Will NFL's lie about Wells' independence even hurt?


Will NFL's lie about Wells' independence even hurt?

Know what’s fun to look at now? How inflamed and indignant Ted Wells was during his conference call in May.

The one Wells had to have so he could put to bed any notion he wasn’t independent in fashioning the 243-page Wells Report? The report that NFL lead counsel Jeff Pash edited and polished before its release? You conference call on which Wells was joined by Lorin Reisner his colleague from Paul, Weiss. Reisner, of course, was the guy that conducted questioning on behalf of the NFL during Tom Brady’s appeal.

It’s pretty obvious the NFL and Wells relieved themselves on the concept of independence throughout the process. The last trickle fell Friday night.

That’s when the NFL said that, even though they promised an independent investigation, the fact the NFLPA is questioning Wells’ independence doesn’t matter.

The CBA doesn’t promise an “independent” investigation.

Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann goes through the 15-page briefs filed by both sides Friday night right here. They are a distillation of the two sides’ main arguments and stuff we are all familiar with, except the NFL now having the gall to say, “Independent, not independent, big deal...”

Especially with Professor Bluster going off on everyone in May as to how independent he is, was, always has been and that accusations otherwise offended his honor.

Exhibit A:

“I would like to start out by responding to criticisms by Mr. Brady's agent, Don Yee, about my independence and his suggestions that the conclusions of the report were somehow influenced by persons in the league office who wanted to find wrongdoing by the Patriots and Mr. Brady.

The conclusions of the report represent the independent opinion of me personally and my team. And those conclusions were not influenced in any way, shape or form by anyone at the league office. We made a fair and reasonable review of the evidence and we reached conclusions based on the preponderance of the evidence standard, which I was required to apply based on the league's rules.”

We have since come to find out, though, that the league did indeed have a hand in the Wells Report. Pash – the NFL’s No. 2 man behind Goodell (and much savvier than Goodell) who’s not an attorney – edited the Wells Report.

Wells told folks at the appeal hearing that Pash edited the report.

On his conference call, what did Wells have to say about Pash’s involvement?

“The only role Jeff Pash had was as what I'll call a facilitator in terms of process issues. If I needed to get access to somebody, I would call Pash. There's things of that nature. Jeff Pash did not participate in any of the interviews. He did not participate in the evaluation of any of the evidence or our deliberations within our team.

“I will tell you, when that press release was issued and I saw it, I didn't know that statement was going to be in there. I called Jeff and just asked to clarify what was meant by that. And he confirmed that he was there to help in terms of process. And we agreed up front, and I made it clear, that this is my investigation and I'm going to run it the same way I did the Dolphins investigation, and I did.”

Jeez, that’s a pretty big detail for Wells to leave out during the conference call, that Pash actually edited the report prior to its release. Oversight by Wells? Memory lapse? Or a willful omission of a fact because he knew how Pash’s direct editing of the report would play on a conference call with reporters.

Nobody would have known of Pash’s involvement if it hadn’t been brought up during the appeal. And nobody would have really known what was said during the appeal if the seal on that transcript hadn’t been popped.

Would Wells have been finger-wagging as readily had he known? And Wells does wag an impressive finger.

Here’s Wells finger-wagging the Patriots for questioning him:

“When I was appointed to be the independent investigator, no one at the Patriots or in Mr. Brady's camp raised any issue about my independence or my integrity to judge the evidence impartially and fairly. In fact, Mr. Kraft, to my recollection, publicly said he welcomed my appointment. I think it is wrong to criticize my independence just because you disagree with my findings. …

“This is the first time that after I issued my report that I find someone is questioning my independence and is in some way suggesting that I was influenced by the league's office. And I think that is wrong. And that is what (motivated) me to speak today, and I think once I'm on the call and responding to the independence question, I think it's right for me to respond to whatever questions you have. But if not for those personal attacks, I will be candid with you, I would not have responded. But I think those attacks are out of bounds, unfair and just plain wrong.”

While it’s a fun and illuminating exercise to see how dodgy Wells is with the facts, the upshot of this is that the NFL is alleging Wells’ independence makes no difference. He could come out tomorrow and say, “Ha! You morons think I wasn’t in the bag considering the millions I make off this league? Of course I gave them what they wanted!” Still wouldn’t matter. The CBA doesn’t promise an independent investigator.

Is there a chance Judge Berman is impacted by this? McCann says … maybe.

“Not only does this reasoning pose an obvious public relations challenge for the league,” said McCann, “but Judge Berman may find it untenable under the law. Judge Berman could deduce that the NFL should be stopped from reneging on procedural guarantees. In other words, even if Article 46 lacks language requiring that Wells be independent, the league arguably should have been expected to fulfill additional assurances made by the commissioner himself.”

And the insistence of the investigator.

Snap me off another piece of integrity, willya boys?

Patriots' Phillip Dorsett remembers former Colts QB Andrew Luck as an 'amazing teammate'

Patriots' Phillip Dorsett remembers former Colts QB Andrew Luck as an 'amazing teammate'

FOXBORO – Phillip Dorsett spent his first two NFL seasons with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis.

He, like the rest of the football-watching world, was left wide-eyed Saturday night when he learned Luck was retiring at 29.

“I was shocked,” said Dorsett, who said he fell asleep watching football then woke up to see the news on social media. “I thought it was a joke. But then I saw it come on the ticker and I said, ‘Wow, it’s serious.’ ”

The reverberations around the league from Luck’s retirement will be felt everywhere from the balance of power in the AFC to the fact that it’s another young player who’s been laid low by the mental and physical toll the game exacts. 

Beyond the timing of the announcement and the talent of the player is the fact that a smart, earnest and admirable person is leaving the game at an age we would all consider too young.

“He was an amazing teammate,” said Dorsett. “Great guy to be around. Always full of joy. Nothing but respect for Andrew. I love him. He’s a good dude. But it is what it is. It’s football. I can’t sit here and say I know what he was going through because nobody does. But I know it’s tough on him, I know he didn’t want to walk away but he had to do what he had to do for himself."

There are unmistakable parallels to be drawn between Luck and Rob Gronkowski. Both talked of the mental fatigue of trying to get their bodies tuned up just to be betrayed by them.

With both men, the conversation about whether or not they’ll stay retired quickly followed. There’s a presumption they’ll change their minds at some point when their bodies feel better.

Maybe they will. But in order for either player to come back, both will have to get to a point where they feel the competition, camaraderie, financial reward and everything else are worth the cost of playing again.

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Demaryius Thomas confident he can produce at a high level: "I still can go"

Demaryius Thomas confident he can produce at a high level: "I still can go"

FOXBORO – Demaryius Thomas and Tom Brady seem to have become fast friends, at least judging by the amount of time they were seen on the sidelines last week talking and laughing during the team’s preseason game with the Panthers.

To hear Thomas talk on Sunday, you can appreciate why Brady might be a fan.

Speaking for the first time since joining the Patriots as a free agent in April, Thomas stressed again and again that Job No. 1 is being someone Brady can trust.  

“Being dependable and consistent,” said Thomas when asked what he needed to provide the quarterback. “Those two things are the biggest things you can do for a quarterback. Being consistent and dependable.”

Which is precisely what Brady is looking for as a revamped fleet of receivers and tight ends keep trying to get up to speed with the Patriots before the opener September 8.

Thomas, who’s coming back from an Achilles tear suffered at the end of 2018, sounded very confident in his ability to play at the same level he always has.

“I still can go,” said Thomas, who took part in his first full practice last Tuesday. “I still can go. Like I said, knock a little rust off and just keep hitting the days.”

So the explosion is there?

“I can feel it,” he said. “I can feel it certain days and certain days I can’t. It’s a thing that I feel when I play and I still got it. I touched it here and there but some days some stuff it bothers (me).

“I don’t think it’s a crazy challenge (to get back to a high level),” he said. “I think it’s a challenge to me to keep going out and doing what I’ve done my whole career. It’s a tougher challenge because here they expect more and it’s a little different than where I’ve been but I’ll be all right.”

The 31-year-old Thomas said he still “getting the hang of” the Patriots offense but said his time with the Houston Texans and former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien last season helped him get a grasp on some of the concepts New England uses.

There’s still a couple of things I have to pick up but so far so good,” he said. “I’m just trying to fit in where I can and ask as many questions as I can.”

Thomas said he consults everyone – from Julian Edelman to the running backs to defensive players – for assistance on the little things that will help him be ready to contribute.

The essence of his job, he said, is “being in the right spot and catching the ball.”

“I still got some work to do but it’s getting better and better, I’m learning a lot,” he said. “Everything (Brady) tells me I’m taking in and same with Coach McDaniels. Everything they tell me I try to take the field.”

The Patriots wide receiver depth chart is a little murky. Edelman is at the top of it but rookie N’Keal Harry has been down for nearly two weeks. Undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers has had an outstanding camp and preseason but still has a ways to go before he’s got full command. Phillip Dorsett is dependable but is more a complementary piece. And Josh Gordon just took part in his first full practice Sunday.

Thomas appreciates what Brady needs and also the work the quarterback puts in.  Asked what surprised him about Brady, Thomas said, “Just being able to be around him and learn the game. Sit beside him and see him go through the things he does before practice and see him be able to do it at the age he is. He’s still got zip on the ball and still the best in the game at what he does.”

As for being in New England, Thomas said, “It’s different. The way they go about it, I see why they win so much. Everybody do their job. Nobody try to do too much.”

If Thomas can do the two things he mentioned – be in the right spot and catch the ball – that will be plenty for Brady.

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