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Dean Blandino corrects Super Bowl ref Bill Vinovich on exactly how to handle Patriots substitutions

01.29.15 at 8:33 pm ET
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PHOENIX — Thursday provided yet another glimpse into unbelievably bizarre year of the National Football League.

Just over 72 hours before the league’s premiere event, the NFL’s director of officiating, Dean Blandino, publicly corrected his Super Bowl referee, Bill Vinovich, on how to handle the Patriots’ substitutions of reporting eligible and ineligible.

Vinovich is the same referee that handled the Patriots-Ravens divisional game at Gillette on Jan. 10. It was the way Vinovich announced Shane Vereen “ineligible” moments before the snap that caused Ravens coach John Harbaugh to lose his mind when the Patriots started subbing in the second half to a four-offensive linemen set.

Blandino made it very clear that there had been a protocol in place for officials and referees to hand signal to players that a player (in this case No. 34 Vereen) was reporting ineligible because it was required that at least five players on the line of scrimmage could not step forward.

“Bill was involved in the first game, the Baltimore-New England game, when New England first presented that formation when basically a player with an eligible number reporting as ineligible, which is legal. You can do that. The one you see more often is when you see a tackle reporting as eligible receiver.”

Then, unsolicited, Vinovich offered, “And I also made the announcement, ‘Do not cover No. 34.'”

To which Blandino responded, “Which we won’t do on Sunday.”

Apparently that was news to Vinovich. “We won’t?” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Bill Vinovich, Dean Blandino, New England Patriots

What has Tom Brady done to gain his Patriots teammates’ respect?

01.29.15 at 6:49 pm ET
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CHANDLER, Ariz. — Despite Tom Brady‘s elite stature, he doesn’t act like it around the team. Speaking after reportedly restructuring his contract in late December to give the Patriots organization more spending money, he said the only thing he cares about his earning the respect of his teammates.

“I think the motivation is to never let my teammates down,” Brady said. “I want to go out there and be the best I can be for them. Those guys work really hard, and I never want to be the reason why we lose the game. You’€™ve got to put a lot into it and try to go out there every day in practice to try to prove yourself. You earn the respect of your teammates by your work ethic and what you’€™re able to accomplish on a daily basis. That’€™s what football is all about to me.”

So, what has Brady done to earn the respect of his teammates? We asked a number of players on Thursday.

WR Brandon LaFell: “I definitely knew he was great, but on the outside all you see is Sunday’s. I didn’t see what we did Monday-Saturday. When I got here and when I saw us playing a game on the road and we’re flying back and I see him open his laptop and he is looking at film already, I didn’t see that. I didn’t see the amount of work he puts in after practice with our strength coach. I didn’t see the amount of work he put in before practice with our strength coach in the morning. I didn’t know how much detail he took in taking his receivers to the side and have us working on routes and being here and seeing that, that guys works his tail off.”

CB Kyle Arrington: “Tom hasn’t done it yet? Tom doesn’t think he’s done it yet. Leadership. Tom is the ultimate competitor, leader. He’s like Leonidas. You just want to go into battle with that guy. Not comparing that, but as far as leadership goes and the guy you can rally behind whether he’s Leonidas or Braveheart, he’s one of those guys. He’s pretty good.”

WR Brian Tyms: “He showed me his heart, man. I remember a play he had against the Dolphins the second time we played them when he ran for 17 yards and the safety was coming and instead of sliding he dropped the shoulder. I respect that, regardless. He’s 37-38, doing that is amazing to me and the consistency that he shows is that he works hard everyday. You have no choice but to respect that.”

QB Jimmy Garoppolo: “A guy who has been doing it for so long and being so successful at it, he still comes in and he puts in the time, the effort that a rookie would put in. It’s very impressive. That is the reason why he’s so good. To have that mindset is definitely an advantage.”

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Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Super Bowl XLIX, Tom Brady,

Dean Blandino admits footballs are not logged: ‘Certainly something that could be a thought’

01.29.15 at 6:15 pm ET
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PHOENIX — Following a 20-minute press conference inside the Phoenix Convention Center Thursday, the NFL’s director of officiating acknowledged that likely changes are coming in the way NFL officials check in game balls before every contest.

At the heart of the Deflategate controversy is how the Patriots game balls were handled prior to the AFC championship game against the Colts by referee Walt Anderson. Questions have arisen as to whether every ball was checked to be between the required 12.5 and 13.5 PSI before being approved for use in the game. Dean Blandino attempted to clarify the rules and clear his officials of any wrongdoing.

“Walt did it himself. Walt gauged the footballs himself,” Blandino said. “That’s something that he’s done throughout his career.”

Did Blandino and the league simply take ref at his word? “Yes,” Blandino said. “There were balls from both teams that were tested but with the investigation going on, I can’t get into specifics.

“They’re not logged and that’s certainly something that could be a thought. They’re tested, they make sure that they’re in that acceptable range and then they basically mark the football to say this is an acceptable football in that proper specification.

“Whatever it is, if it’s in that acceptable range, we leave it where it is. It’s only when it’s either above or below that we have to get it in that acceptable range. We’re confident proper protocols were followed.”

In other words, according to Blandino, there’s no specific PSI record of each individual ball.

There has also been the suggestion that the Colts gave the league a heads up that the Patriots were doing something to the footballs as far back as November, when Mike Adams picked off Brady twice. It is customary for NFL teams to talk with officials of an upcoming game to alert them to concerns they might have. Did the Colts contact Blandino or his office before the AFC championship?

“No they did not,” Blandino said when asked by WEEI.com. “We were not made aware.”

This directly contradicts a claim by Colts GM Ryan Grigson, (which the New York Post reported two weeks after the Super Bowl) who said the NFL had direct knowledge of the Colts’ concerns. It would seem highly unlikely the NFL office would know something and the officials would not.

Who does the measuring of the footballs?

“It’s either the referee or someone he delegates that job to,” Blandino said. “They’re responsible for gauging all the footballs but the referee himself will inspect every football and then put his mark on the football.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dean Blandino, Deflategate, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots

Dont’a Highower compares Nick Saban, Bill Belichick: ‘I literally think they are two peas in a pod’

01.29.15 at 5:42 pm ET
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Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower

CHANDLER, Ariz — Not only are Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Bill Belichick close friends, they also have very similar coaching styles — serious, intelligent, and very successful.

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower has played for both coaches, as he played for Saban at Alabama from 2008-2011 and won two BCS National Championships and then now has played three seasons for Belichick in New England.

“I literally think that they’€™re exactly the same,” Hightower said. “From the way that they run their meetings to the way that we run practice, just the way they address the team. You can definitely tell that Nick learned something from Bill whenever they were at Cleveland and I mean they’€™re still pretty close friends. So, I can only imagine how much more they’€™re alike than what I think. I literally think they are two peas in a pod.”

Hightower said Saban didn’t offer him much advice about playing for Belichick, but the lessons he learned at Alabama paid off.

“I mean just good luck and just do everything that I did when I was at ‘€˜Bama,’€™ (University of Alabama) which was just be a sponge, find an older guy and just to tailpipe him,” said Hightower. “I followed [linebacker Jerod] Mayo. I did whatever Mayo did and I feel like I went about it the right way.”

Playing in two National Championship games at Alabama, Hightower is used to playing in big games and he expects the same from his teammates come Sunday night.

“I hope so, it’€™s the damn Super Bowl,” he said.

Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Bill Belichick, Dont'a Hightower, Nick Saban

Can Seahawks gain logistical edge because Super Bowl is in NFC West stadium?

01.29.15 at 5:25 pm ET
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Danny Amendola and the rest of the Patriots will have to get used to the relatively unfamiliar surroundings at University of Phoenix Stadium. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Danny Amendola and the rest of the Patriots will have to get used to the relatively unfamiliar surroundings at University of Phoenix Stadium. (Elsa/Getty Images)

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Super Bowl XLIX will mark the first game at University of Phoenix Stadium for several members of the Patriots — it’s the first game for the franchise at the venue since Super Bowl XLII, seven years ago On the flip side, because it’s the home of the Cardinals, the Seahawks make an annual visit to the facility, as they’re NFC West rivals with Arizona.

Does that mean the Seahawks have an advantage because they might be more familiar with the surroundings? Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola — who played in the building every year for four seasons when he was with the Rams — said that it’s “something [he’s] thought about.”

“I got real used to coming here and playing,” Amendola said Thursday. “I talked to some of my teammates that haven’t been here, haven’t played here. I don’t think that’s an issue just because the fields are the same size, really. This stadium kind of resembles Wembley Stadium. It’s a bigger stadium, indoors. It’s going to be good conditions with the grass, with the roof, with whatever it may be. But I think we’ll be all right.”

“We’ll treat it just like any other away game,” said defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. “Being able to go see the clocks — where the play-clock is, scoreboards, you name it. And I think guys will take advantage of that. Especially being the Super Bowl, I think you have a lot more guys out there just seeing the whole setup of the Super Bowl, which they should so they won’t get blindsided when they take the field for the first time.”

“We deal with that every year — we go to stadiums that we don’t play at very often all the time,” said kicker Stephen Gostkowski. “There are only a few stadiums we play at every year. You just show up, you find out the conditions that day, and you kick. We practice all the time in so many different conditions. There are only so many different conditions that you can get — weather, turf and wind. No one gets more different weathers and climates and field conditions than we do in New England. It’s hot, it’s cold, it’s windy. You get it all, so you just deal with it. That’s why we’re professionals. We deal with that stuff and I really don’t think too much about it. I have a plan going in and go for it.”

Read More: Danny Amendola, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XLIX

Katy Perry gives her best Marshawn Lynch impression: ‘I’m just here so I don’t get fined’

01.29.15 at 5:10 pm ET
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PHOENIX — Marshawn Lynch‘s one-liner’s have been a major theme this week and Katy Perry got involved as well.

The singer held a press conference Thursday to promote her halftime performance during Sunday’s Super Bowl game.

One of the questions asked was if she had her eye on anyone this week.

She replied, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined,” —  just like Lynch did at media day.

Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Katy Perry, Super Bowl XLIX,

Seahawks DL Michael Bennett unloads on hypocrisy of NCAA, NFL, Roger Goodell

01.29.15 at 3:26 pm ET
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PHOENIX — Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett unloaded on what he considers the rampant hypocrisy of the NCAA, the NFL, and commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday.

Known as a player unafraid to speak his mind, Bennett didn’t hold back on the subjects of paying college players, the long-term health impact of playing in the NFL, and his belief that Goodell is wildly overpaid.

Start with college. Bennett graduated from Texas A&M and finds it distasteful that colleges rake in the cash while athletes get nothing.

“And to say you only get a degree?” he said. “I think the NCAA should come up with some kind of plan for college athletes to receive some of the money they bring in to the school. I think my school, Texas A&M, averaged $50 million just on jersey sales. There’s ticket sales. Think about all of the things they sell. They sell numbers of guys that don’t have names on the back of their jerseys. But we all know who No. 2 is from College Station and that would be Johnny Manziel. He made so much money for the university, but the players don’t see any of it.”

Bennett thinks college players should have a certain amount of money placed in a 401k for each year they remain in college ‘€“ “maybe $60,000,” he said ‘€“ and the players can get access to the money after they graduate.

“That gives you a chance to do something special in life,” he said.

The way it work now, students-athletes are viewed as little more than disposable employees.

“You give so much to these schools and they just move on,” he said. “And of course [Michigan] can pay Jim Harbaugh $48 million, because they don’t have to pay any of the athletes. The athletes are the ones who make the schools, not the coaches. If Nick Saban doesn’t have those athletes that he has, if he doesn’t have those 5-star recruits, can you still be Alabama? The coaches don’t really matter, but the coaches are so egotistical in college, it’s actually amazing to me that so many of those guys think they’re the ones that are doing it. It’s really the players and they don’t get their just do.”

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Read More: Michael Bennett,
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