Deflategate is a convenient distraction for Goodell


Deflategate is a convenient distraction for Goodell

We interrupt your regularly scheduled DeflateGate coverage to bring you the following message from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. To be exact, this is an excerpt from a pamphlet entitled “What is a concussion?” which was published by the league — for its players — in August 2007.

For reference, this was 10 years after the American Academy of Neurology published a report stating “repeated concussions can cause cumulative brain injury in an individual over months or years.” It was eight years after the NFL Retirement Board privately ruled that Hall of Famer Mike Webster was “totally and permanently” disabled as “the result of head injuries he suffered as a football player.” It was two years after the medical journal Neurosurgery published a report entitled “Association Between Recurrent Concussion and Late-Life Cognitive Impairment In Retired Professional Football Players” which concluded, “that the onset of dementia-related syndromes may be initiated by repetitive cerebral concussions in professional football players.”

Anyway, here’s that excerpt.

This is what Roger Goodell and the NFL wanted its players to believe back in 2007:

“Am I at risk for further injury if I have had a concussion?

Current research with professional athletes has shown that you should not be at greater risk of further injury once you receive proper medical care for a concussion and are free of symptoms.

If I have had more than one concussion, am I at increased risk for another injury?

Current research with professional athletes has not shown that having more than one or two concussions leads to permanent problems if each injury is managed properly. It is important to understand that there is no magic number for how many concussions is too many.

Research is currently underway to determine if there are any long-term effects of concussion in NFL athletes.”


Here in 2015, as much as it pains me to pay Roger Goodell anything close to a compliment, I’ll give him this: The man knows how to use a smokescreen — or in this case, smokescreens. I mean here we are today, and for the last long stretch of days, and we’re talking about footballs. We’re not talking about games; we’re not talking about what really matters. We’re talking about footballs; slightly underinflated footballs. Walk up to the average Patriots fan this afternoon and ask: “What is it that you despise most about Roger Goodell?” and the majority would cite what he’s done to Tom Brady. Ask the same question to fans in New Orleans and they’ll probably mention BountyGate. Meanwhile, fans that have yet to feel a direct sting from Goodell’s drunken sword would probably talk about his handling of the Ray Rice scandal and the league’s general attitude towards women.

In each case, the criticism is warranted, because Roger Goodell is horrible at his job. We know this. We know that regardless of the ungodly sums of money that the league has made under his regime, the walls are closing in on old Rog. His future is going to eat up his past. But in the meantime, consider this —

In DeflateGate and BountyGate, Goodell’s most flagrant act was over-suspending football players and coaches. That stinks, especially when it happens to your team, but that’s what it is. We’ll get over it. No one died.

In the Ray Rice mess, Goodell was, as usual, in over his head. He made poor decisions, and tried to fix them with more poor decisions. But on the other hand: He didn’t hit his fiancée. Given that Goodell has two young twin daughters, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that deep down in his charcoal heart of hearts, he has never been a proponent of domestic violence. He’s not a fan. In the moment, he just wasn’t paying enough attention — his actions were a product of a much larger societal issue — and in that respect, I think most of us are a little guilty. Hell, five months before Rice and his fiancée went to Atlantic City, Jared Sullinger was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend. The Celtics suspended him for one measly game. The NBA didn’t suspend him at all. And we all just sat there and nodded because we all had a problem. If anything, Goodell’s massive screw up has shined a spotlight on that. This country will be better for it in the long run. And to the commissioner’s credit, even if he’s never been entirely transparent about what happened behind the scenes, he stood up in front of the world last September and admitted: “I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter and I’m sorry for that. I got it wrong on a number of levels, from the process that I led to the decision that I reached. But now I will get it right and do whatever is necessary to accomplish that.”

My point is that just because Goodell is bad at his job doesn’t mean that he’s a bad person. There’s a difference between ignorance and evil, between stupid and sinister, and most of Goodell’s recent transgressions make him look more like Mr. Magoo than Dr. Claw.

But here’s the thing: In reality, he’s both.

Goodell’s misadventures have done nothing but throw a clumsy disguise over the real ugly issue, and his role as a real life, real world villain. It’s distracted so many of us from the fact that Goodell not only has lied, but continues to lie about what he and the NFL knew about the long term effects of concussions — that Goodell has personally and knowingly withheld information that will ruin players’ lives, and players’ families' lives.

During his press conference last week at the owners' meeting in San Francisco, concussions weren’t even brought up. Search the transcript, the word concussion will not be found. This despite the fact that the league just finalized a huge settlement with its former players that, among other things, discounts the most common type of brain disease affecting former players, does nothing for current players, still accepts no responsibility on the part of the NFL, and, as Vice’s Patrick Hruby wrote, was helped along because Goodell and the NFL essentially used its sickest players as hostages.

It’s all very convenient for the commissioner. He’d much rather deflect questions about his passive role in the investigation of deflated footballs than his active role in the destruction of human brains. He’d be happy to continue dancing around, lighting little fires in every corner of the league to stop us from seeing the giant redwoods blazing in the background. And he might do his best to try. But here’s the good news: Roger’s running out of time.

In recent years, there’s been a ton of great research and reporting done about the NFL’s downright evil actions surrounding concussions and brain damage. Most notably, there’s the League of Denial, a book by ESPN reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, which was turned into a documentary by Frontline and PBS. The movie is available for free on Netflix and is well worth your two hours. It was a thorn in the commissioner’s side when it was released in October 2013. Still, it was a documentary, and it was on PBS — it never penetrated popular culture or got swept up in the insanity of today’s social media tidal wave. Goodell really dodged a bullet.

However, a major motion picture . . . produced by Ridley Scott . . . starring Will Smith . . . and set for worldwide release on Christmas Day 2015 . . .

Yeah, that should do it.

Merry Christmas, Roger!

Follow me on Twitter @rich_levine

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Scratch that Danny Amendola-Patriots reunion.

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network reports the free-agent wide receiver is re-signing with the Detroit Lions, where he spent last season and had 62 catches for 678 yards. Former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will enter his third season as Lions coach in 2020. 

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The 34-year-old left the Patriots after five seasons to sign with the Miami Dolphins in 2018 and may have burned a bridge or two with Bill Belichick. 

It had been speculated that perhaps bringing in a former reliable Tom Brady receiver might be part of a plan to lure Brady back to New England, with a report in late January that Amendola could come along to wherever Brady lands in free agency, but a Brady-Amendola reunion in Detroit isn't happening, either. 

Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

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Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

There's one big question that New England Patriots are facing this offseason. Who is going to be their starting quarterback in 2020?

For the past 20 seasons, the team hasn't really had questions at the position. It has always been Tom Brady's job. But with the 42-year-old set to hit free agency, the Patriots can't necessarily count on him returning unless they want to pay him what he's worth.

So, now the question for the Patriots becomes, what will life look like if Brady departs?

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On the latest episode of The Next Pats Podcast, which returns for its first episode of the 2020 offseason, Phil Perry is here to explore that question. And really what it all boils down to is what the Patriots are looking for in a potential successor.

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As Perry notes, it's likely to be one of two types of quarterback: The traditional pocket passer or a more mobile athlete in the mold of some of the recent success stories at the position.

Do the Patriots look for the next Brady? Uber-accurate, somebody who's going to sit in the pocket and absolutely dissect every little aspect of the defense that he is looking at. Or, do they go a different route? Do they go with an athlete? Do they get more mobile? Because talking to people this offseason, I'm getting a whiff -- I'm getting a scent that people believe the pocket passer might be dead.

Perry is joined by guests including Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo, Greg Cosell of ESPN and NFL Films, and NFL Network's Kurt Warner to answer questions about Brady's future and what his game has looked like in recent seasons.

For more thoughts about the Patriots offseason, check out the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast, available as part of the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network.