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David Canter’s lawyer trots out the “I was only joking” defense

Peter King explains to Mike Florio why the Eagles deserve to be No. 1, what makes the Lions worth the hype, how the Vikings landed No. 14 and why the Bucs are bringing up the rear without Tom Brady.

I was only joking.

It’s become a common defense to accusations of NFL-related wrongdoing. Like when Rob Gronkowski claimed he had a Buccaneers playbook weeks before joining the team, at a time when he was still under contract with the Patriots. Or when Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was caught with his hand in the tanking cookie jar, allegedly offering former coach Brian Flores $100,000 per loss in 2019.

In both cases, “I was only joking.” In both cases, we’re still waiting for the punchline.

The latest attempt to use the “I was only joking” defense comes from agent David Canter, who is being investigated by the NFL Players Association for offering inducements to team executives who drafted Canter’s clients. That’s the upshot of the new statement issued by his agent, Mitchell Schuster.

“It has been publicly reported that the NFLPA is investigating David Canter for so-called ‘bribery’ attempts during the NFL draft,” Schuster said. “Although we preferred to address this matter in a private fashion, the leak of the NFLPA’s investigation has compelled us to publicly respond.

“The communications that are the subject of the investigation were no more than playful banter by Mr. Canter with industry colleagues, who interpreted them to be made in jest, as any reasonable person would. It is unfortunate that Mr. Canter must not defend his reputation, both in the court of public opinion and within the confines of the NFLPA’s disciplinary committee.”

It’s one thing for Schuster to claim Canter was joking. It’s quite another for Schuster to claim that Canter’s “industry colleagues” universally interpreted the offers “to be made in jest.” We know of at least one who did not think it was funny, and who was alarmed by the offer.

We’ve seen one of the text messages: “If you draft [name of client] in [number of round] I will send you and your family to my wife and our investment properties.”

If that’s a joke, fine. But why follow it up (as he did) with an apparent link to investment properties Canter and his wife own?

And why would there be multiple specific offers, naming multiple specific clients?

Canter’s defense, as articulated by Schuster, cries out for a full investigation by the league, which previously had no comment on the matter. As to every Canter client drafted this year (and perhaps last year and the year before and the year before), were offers made? Were offers accepted?

As one person with extensive knowledge of the manner in which the NFL and its teams operate recently said, “I can guarantee you there are some folks that are uncomfortable that this might be investigated.”

Schuster’s defense on behalf of Canter invites an investigation. Hell, it basically dares the NFL to do it. At this point, how can the league look the other way?