Curran: No surprise Deflategate 2.0 over before it began

Curran: No surprise Deflategate 2.0 over before it began

It was reported Sunday morning that the New York Giants tested a pair of footballs during their game last week with the Steelers, found that they were underinflated and were taking things up with the “proper authorities” according to FOX’ Jay Glazer.

And within an hour, that report was stamped out by the NFL’s Axis of Evil, the league office, ESPN and the Giants.

That could have been fun. But we all knew it wouldn’t be. The aim of Deflategate wasn’t making sure that no team ever competed with a football under 12.5 PSI. It wasn’t about a noble desire to protect the integrity of the game and make sure no team doctored footballs. It was about agenda-driven individuals from the Ravens and Colts dropping a match in a tinderbox of league-level Patriots hate. From there, dimes were dropped and propaganda was pushed and the blaze got out of control so quickly that the NFL Commissioner decided that, if he couldn’t snuff it out, he might as well watch it burn and collect the insurance money himself. Ultimately, it blew up and everybody got scarred.


Here are three quick thoughts on the stillborn scandal that never was:

- Giants owner John Mara puffed his chest and finger-wagged during Deflategate but ultimately expressed regret that the whole thing wound up hijacking attention from the league. Mara won’t want to look like he’s not supporting his coaching staff but, as a member of the league’s management council, he knows that another mudwrestle over air pressure won’t help the “Shield.” And that’s what it’s all about.

- The Patriots' “priors” were held against them in terms of the league’s intensity in presuming guilt, conducting their investigation and meting out punishment. Consider the Steelers. Head coach Mike Tomlin paid a $100K fine for tripping Ravens kickoff returner Jacoby Jones in 2013 when Jones was en route to a touchdown. Ben Roethlisberger who – as every blathering former quarterback told us during Deflategate would have been the one ordering ball deflation – had off-field behavior issues that resulted in a suspension in 2010. Would those have entered into the league’s mind as the Patriots’ videotaping incident from 2007 did?

- The NFL demonstrated how fully it moved the goalposts from air pressure to “chain of command” in their statement refuting the Glazer report. "The officiating game ball procedures were followed and there were no chain of command issues," the NFL statement said. "All footballs were in compliance and no formal complaint was filed by the Giants with our office." Initially, the Deflategate investigation was about soft footballs, nothing else. When light dawned on Marblehead at the league office and they realized that stuff shrinks in the cold, they abandoned the PSI information and instead decided they’d monitor whether anyone say, took a leak, before getting to the field. With that circumstantial, subjective, suspicion-fomenting standard established, waaaayyyy easier to pick and choose your targets.


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."