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.

Zac Robinson the third former Patriots QB to earn NFL coaching job

Zac Robinson the third former Patriots QB to earn NFL coaching job

The Bill Belichick coaching tree is still one of the biggest in pro football. However, another underrated tree is growing in New England, and that stems from the quarterbacks that have backed up Tom Brady.

Brady, long one of the NFL's best, has had plenty of QBs play behind him in his career. Recently, a few of these former depth players have landed notable coaching jobs. Zac Robinson's hiring by the Rams marked the third former Pats QB draft pick that got a significant NFL promotion, as Pro Football Weekly's Eric Edholm points out.

Robinson was a former seventh-round pick by the Patriots in 2010. He didn't end up making the team, but he hung around the NFL as a practice-squad guy on the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, and Cincinnati Bengals for a few seasons.

Kevin O'Connell was a third-round pick by the Patriots in 2008. He spent just a single season on the team and had brief stints with four other NFL teams. O'Connell was promoted by the Washington Redskins and will serve as their offensive coordinator. 

Kliff Kingsbury also spent a single season on the Patriots after being a sixth-round pick in 2003. He has been in coaching since 2008 and recently took over as the Arizona Cardinals' head coach.

It's unlikely all of this is just coincidence. The Patriots may have specifically been targeting  QBs with bright offensive minds and good leadership skills. Or, the teams hiring these former players could have been intrigued by their experience in New England's successful system. Either way, it's interesting to see three former Patriots- and Brady-connected QBs get promoted to significant positions in one offseason.

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Here are all the picks the Patriots have in the 2019 NFL draft

Here are all the picks the Patriots have in the 2019 NFL draft

The 2019 NFL Draft is drawing nearer and nearer. Scheduled to take place from April 25-27 in Nashville, NFL teams are starting to get geared up for draft season. With compensatory picks now distributed, there is more known about which teams are in a position to control the draft. And one of them could be the Patriots.  

The Patriots were awarded four compensatory selections on Friday. These picks were awarded due to the losses of free agents Malcolm Butler (Titans), Nate Solder (Giants), Danny Amendola (Dolphins), and Cameron Fleming (Cowboys) last offseason. It increased their impressive draft haul from eight potential picks to 12 and, even more impressively, they were able to land two third-round picks, giving them six picks in the top 101.

With those picks now in tow, here's a look at the Pats' 2019 full list of choices: 

First round: 32nd overall – original
Second: 56th overall – via Chicago
Second: 64th overall – original
Third: 73rd overall – via Detroit
Third: 97th overall - Solder compensatory
Third: 101st overall - Butler compensatory
Fourth: 134th overall - original
Sixth: 205th overall - Amendola compensatory
Seventh: 239th overall - via Philadelphia
Seventh: 243rd overall - via Cleveland
Seventh: 246th overall - original
Seventh: 252nd overall - Fleming compensatory

The Patriots have a lot of options with these 12 picks, but Phil Perry's latest seven-round mock has the team targeting offense early and often with their selections.

Of course, it is notable that all these picks are highly unlikely to remain with the Patriots. The team did make eight draft-day trades last year, and that's how they acquired some of these extra picks. Bill Belichick will have the power needed to move up and down the board as he pleases, so trades seem bound to happen again this year.

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