More than a year after the Deflategate saga began, one report says that there are teams across the league who have now changed their tune and believe the Patriots did nothing wrong.
According to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report, executives, coaches and players that he spoke to believe that the NFL got its investigation wrong and that the Patriots never cheated. That opinion represents a complete 180-degree turn for some of the same folks who, according to Freeman, high-fived inside team facilities when they first heard about the Deflategate punishment.
Freeman wrote that when he spoke to these sources months ago, the consensus was that the Patriots "obviously cheated." Now, not only do those sources believe the league botched its investigation, they believe that's the consensus around the rest of the league as well.
"I hate the Patriots. I despise them," an NFC team executive told Freeman. "But they really should get those picks back."
The Patriots lost a first-round pick this year and a fourth-rounder next year as well as $1 million as part of the league-issued punishment for Deflategate. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was also suspended for four games, a ban that was vacated before last season but then reinstated on Monday in a ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
As far as the draft picks go, those aren't coming back. Patriots owner Robert Kraft wrote to commissioner Roger Goodell earlier this offseason to request that the picks be returned, but that request was denied. The first round of the draft takes place on Thursday night, and the Patriots pick at No. 29 will be skipped.
As far as Brady's punishment goes, he appears to be ready to fight his suspension once again, but his odds at success appear slim according to legal experts.
Though other teams have not been directly impacted, the punishment has been jarring for the league at large.
What was particularly upsetting to the people Freeman spoke with was that the Ideal Gas Law wasn't considered by the league early in the process. They believe that could have explained the air pressure in the footballs during the AFC Championship Game in January of 2015. They were also irked that a report was leaked to ESPN that 11 of the 12 Patriots game-used footballs were underinflated. That report was later deemed inaccurate.
Even if those two issues are taken separately, for other teams in the league -- teams that would like to see the Patriots fail -- to want New England's picks returned is surprising. It just goes to show how the rest of the NFL feels about Goodell's broad powers to punish.
"The Patriots aren't victims," a general manager told Freeman, "but they are a cautionary tale for the rest of the league. They're a reminder the commissioner can do whatever he wants, and there isn't a damn thing any team can do about it."