SAN FRANCISCO – Look, I could ask Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei how he plans to gum up the Denver running game. Or try to find out just which Bronco tried to rub his nuts on Tom Brady’s face. But that’s not my smartest strategy this week. As a friend of mine in the media always says, “When in doubt, play the hits….”
So when I saw Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes who played for both the Patriots and Raiders and worked for the NFL for eight seasons, I knew what I had to do.
Ask him about Deflategate and his take on the NFL using Tom Brady as a chewtoy for the past 12 months.
“(The league) really works hard and want to do things right that’s why I didn’t understand the position,” said Haynes. “I mean, I don’t get it. What are you talking about? Does it make a difference? I don’t want to make the league seem bad or make Tom not seem bad, I just don’t understand what the argument was. Here’s the thing that bugs me more than anything else. The penalty didn’t match the crime. I mean, wait a minute, draft choices? Million dollar fine? Four game suspension? I didn’t really get it.”
Haynes is hardly a Patriots’ apologist. After the 1982 player’s strike, one season with head coach Ron Meyer and fatigue with what he perceived to be the Sullivan family’s cheapskate approach, he held out and forced a trade to Oakland. He was more Raider than Patriot by the time he retired. And he played against all the quarterbacking greats of the 1970s and ‘80s – Montana, Marino, Fouts and Elway.
Where does Brady fit?
“He’s blown Montana’s records away. I’ve been saying that, when his career ends, he’s going to be the greatest quarterback to play in the National Football League. Ever,” said Haynes. “I really believe that. It doesn’t make sense to tarnish his career and go after him. But none of it makes sense to me. None of it. The penalty, the investigation, all that stuff. A lot of it was over-the-top, didn’t make sense. The whole thing did not make sense to me. Does (ball inflation) really make a difference? I didn’t think it did. I talked to a lot of players when it happened and asked them, did it make a difference? Nobody though it did. And the proof it didn’t make a difference came after when he went out and played fantastic. And this year, with all legitimate balls he played fantastic.”
So count another NFL legend who helped make the game wondering what the supposed stewards of the game have wrought in Deflategate.