-0 in the second half en route to a 45-7 victory.

Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Deflate Gate, Super Bowl XLIX,

Indy Star’s Gregg Doyel on D&C: ‘You can’t send this [Patriots] team to the Super Bowl’

01.21.15 at 9:12 am ET
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Gregg Doyel

Gregg Doyel

Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to talk about the latest Deflategate news and call for harsh punishment for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Following an ESPN report that 11 of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots in Sunday’s AFC championship game were underinflated, Doyel said the Patriots should not represent their conference in the Super Bowl.

“I’m not sure how, in a fair world … a team plays, there’s four teams left, one of those four teams tries to rig the game — they’re rigging the game — and got caught,” Doyel said. “Yes, it’s a blowout. Yes, the Patriots are a lot better than the Colts. No, the footballs weren’t going to decide it. I think we call can think that — we don’t know that — we can all think that, and I do think that.

“But if you get caught rigging the game, during the game, and you get caught literally that day rigging the game, and you’ve got two weeks before the next one, I don’t know how with a straight face [Roger] Goodell says, ‘Yeah, we caught you rigging the game, but that’s OK, go ahead, guys, and play a Super Bowl.’ I’m not sure what world that makes any sense to me.”

Added Doyel: “I’m sure I’m in the minority saying you can’t send this team to the Super Bowl. But I really believe that. You can’t do it. They got caught rigging the game. You can’t send them.”

Doyel predicted that Belichick would get suspended for some games next season, but he said he’d like see the coach banned from the game for good.

“[Goodell] might suspend Bill Belichick for the rest of his life,” Doyel said. “You know what, I hope he does. I hope he suspends him for the rest of his life starting tomorrow.”

Asked who should take the Patriots’ place in Arizona, Doyel suggest the Colts or the Packers.

“If I’m Roger Goodell, the Colts are on a plane going to Glendale,” Doyel said. “Not because the Colts deserve it. They don’t. They don’t. It’s not about the Colts at all. It’s because the Patriots don’t deserve it. They don’t deserve it. But there has to be a Super Bowl. The Seahawks, the world, the NFL fans, we all deserve a Super Bowl We need a Super Bowl. We get one.

“The team that tried to rig the AFC title game and got caught doing it can’t be in that Super Bowl. Now, you need two teams to be in that Super Bowl. Pick one. OK, not the Colts, fine. Pick the last team to beat the Patriots — the Packers, as a matter of fact. The other teams in the NFC, pick them. But, do not send the team that rigged the AFC title game. Do not pat them on the head and say, ‘No harm, no foul, guys. We’re going to dock you some money and a draft pick, but you go try to win that Super Bowl.’ Don’t do that.”

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Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Bill Belichick, Deflategate, Gregg Doyel

What sort of punishment could Patriots face if found guilty in Deflategate?

01.21.15 at 1:14 am ET
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Tom Brady fires a pass Sunday against the Colts in the AFC championship. (Getty Images)

Tom Brady prepares to pass Sunday against the Colts in the AFC championship game. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The landscape around what some are calling “Deflategate” changed late Tuesday night, as a report from ESPN indicated that 11 of the Patriots’ 12 footballs that were weighed by officials before Sunday’s AFC title game came in underinflated by two pounds of air (PSI) when they were weighed after the game.

The idea of deflated footballs having an impact in Sunday’s game is laughable on the surface — what would that do to one of the most lopsided conference championship games in recent memory? But now, if the officials were found to have gone through the proper procedures when it came to weighing the footballs and weather was not found to be an issue, the story now seems to be a far more serious matter, one that could result in fines or even the loss of a draft pick if the Patriots are found guilty of tampering or altering the football.

In the NFL rulebook, there is very specific wording that prohibits changing the game balls in any way after the officials have checked them two hours and 15 minutes before game time. According to the NFL game operations manual, “If any individual alters the footballs, or if a non-approved ball is used in the game, the person responsible and, if appropriate, the head coach or other club personnel will be subject to discipline, including but not limited to, a fine of $25,000.”

While it’s debatable just how much of an impact it ended up having — New England won, 45-7 — the idea that someone had access to the footballs and could tamper with them between the officials’ check and the game is troubling. According to a report from the Boston Globe, game officials discovered at halftime that game balls were under-inflated after testing each ball twice with different gauges.

In terms of a potential punishment, there doesn’t appear to be much precedent, at least on an NFL level. In a November 30 game this season between the Vikings and Panthers in freezing Minnesota, cameras caught sideline attendants using heaters to warm up footballs, which is against league rules. NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino told the NFL Network the next day that officials warned both the teams not to heat up footballs during the game, and added that a similar reminder would be sent out across the league that week not to warm footballs during the game.

“You can’t do anything with the footballs in terms of any artificial, whether you’re heating them up, whether it’s a regular game ball or kicking ball. You can’t do anything to the football,” Blandino said at the time. “So that was noticed during the game, both teams were made aware of it during the game, and we will certainly remind the clubs as we get into more cold weather games that you can’t do anything with the football in terms of heating them up with those sideline heaters.”
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Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Bill Belichick, Deflategate, Lane Kiffin

Report: NFL found 11 balls used by Patriots in Sunday’s AFC championship game to be underinflated

01.20.15 at 11:06 pm ET
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Deflategate continues.

According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the NFL found 11 of the 12 Patriots’ footballs used in Sunday’€™s AFC title game were underinflated by two pounds of air each, known as PSI. He says the investigation is continuing as to how the 11 footballs became underinflated. The NFL requires balls to be inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch and weigh between 14 and 15 ounces.

He added the NFL didn’t have any comment. The Patriots have said they will cooperate with the NFL and their investigation.

Bill Belichick was asked again on Tuesday of the allegations, and he said to defer all questions on that matter to the league.

There is no word on if, or what type of penalty the Patriots would be facing if true.

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Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Super Bowl XLIX,

Patriots planning Super Bowl send-off for Monday

01.20.15 at 10:08 pm ET
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Tom Brady is heading to the Super Bowl for an NFL record sixth time. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady is heading to the Super Bowl for an NFL record sixth time. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

In a bit of a change from years past, the Patriots announced Tuesday evening that they will be leaving for Arizona and Super Bowl XLIX on Monday, Jan. 26. The Patriots will play Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, Feb. 1.

Factoring into the decision is the league’s Pro Bowl game at the same venue the Sunday prior to the Super Bowl. This season, the Pro Bowl will be held at the same site as the Super Bowl on the prior Sunday.

The league presumably would like to avoid the distraction of the Super Bowl competing teams arriving on the same day as the Pro Bowl.

Since January 2010, the Pro Bowl has been played the week before the Super Bowl. That year, the game was held at same venue (Miami) as the Super Bowl. The game then moved back to Hawaii for the next four years.

The Patriots also revealed they will practice Thursday through Sunday before flying west on Monday, just a day before the annual media day at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Seven years ago, the last time the Super Bowl was in Glendale, the Patriots left on Sunday, with a rally beforehand at Gillette Stadium. The team announced Tuesday evening that details of a send-off rally are still to be determined.

In years past, teams have traditionally arrived at the Super Bowl location on the Sunday before. However, there have been cases in the last several years of teams arriving the Monday before and the Patriots are making that adjustment this year.

Three years ago, the Patriots arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday, with a rally beforehand at Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Media Day, New England Patriots, nfl, Seattle Seahawks

How defensive will Bill Belichick get with Seahawks?

01.20.15 at 7:48 pm ET
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Vince Wilfork (right) will be playing in his fourth Super Bowl. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Vince Wilfork (right) will be playing in his fourth Super Bowl. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

A strong defense starts with a strong front.

After watching film from Sunday’s 45-7 romp over the Colts, the Patriots defensive line looked strong to Bill Belichick. What was particularly encouraging to the Patriots coach was the way the unit, anchored by nose tackle Vince Wilfork, played without Chris Jones and depleted by the mid-game loss of Sealver Siliga to a foot injury.

“I thought our line played solidly,” Belichick said. “It was good. We brought Joe [Vellano] up on the roster for Chris, who was inactive. So with Joe, Alan [Branch], Sealver and Vince [Wilfork], the play time was kind of divided there. It was good that we had that little bit extra depth, especially when Sealver went out for, I don’€™t know, half a quarter or however long it was.”

Of a possible 56 defensive snaps, Rob Ninkovich (52) and Chandler Jones (50) led the way among edge rushers and down linemen. Wilfork led all interior linemen with 31 snaps (55 percent) while the rotation of Siliga (26), Branch (20) and Vellano (20) filled out the rest of the reps for defensive tackles.

What Belichick saw upon further review was the effort they provided in disrupting Andrew Luck‘s passing pocket.

“I thought those guys, it was kind of an unsung job in that game of pushing the pocket, trying to keep Luck from stepping up. It wasn’€™t perfect, but we didn’€™t make it as easy for them as maybe he’€™s had at other times to move up into the pocket and deliver the ball that he had to deal with some guys getting pushed on him a little bit. That was kind of the idea there. But no, I think those guys competed well. They gave us a high level of play.”

The line may have to go to the next level if they are to disrupt the Seattle running game, led by Marshawn Lynch. The disruption led to a dominance on the stat sheet in the AFC championship. The Colts converted just three of 11 chances on third down and ran the ball just 19 times for 84 yards. Compare that with 194 rushing yards on 35 attempts by Seattle against the Packers last Sunday, to go along with 8-of-16 conversion rate on third down. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl, Seattle Seahawks
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