Goodell believes he was 100 percent right to suspend Brady four games


Goodell believes he was 100 percent right to suspend Brady four games

Tom Brady will miss the first four games of the regular season because of what the league alleged was a few puffs of air, yet NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has no qualms with how he handled Deflategate.

Asked by Matt Lauer of the TODAY show if he believed he was 100 percent right in his decision to pursue Deflategate as he did, Goodell said yes.

"Yes, because we went through a very exhaustive process with this," Goodell said. "We had an independent investigation. We had a federal judge who ruled against it. It went to an appellate court, and the appellate court at that point in time said, 'Listen, there's compelling if not overwhelming evidence here. There's absolutely no question that the destruction of evidence should be considered by the commissioner in the context of this, and that the process was properly followed.'

"We collectively bargained a process for discipline, we went through that, and I can't think of an issue that has been more litigated, by the way."

On the surface, and perhaps for many TODAY show viewers who didn't follow Deflategate closely, it may seem like a brief but compelling response from the commissioner. However, it starts disengenuously when he states that there was an indepenent investigation. Last year, Judge Richard Berman -- a federal judge who ruled in Brady's favor, which Goodell happened to leave out in his above response -- very clearly doubted the independence of league-paid investigator Ted Wells, even putting the word "independent" in quotation marks when he vacated Brady's suspension before the start of the 2015 season. 

It was also "seemingly inconsistent," in Berman's view, for Wells’ law firm to act as counsel to the league while running a supposedly "independent" investigation at the same time. This was far from the soundest of arguments for Goodell to use in a nationally-televised interview about an issue that has been so closely reviewed by so many when discussing the merits of his decision to suspend Brady.

Goodell hit on the crux of the matter, and the reason the NFL was awarded the decision in the Second Circuit, when he eventually got to the disciplinary process that was collectively bargained and gave the commissioner overwhelming power to rule however he sees fit.

Pressed on the Deflategate decision a second time by Lauer, Goodell held fast. 

"With all due respect, every player, every team, is subject to the same rules. We don’t have rules for marquee players and we don’t have rules for marquee teams."

Again, it's an ironic way for Goodell to phrase his response given that equipment violations in the past have resulted in small fines or warnings, not four-game suspensions. But for Brady, the marquee player on a marquee team that happens to be reviled by others in the league, there was certainly a unique approach when it came to the discipline involved.

Patriots release Shea McClellin

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Patriots release Shea McClellin

Shea McClellin will be blocking kicks for somebody else next season. 

The Patriots announced Monday they've released the veteran linebacker, ending his tenure with the team after two seasons.  ESPN's Field Yates broke the news.

The Pats signed McClellin to a three-year deal prior to the 2016 season, but that was the only season in which he played for the team. McClellin missed all of last season due to injury. Prior to coming to New England, McClellin played four seasons with the Bears, who chose him 19th overall in 2012. 

McClellin's biggest contribution with the Pats came when he blocked a Justin Tucker kick in Week 14 of the 2016 season against the Ravens.

Pinning down the best lesson Vince Wilfork could teach Danny Shelton

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Pinning down the best lesson Vince Wilfork could teach Danny Shelton

When the Patriots traded for Danny Shelton earlier this offseason, sending a 2019 third-rounder to Cleveland in exchange for the defensive tackle, they traded for a player who was already being mentored by one of their own. 

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Shelton explained that one of his agents put him in touch with former Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork so that Shelton could pick up some tips from one of the best defensive tackles in football of the past 15 years. 

"For me, he’s someone that I still look up to even when he was with the Texans," Shelton said. "I got the opportunity to reach out to him and kind of pick his brain and just learn a couple of tips from him. He’s been really responsive. He’s been a guy that has been really helpful this offseason and I’m looking forward to reaching out more and learning some more from him."

When Shelton was coming out of the University of Washington in 2015,'s Lance Zierlein's "NFL comparison" was Wilfork. Both carried similar builds -- Shelton is now listed at 335 pounds -- and both were viewed as surprisingly good athletes for their body types. Shelton was also viewed as the top two-gapping tackle in the draft that year, which is exactly what the Patriots ask their interior linemen to do. 

Shelton has made good on those projections over the last couple of years. Last season, he was a key part of a Browns defense that ranked fourth against the run by Football Outsiders in terms of DVOA. In 2016, Shelton was ranked by Pro Football Focus as its eighth-best interior lineman against the run. Per PFF, he was second that year -- behind only Damon Harrison -- in terms of the number of run stops he recorded from the interior.

It's clear that Shelton, the No. 12 overall pick three years ago, understands what his strengths are. 

"Honestly, I’m just going to go with whatever Coach [Bill Belichick] wants me to do," Shelton said. "My best feature is stopping the run, so if he wants me to play at a specific position I’ll do it, and I’ll make sure I do my job for the team’s success."

So how can Wilfork help? If he has any tips on how to be a consistent player from the inside in Belichick's system, that could go a long way. Over the course of Wilfork's 13-year career, few defensive tackles were as effective from week to week and year to year. Wilfork played at least 830 snaps in four of his last five seasons with the Patriots (he was injured in 2013), and even during his two seasons with the Texans, he averaged about 600 snaps per year. He made five Pro Bowls with the Patriots and was named a First or Second-Team All-Pro four times.

In what form might Wilfork's advice on consistency be delivered? Would it be nutritional, which was an aspect of his preparation he embraced later in his career? Would it be technique-based? Would it be simply how to take the coaching dispensed inside the walls of Gillette Stadium? 

Shelton, who missed two games last season and played in 469 snaps, doesn't have a long-term contract with the Patriots to be able to prove his worth over multiple years the way Wilfork did. And he may not be asked to take on the myriad roles Wilfork was during his time under Belichick. But if Shelton can pick up some advice from Wilfork on how to stay on the field and how to help the Patriots win on first and second downs, that might make him the team's most valuable offseason addition. 

New England finished the season 20th in rush yards allowed per game, and they were 31st in yards per attempt allowed. In the Super Bowl, with run-stuffing defensive tackle Alan Branch a healthy scratch, the Patriots allowed 6.1 yards per carry to the Eagles on their way to 164 yards rushing. 

Shelton is in the final year of his rookie contract and scheduled to make $2.03 million this season. The Patriots may not be willing to pick up his hefty $11.7 million fifth-year option for 2019, but if he can continue his upward trajectory then maybe the Patriots will work to extend him before the end of the year. 

How Wilfork impacts that trajectory, if at all, remains to be seen. But he's certainly not a bad guy for Shelton to have in his corner as the 24-year-old embarks on life with the Patriots.