Curran: As Brady's suspension begins, a look back at the email that started it

Curran: As Brady's suspension begins, a look back at the email that started it

By the end of the day, the four-game suspension of four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady will begin.

To restate it for the 6,438th time, the suspension of one of the greatest players in NFL history was handed down because the NFL believes the Patriots let air out of the balls after official inspection during the 2014 AFC Championship Game.

Simple science that the league ignored explained the pressure drop that night but, like a crooked police force proceeding in a murder investigation after finding the victim still alive, the league framed the circumstantial evidence it uncovered to make it appear a deflation long-standing deflation scheme was afoot in Foxboro.

While the actual penalty begins today, Brady and the Patriots have been feeling the effects of the NFL’s witch hunt for nearly 20 months.

Who and what got hit by the fallout? Brady, his family and his reputation. Former Patriots equipment manager John Jastremski and his family. Long-time gameday employee Jim McNally and his family. Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his relationship with Patriots fans. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his standing with the public. NFL VP of Operations Mike Kensil, who was the initial point man on the investigation, now working to develop a league toehold in China. NFL lead counsel and Goodell’s right-hand man Jeff Pash who was involved early and believed to be pulling the strings to get the Patriots punished. Investigator Ted Wells, whose abrasiveness and evasiveness while proclaiming his independence from the league’s breast pocket left him looking like a clown.

There are more. But I’m tired.

What got me on this jag was thinking back to how it started. All the way back to the email, written by Colts equipment man Sean Sullivan prior to the Patriots-Colts matchup.

Sullivan, after a conversation with Ravens equipment man Jerry Rosburg (Baltimore lost to the Patriots at Gillette the week before in a terrific Divisional Playoff Game), fired off an email to his GM Ryan Grigson. The email – partially published in the Wells Report – read: 

"Two concerns came up as of yesterday on footballs at New England. First off the special teams coordinator from the Baltimore Ravens called Coach Pagano and said that they had issues last week at the game that when they were kicking [Baltimore that is] they were given new footballs instead of the ones that were prepared correctly."

"As far as the gameballs are concerned it is well known around the league that after the Patriots gameballs are checked by the officials and brought out for game usage the ballboys for the patriots will let out some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better, it would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don’t get an illegal advantage."

From there, Grigson sent forwarded the Colts’ concerns to Kensil and another league VP of Operations named Dave Gardi.

Grigson concluded his missive saying:

"all the Indianapolis Colts want is a completely level playing field. Thank you for being vigilant stewards of that not only for us but for the shield and overall integrity of our game."

Invoking the word “shield” and pressing for the “integrity of the game” to be upheld were dogwhistle buzzwords for Kensil and Gardi.

Those were words that dribbled routinely off the tongue of Goodell. And both Kensil and Gardi had Goodell to thank for the boost they both got into the NFL offices. Goodell, who worked as a Jets intern before leaping into the bosom of the league office, brought longtime Jets executive Kensil into the league office in 2006. Gardi, son of a longtime Jets exec, came aboard in 2010.

Game officials were alerted to be on guard.

But it wasn’t until a Brady interception occurred that the Colts and the league were able to move into joint action.

Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson handed it to Colts executive David Thornton, who handed it to assistant equipment manager Brian Seabrooks. Seabrooks thought the ball was soft – predictably, given that Indy was lying in wait to check – and asked an equipment intern to check the pressure. The PSI was allegedly 11. 

Seabrooks gave the ball to Sullivan who alerted Grigson, who laughably burst into a press box suite containing Kensil and the ever-clueless Troy Vincent and said, “We are playing with a small ball.”

Wells – with a presumably straight face – would later report that there was no “sting” in place that night. 

Obviously, there was. It was orchestrated and perpetrated and in the end millions of dollars were wasted.

The suspension starts today which means – ironically – the end is finally beginning.

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

File photo

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."