Report: 'Significant portion' of NFL thinks Patriots didn't deflate footballs

Report: 'Significant portion' of NFL thinks Patriots didn't deflate footballs

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."

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."