Patriots

Curran: Goodell taking power trip to next level. Predictably.

Curran: Goodell taking power trip to next level. Predictably.

FOXBORO – Somehow, 129 years ago over in England, Lord Acton presaged Roger Goodell’s tenure as NFL Commissioner.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men," Acton said. Acton, if you’re wondering, was from England, future home of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the ever-expanding fiefdom of Goodell and the NFL.

We are learning this week that doom-and-gloom “Watch what happens!” warnings after rulings affirmed Goodell’s power on discipline matters weren’t just worst-case scenarios. The Commissioner has slammed his tank into overdrive and is threatening suspensions for James Harrison, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Mike Neal if they don’t speak with the league regarding Al Jazeera’s January story accusing these men and Peyton Manning of using PEDs.

They won’t be bounced for using PEDs. They’ll be bounced for refusing to talk. For “obstructing an NFL investigation.”

Here’s the problem with this little fascist end-around.

The NFL’s PED policy has a passage entitled: “Reasonable Cause Testing For Players With Prior Positive Tests Or Under Other Circumstances” which states in part “Any Player testing positive for a Prohibited Substance, including a Player who tested positive or for whom there is sufficient credible evidence of steroid involvement (can be tested).”

There’s a footnote next to “sufficient credible evidence of steroid involvement” and that footnote lists what the NFL and NFLPA agreed was “sufficient credible evidence.” It states, “As used in this Policy, sufficient credible evidence includes but is not limited to: criminal convictions or plea arrangements; admissions, declarations, affidavits, authenticated witness statements, corroborated law enforcement reports or testimony in legal proceedings; authenticated banking, telephone, medical or pharmaceutical records; or credible information obtained from Players who provided assistance pursuant to Section 10 of the policy.”

The NFL has none of those things. And if it wants to include Al Jazeera’s report in the “not limited to” category, well hell, fellas, you already deemed it not credible in exonerating Peyton Manning. So how can it be sufficiently credible enough to make an exception for now?

As Harrison said Tuesday, “Somebody could come out and say James Harrison is a pedophile. They are going to suspend me, put me under investigation for being a pedophile just because somebody said it? I’m not going to answer questions for every little thing some Tom, Dick and Harry comes up with.”

We’ve all been pseudo legal experts for the past 20 months, but the guy with the best read on the Goodell’s power-mad mindset and his likely success has been …. Harrison.

Last September, just before Judge Berman vacated Brady’s suspension, Harrison predicted Goodell would ultimately win.

“To be honest with you, I don’t see what a federal judge can do with something the players signed in the collective bargaining agreement, which gives Roger Goodell (power) to do what he wants to,” said Harrison. “And if that’s the case and he’s going by the letter of what he says, there’s nothing (a judge) can do.”

When Brady’s suspension was reinstated last month, Harrison chastised his fellow NFL players for voting in favor of the Collective Bargaining Agreement passed in 2011 that gave Goodell the kind of power he now enjoys. The Steelers were the lone NFL team to vote against the CBA (by a 78-6 vote) and Harrison took the lead in arguing against approval precisely because of the power Goodell would have to ride herd on players.

Now he’s in the crosshairs.

On Tuesday, I asked Bears kicker and NFLPA rep Robbie Gould about Goodell’s ever-increasing power and the down-the-road ramifications for all players.

“It’s a tough situation for anyone to have to go through but that’s the league that we live in now,” he said. “It’s tough because that’s the CBA we agreed to as players and that’s what they agreed to as owners so, is it fair? Everyone’s gonna have a different opinion on it. It’s tough to see one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League (Brady) have to go through that. Talk about respecting the logo or respecting the league, I have a lot of respect for what Tom’s done for the National Football League.”

The players agreed to Goodell exercising power within reason, not dispensing his “own brand of industrial justice” which is what Judge Berman ruled Goodell did in Brady’s case. Since he got away with hanging Brady for non-cooperation – despite Brady being told by investigator Ted Wells he didn’t want Brady’s phone, despite Wells’ saying he didn’t want personal communications then court documents showing that the NFL culled personal communications (i.e. the white pool cover), despite Wells saying Brady answered every question and Brady offering testimony under oath at his appeal hearing – Goodell obviously now feels further emboldened.

He can now twist and contort virtually any action to fit it under the “conduct detrimental” umbrella.

Any player refusing to submit to the NFL on bended knee – any player submitting but not doing so in a submissive enough way! – is a marked man. The league made that very clear in its tongue-bath statement exonerating Peyton Manning – cooperate and you won’t be dragged behind the horse and carriage through the middle of town. Resistance is futile.

Patriots Point/Counterpoint: What's the biggest trade deadline need?

Patriots Point/Counterpoint: What's the biggest trade deadline need?

Every Friday during the NFL season, Tom E. Curran & Phil Perry will go head-to-head and offer their own takes on a Patriots or NFL-related question. This week, they debate the upcoming NFL Trade Deadline.

THE PATRIOTS' PRIMARY NEED AT THE TRADE DEADLINE IS...

A wide receiver with inside-outside, three-level ability who can run after the catch. So Antonio Brown? No.

Let's go with someone a smidge less self-destructive, narcissistic and a tad more dependable/predictable. Say, Emmanuel Sanders. Or Danny Amendola. Neither being in quite the same stratosphere as Brown — and Amendola not having the outside ability either — but someone like that. Why that kind of wideout? Or a wideout and not a tight end?

Because of the ripple effect the offense will realize. Someone who plays inside means the Patriots can rely a little less on Julian Edelman, whom they are going to grind down to sawdust at the rate they are throwing to him.

What about Phillip Dorsett? Not an inside guy. Definitely not a run-after-catch guy. What about N'Keal Harry? He's going to have a lot flying at him in the coming weeks. Keep it simple with him by not putting him in the interior maelstrom.

What about Jakobi Meyers? Don't hate the idea. Josh Gordon? Just doesn't get that interior separation that stubby-legged guys with great quickness get.

The Patriots knew they needed an interior guy. That's why they tried Cole Beasley and Adam Humphries in free agency. That's why they made the panic move to sign Brown. They get one more chance at the brass ring at the trade deadline. It's gotta be a wideout.

*****

I hear you, my friend. I do. But what if I told you the Patriots could get their interior receiving presence checked off their wish list AND fix another position entirely?

For me, their primary need at the deadline is a tight end. Someone who can catch. Someone who can make yards after the catch. Someone who puts defenses in a legitimate we-gotta-make-sure-we-got-this-guy-covered sort of bind on third downs. Say, Austin Hooper. Or maybe O.J. Howard, if you think he can be that guy. (I'm starting to wonder if he can be that guy; he has just 13 receptions this year and has been targeted just four more times than the immortal Cameron Brate.)

But Hooper makes a world of sense. He might not move mountains as a blocker, but that's why guys like Ryan Izzo and Eric Tomlinson are on the roster. Hooper could block against lighter fronts while serving as a true matchup weapon against linebackers or safeties. He leads all NFL tight ends in receptions and he's on pace for about 1,300 yards receiving.

Taking a crowbar to the Falcons and muscling him out of there might be an issue — maybe they'll decide to franchise him next year if they can't ink him to a long-term contract — but the idea of Hooper in this offense is intriguing. A pass-catching tight end (not named Ben Watson) would seemingly settle things down in the offensive huddle, make that side of the ball a little more unpredictable, and give Tom Brady another viable weapon in the passing game.

Check, check and check.

Trade Deadline Preview: Could Patriots go after these players?

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NFL rumors: What is Bengals WR A.J. Green's trade value with deadline nearing?

NFL rumors: What is Bengals WR A.J. Green's trade value with deadline nearing?

The Cincinnati Bengals are one of two winless NFL teams entering Week 7, and all eyes will be on them as the Oct. 29 trade deadline approaches.

The Bengals need a roster re-tool, and one way to accelerate that process is trading veteran players for draft picks. One player the team should look to trade is wide receiver A.J. Green, who's in the final year of his contract and able to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season.

Green has missed all of the Bengals' six games this season because of an ankle injury. Any team interested in acquiring him would have the difficult task of predicting how quickly he could learn a new playbook and return to 100 percent physically. Green recently updated his status, and it doesn't sound like he'll be returning this weekend.

So, if the Bengals decide to trade Green, what would his value be?

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler recently spoke to some personnel employees around the league. The chances of Cincinnati getting a first-round pick for Green don't seem too high.

One NFC personnel evaluator I spoke to said, "Considering the recent injury history, I think [Cincinnati] can fetch a second-round pick for him," citing his immense talent as worthy of a Day 2 pick.

A few other personnel people agreed, adding that teams can always sweeten a deal with a fourth-to-fifth-round swap for future years. But the consensus is that he's not a first-round player right now unless a team gets aggressive. (Watch: The Rams will blow this thinking out of the water, offering three 1s and conditional Les Snead hair product.)

One team with an obvious need for a wide receiver is the New England Patriots.

Veteran wideouts Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett both have dealt with injuries in recent weeks. These injuries forced the Patriots to roll with Julian Edelman and two rookies (Gunner Olszewski and Jakobi Meyers) at wide receiver for the entire second half of last Thursday's Week 6 win over the New York Giants. Dorsett should return soon, but the depth and experience at the position remains unideal.

We also can't leave out the fact that New England is getting very little production in the passing game from the tight end position. Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse have combined for just 13 receptions, 169 receiving yards and one touchdown through six games. Injuries also are a factor here, as LaCosse is nursing a knee injury and Izzo reportedly was evaluated for a concussion Friday. Veteran tight end Benjamin Watson was re-signed on Tuesday, but at 38 years old, he shouldn't be expected to be a major force in the offense.

The Patriots are projected to have more than 10 picks (including compensatory selections) in the 2020 NFL Draft, giving them plenty of assets to make a trade before the deadline. Green is a great player when healthy, but his recent injury woes are a legitimate concern. That said, he's still a good trade target to pursue at the right price.

Phil Perry: What would it cost Pats to land A.J. Green or Emmanuel Sanders?

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