Robert Kraft is Talking, and He’s Pretty Peeved
The Patriots owner is ‘really worked up’ at the unprecedented penalty the NFL levied on his team based on what he tells The MMQB is ‘ambiguous evidence.’ Plus more on PAT proposals, the La’el Collins saga and a new NFL drug protocol
Since the football world was stunned by the release of the Ted Wells report 12 days ago and roundhoused by the strong league sanctions last Monday, you haven’t heard much out of the New England camp aside from two scripted statements of indignation and a lawyerly screed about the weak points of the Wells Report. That changes this morning. The boss is speaking.
In his first public comments since being hit with the biggest team sanction in the 95-year history of the National Football League, Patriots owner Robert Kraft told The MMQB over the weekend that he is convinced his quarterback, Tom Brady, played no part in any football-deflation scheme before the AFC Championship Game in January.
Asked if Brady had told him he was innocent, Kraft said: “Yes. Because we had the discussion—if you did it, let’s just deal with it and take our hit and move on. I’ve known Tommy 16 years, almost half his life. He’s a man, and he’s always been honest with me, and I trust him. I believed what he told me. He has never lied to me, and I have found no hard or conclusive evidence to the contrary.”
Kraft spoke for 50 minutes Saturday by phone from his home outside Boston. He sounded alternately defiant and angry. He is convinced the league does not have a smoking gun that would prove anyone connected with the organization deflated a bag of footballs to make them more to Brady’s liking in the AFC title game four months ago. He is convinced the Wells Report distorted the science to fit a conclusion that doesn’t work. He thinks the league has nothing but what he called “ambiguous circumstantial evidence” on the Patriots.
“This whole thing has been very disturbing,” Kraft said. “I’m still thinking things out very carefully. But when you work for something your whole life …
“I just get really worked up. To receive the harshest penalty in league history is just not fair. The anger and frustration with this process, to me, it wasn’t fair. If we’re giving all the power to the NFL and the office of the commissioner, this is something that can happen to all 32 teams. We need to have fair and balanced investigating and reporting. But in this report, every inference went against us … inferences from ambiguous, circumstantial evidence all went against us. That’s the thing that really bothers me.
“If they want to penalize us because there’s an aroma around this? That’s what this feels like. If you don’t have the so-called smoking gun, it really is frustrating. And they don’t have it. This thing never should have risen to this level.”
There was much Kraft wouldn’t say, and he was at times curt, which is rare for him. Understand why this sanction—a four-game ban for Brady, a $1 million fine for the franchise, and the loss of first-round and fourth-round draft choices—has cut so deeply. Kraft is no absentee owner who swooped in to buy an out-of-town franchise. Born in Boston, he’s lived in the area his entire life except for his college years and talks proudly of having attended at least one Patriots game in every one of their 55 seasons. He bought the franchise 21 years ago and oversaw construction of a privately funded stadium finished in 2002. The Patriots have won four world titles under his ownership. You bash Robert Kraft’s franchise, and you bash his family.
Asked about his current relationship with commissioner Roger Goodell (which was until two weeks ago warm and convivial), Kraft said: “You’ll have to ask him.” He wouldn’t answer further.
Asked whether he might violate NFL bylaws by going to court to try to get the league penalties overturned, Kraft said, “I’m not going to comment on that at this point in time. I’m going to leave it. I won’t say.”
Asked why he suspended club employees John Jastremski and Jim McNally despite fiercely proclaiming his organization’s innocence, Kraft refused comment—for what he claimed were a variety of reasons.
Asked if he thinks the punishment was especially hard because the other 31 teams in the league believe he has such a close relationship with Goodell and Goodell had to come down hard to prove he can be harsh to a close supporter, Kraft said: “I’ve heard that a lot, but it’s hard for me to accept that.”
Kraft is on five significant league business committees. He chairs the lucrative broadcast committee, and the NFL is in the midst of contracts worth an estimated $40 billion through 2022 with the networks and DirecTV. Asked if he would remain as active in league affairs as he has been, Kraft said: “I’d rather not get into that for a week or two.”
It’s either an exceedingly awkward or exceedingly fortuitous time for the NFL’s annual two-day spring meetings, which begin Tuesday in San Francisco. The Brady/Patriot sanctions rocked the NFL in the past two weeks, and this will be the first time for Kraft to see his peers—and to see the league office staff, including Goodell, that came down so hard on his franchise. It’ll either be awkward because Kraft won’t be ready for any olive branches, or fortuitous because it’s certain the league would like to start some of healing process with the defending Super Bowl championship team—and clearly the best franchise in football over the past 15 years.
This weekend, the Kraft-Goodell relationship felt like Obama-Putin. The tone of Kraft’s voice made it sound like it’s too early for peace talks.
Kraft’s anger is based largely on the fact that he feels the Wells Report chose to highlight some bits of science and ignore others. For instance, there were two gauges to measure the air pressure in footballs in the officials’ locker room before the AFC title game. Referee Walt Anderson couldn’t swear which he used to do the pregame measurements, but his “best recollection” is he used a Wilson-logoed air-pressure gauge to measure the footballs. The Patriots’ footballs were found to be at or near 12.5 pounds per square inch. At halftime, after the Colts told the league a ball Brady threw in the first half that was intercepted by Colt linebacker D’Qwell Jackson felt under-inflated, 11 Patriots footballs were measured for air pressure at halftime. On page 113 of the Wells Report, after a description of the scientific Ideal Gas Law, Wells says the Patriots footballs should have measured between 11.32 psi and 11.52 psi, based on the effects the weather conditions would have had on the balls in the first half of the game. The average of the Wilson-logoed gauge measurements of the 11 footballs was 11.49 psi, which would put the balls well within range of the predicted halftime pressure. The other gauge measured the balls, on average, at 11.11 psi, which was seen as below the minimum allowed by the Ideal Gas Law and a sign the footballs may have been tampered. But what if Anderson used the Wilson-logoed gauge pregame, and again at halftime, and the balls were in the proper range as predicted by science?
“Footballs have never been measured at halftime of any other game in NFL history,” Kraft says. “They have no idea how much footballs go down in cold weather or expand in warm weather. There is just no evidence that tampering ever happened.”
“Anderson has a pregame recollection of what gauge he used, and it’s disregarded, and the [Wells] Report just assumes he uses the other gauge,” Kraft said. “Footballs have never been measured at halftime of any other game in NFL history. They have no idea how much footballs go down in cold weather or expand in warm weather. There is just no evidence that tampering with the footballs ever happened.”
Once the reports of deflated footballs arose—ESPN reported three days after the game that 11 of 12 New England footballs were found to be at least two pounds under the 12.5-psi minimum when measured at halftime—the Patriots felt they’d already been convicted in the court of public opinion. The fact is, none of the footballs in the 22 measured at halftime (11 balls checked with two gauges each) was more than two pounds low; one measured at exactly 10.50 psi.
There is enough evidence that casts the Patriots and Brady in a bad light—the fact that McNally referred to himself as “the Deflator” in a text message; the six phone calls between Brady and Jastremski over three days once the first deflation charges surfaced, after they hadn’t spoken for six months ; the texting between McNally and Jastremski about inflation of footballs. The league can impose discipline in cases involving integrity of the game if it feels the “preponderance of evidence” proves a team has cheated, and league executive vice president Troy Vincent, who issued the sanctions, obviously felt the preponderance of evidence came down against New England.
I asked Kraft why he seemed to grudgingly accept the 2007 Spygate sanctions but not these.
“Last time,” said Kraft, “there was no dispute about the facts. The team admittedly said what happened. … It was illegal to videotape [the opposing sidelines], and in the end we admitted it and took our penance. This is very different. In 2007 we did something and acknowledged the fact of what was done. This is an accusation of wrongdoing, without proof.”
Kraft was circumspect about the reaction of coach Bill Belichick to the punishment. Belichick hasn’t been heard from since the story exploded. “I’m telling you, Bill didn’t know about it, and I didn’t know about it,” Kraft said. “I’m really happy that his focus is building a roster for the 2015 team and preparing for the challenges of the 2015 season. I especially respect this about his leadership style—he really can compartmentalize, and that’s what he’s doing here.”
The Patriots have to hope they get some relief from Brady’s appeal to the league office (a longshot), and then must determine if Brady as an individual or Kraft on behalf of the organization goes outside the family to challenge the league ruling. There were indications over the weekend that Kraft was leaning against going rogue and suing the league, but talking to him, it still felt like a fluid situation.
Now Kraft, as angry as this makes him, has begun to think the team may have to play without Brady for a quarter of the season. A second-year quarterback from Eastern Illinois, Jimmy Garoppolo, is in line to start the first game of his NFL career on national TV, in the opening game of the season, as the Patriots begin defense of their Super Bowl title.
“How do you think Garoppolo will do, if he has to play?” I asked.
Kraft tried to muster up some enthusiasm for Garoppolo, but this wasn’t the day for that. “My gut feeling is the same as yours,” Kraft said. “He is a very hard worker, a very fine young man, but until the bullets are flying and you’re out there, no one knows. Think about how many of these first-round picks, even, don’t make it. [Garoppolo was the team’s second-round pick in 2014.] He works hard and he studies hard, though.”
The owner of the scarred New England Patriots paused for a second.
“Deep down,” Kraft said, “I would hope that’s an academic question.”
The real news to come out of the league meetings this week.
The drama in San Francisco, to be sure, will be Kraft and Goodell dueling at 10 paces. Aside from moving the goalposts to the back of the endzone in 1974 and adopting the two-point conversion in 1994, the NFL hasn’t had a significant change in the way it keeps score in its 95 seasons. On Tuesday, that could change with a potentially radical shift in the PAT and the two-point conversion play. In a special column Tuesday morning on The MMQB, I’ll detail the three plans the owners will consider late Tuesday afternoon at the annual spring meetings.
I believe what the owners are likely to pass isn’t a perfect plan, but it’s a good starting point—assuming, of course, that 24 of 32 owners approve one of the three plans and the line of scrimmage for the PAT is moved back.
I believe that, because to do nothing is wrong. With a success rate of 99.5 percent for PATs over the past four years, and with the rising number of touchbacks with the kickoff line pushed up five yards recently, the dead spots in games are, well, really dead.
I watched a few touchdowns followed by PATs, TV timeouts and touchbacks over the weekend on NFL Game Rewind, and this is an estimate of how much time there is several times per game when absolutely nothing happens:
- PAT—About 55 seconds from the time a touchdown is scored until the time the ref signals for a TV timeout.
- TV timeout—There are 20 per game, at 1 minute 50 seconds per timeout.
- Touchback following the TV timeout—About 75 seconds from the time the game comes back from commercial to when the offensive team breaks the huddle and approaches the line for first down.
That’s exactly four minutes between plays of substance—the touchdown and the first play on the next series—assuming a PAT and a touchback. That’s a lot of nothing time. There were only 59 two-point conversions attempted last season, about 3.5 per NFL weekend. Those are fun plays, and the NFL should put a rule in place to encourage more of them. Pushing the PAT back is the first step in that direction. It may not be enough, but it’s better than the 19-yard gimme that exists now.
* * *
An interesting take, from a former commissioner.
I thought the op-ed on the deflation controversy by former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, in the New York Daily News, was interesting because of his faith in the investigation. In part, Vincent wrote:
“It was the right call. Sports is a huge business. The NFL is projecting revenues of more than $12 billion this year alone. Baseball, basketball and hockey are also in the multibillionaire club. All that success depends entirely on fans caring about the outcome of games. We the fans can’t be invested in the outcome unless we firmly believe the rules are being obeyed. We all have to trust we are watching real athletic contests where the winners succeed because of the skills they demonstrate in accordance with the applicable standards. If we let the games drift away from that, organized sports will wind up like professional wrestling.
“It’s unfortunate that the lengthy investigation into Deflategate could only reach the limp conclusion that game balls were ‘more probably [sic] than not’ deflated to accommodate Brady. It is equally unfortunate that the investigation reverted to lawyerspeak to state its conclusion, leaving the NFL with a flimsy peg on which to hang its sanctions. But the findings are what they are, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was correct to hand down a firm punishment against Brady and the Patriots.
“ … The NFL stood firmly for the rules. That is what truly matters.”
* * *
Remember that story last fall about prescription-drug dispensing?
The MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas with an update on a story that caused a firestorm last fall, about team medics dispensing prescription drugs out of state at NFL games:
In the wake of the DEA’s surprise gameday inspections of three visiting NFL teams last November, there will be two league-wide changes for the 2015 season impacting how certain prescription drugs are dispensed and handled by clubs.
The first change is the creation of a visiting team medical liaison, an emergency physician from the local area certified to practice medicine and prescribe controlled substances in that state. The NFL and the NFL players union agreed on this new position during the scouting combine in February, according to Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president of healthy and safety policy. Secondly, the NFL Physicians Society decided that clubs will no longer store controlled substances at team facilities or stadiums.
The visiting team medical liaison’s position is similar to the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant introduced in 2013. Rick Martinez, a clinical professor of emergency medicine at Emory University who has advised the NFL on Super Bowl emergency action plans since 1988, will head a panel to identify emergency physicians in each NFL market available to serve in this role on game days. The federal Controlled Substances Act prevents doctors from prescribing or transporting controlled substances, such as narcotic painkillers, outside the state in which they are licensed to practice, which restricts team physicians traveling to out-of-state road games.
The DEA inspections last fall were spurred by the class-action filing against the NFL over prescription drug practices, a lawsuit that was dismissed a month later. The DEA agents searched and questioned three visiting NFL teams—the 49ers, Seahawks and Buccaneers—as they were leaving after games, to check for any violations in how prescription drugs were being dispensed.
“The DEA discussions with our various teams didn’t demonstrate any irregularities, but at the same time having a doctor who has all of the licensure for the visiting team to rely on is a best practice,” Miller says. “We consider it a step forward. I would imagine that any concern the DEA would have about visiting team doctors practicing medicine is clearly addressed.” (When contacted Friday, a DEA spokesperson said she did not have enough information to respond to the NFL’s new practices or whether or not there would be further action from the DEA as a result of the spot checks last fall.)
In the past, if a player on a visiting team suffered an injury, such as an ACL tear, and needed to take a controlled substance, like narcotic pain medicine, the law required him to either be prescribed the medicine by the home-team physician or be admitted to a local emergency room. That job will now be done by the liaison, and the prescription will be filled at a nearby pharmacy. The liaison will also have admitting privileges to the closest trauma center, so he or she can facilitate the path if a player needs hospital care.
In addition to narcotic pain medicine, controlled substances often used by NFL teams include anti-nausea drugs and sleep aids. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the best-known of which is Toradol, are not regulated under the Controlled Substances Act. It was legal for teams to store controlled substances as long as they were licensed by the DEA to do so and met stringent guidelines for securing the medicines and auditing their dispense. But the new policy to eliminate storage at NFL team facilities and stadiums is an extra safeguard.
“It was decided by the team physicians that we are probably better off in general not storing any of these drugs there. That way there are no questions asked,” says Matthew Matava, Rams head team physician and former president of the NFL Physicians Society. “Players are going to get all the medication they need to take care of their problem. It’s just going to be done in a way that’s water-tight in terms of legality.”
Quotes of the Week
“If you live to be a thousand years old, will this make any sense to you? Will it make any godd--- sense?!”
—David Letterman, in his memorable post-9/11 monologue, on the frustration and anger over the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
This is David Letterman’s last week hosting the “Late Show with David Letterman.” His final show is Wednesday. I just thought that was the most memorable thing he’s done—at least in my memory.
“Whats up dorito dink”
—Patriots officials locker room attendant Jim McNally, in a 2014 text message to fellow keeper of the footballs at Gillette Stadium John Jastremski, as relayed in the Patriots’ rebuttal to the Wells Report on Thursday.
“Mr. Brady believes he has never turned down [an autograph] request. If receiving an autograph from Mr. Brady is evidence that you are being rewarded by him for nefarious conduct, then hundreds or even thousands of people must be part of a scheme of wrongdoing.”
—Also from the Patriots’ rebuttal
“I believe that to the bottom of my heart.”
—Investigator Ted Wells, on whether the text messages between Tom Brady and one of the two Patriots employees accused of deflating footballs are proof that Brady was complicit in the ball-deflating scheme.
“I have no comment at this time, and support our troops, and God bless the USA.”
—“Saturday Night Live” cast member Taran Killam on NBC Saturday night, playing Tom Brady, asked repeatedly in an “interview” if he was guilty of any connection with football deflation before the AFC Championship Game.
In other words, the satire on Brady rarely answering hard, direct questions was in full bloom on the TV show.
Stats of the Week
I plan to have a detailed report at The MMQB on Tuesday morning about—potentially—the most significant change in the scoring system of football since 1912. NFL owners will discuss late Tuesday afternoon at the annual spring meetings in San Francisco the prospect of moving the line of scrimmage for the point after touchdown from the 2-yard-line to the 15. It’s an interesting and compelling story, with three possibilities being considered for what happens after a touchdown is scored.
But will the NFL really be fixing the PAT if part of the new solution is pushing the kicking point to the 15-yard-line, meaning the PAT attempt on a kick would be from the 32 or 33? It does not seem so. Longtime Pittsburgh TV anchor and commentator John Steigerwald forwarded these numbers to me, and they’re interesting.
2014 NFL Field Goal Accuracy, 30- to 39-yard attempts
Field goals made: 272.
Field goal attempted: 302.
Field goal percentage from 30 to 39 yards: 90.1 percent.
NFL kickers make more than 99 percent of extra points—on average, over the past three seasons—and so the percentage is going to go down if the scrimmage line is moved back 13 yards. But as Steigerwald points out, only slightly.
Jon Lester’s career batting record:
Plate appearances: 59.
Batting average: .000
On-base percentage: .019.
You know how the guy who didn’t play baseball past his senior year in high school sits at the bar and looks at those numbers and says, “I could do better than that!” Well, he probably could.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
My first reaction at Odell Beckham Jr. being named to the cover of the new Madden video game: The guy’s played 12 NFL games, zero in the playoffs. Could we please let him earn it first?
My second reaction: In the last two months of the 2014 season, Beckham played nine football games for the Giants. His average game: nine catches, 133.2 receiving yards, one touchdown.
If the Madden game is about not just what you’ve done but what you’re about to do—and clearly the marketing of this game is about the exciting young player staying hot—then Beckham might be the easiest choice in the league. He enters the 2015 season on fire.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
I kept wondering what the GPS in my car was trying to say over the weekend as we left New York City headed for my nephew’s college graduation dinner in Baltimore. You know how the female voice in those GPS systems can mispronounce with the best of them? Well, as we drove onto the New Jersey Turnpike and headed south, the voice said, Merge left and head south toward Carsley, or something like that.
Carsley? Could it be Carlstadt? Wrong direction. Kearney? Maybe.
A mile or so later, the voice said, Merge left and head south toward Carsonley.
There is no Carsonley. Now I was getting confused.
Here came the sign, as we approached the lovely area of the Turnpike north of Newark Airport, for the highway that was about to split in two going south. On the left-hand side of the road, the New Jersey Turnpike south, it read:
Tweets of the Week
Henrik Lundqvist: May 13, 2013: 35 saves, Game 7 win May 13, 2014: 35 saves, Game 7 win May 13, 2015: 35 saves, Game 7 win @nyrangers
— Kenny Albert (@KennyAlbert) May 14, 2015
The MSG hockey announcer (and FOX football announcer) after the Rangers goalie's latest series-clinching win over Washington.
— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) May 12, 2015
I bet there would be quite a few people—Patriots fans and non-Patriots fans—who would like a piece of the action with the Bills as 2015 AFC East favorites … and would take the Patriots.
I find it stunning that the NFL cares more about how much air is in a football than it cares about a racist franchise name.
— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) May 12, 2015
The Nevada senator, referring to the NFL not being active in getting the Washington franchise to change its team name.
What's even worse is that people want to see him fall because of his greatness! #FreeTomBrady
— DonteHitner (@DonteWhitner) May 11, 2015
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think the candor of the representatives of La’el Collins—now—is to be applauded in the wake of Collins going undrafted and then signing as a free agent with Dallas. Robert Klemko of The MMQB had terrific, detailed work about one of the strangest stories in recent draft history. Most of us in the media business, I think, believed it was a bluff when agent Mike McCartney warned teams not to draft Collins, who was wanted for questioning in a murder case the week of the draft, and later questioned without being detained by police in Louisiana. Had he been drafted, McCartney told teams, Collins would have sat out the year and re-entered the draft in 2016. So no team drafted Collins, and McCartney and his agency, Priority Sports, got their way. By not being drafted, Collins got to pick where he wanted to play, and he chose Dallas, where he could be a luxury piece on what could be the best line in football. “We can put it on the record now,” McCartney told Klemko. “We were never going back in the draft. If someone had drafted him, we would’ve had a long, long discussion about it, but at the end of the day you can’t go back in the draft. He could get injured, gain weight, or 10 great tackles could come out. Too many risks.”
2. I think for those who say: Whoa—McCartney was lying. You’re defending lying? Not necessarily. McCartney’s most important job was protecting his client, and putting Collins in the best place possible for 2015, 2016 and beyond after an unprecedented event before a draft. And there was no guarantee that McCartney, in the end, wouldn’t do what he said. If Collins got picked by a cold-weather team, maybe he’d have told McCartney to just forget it, and he’d go back in the draft pool next year.
3. I think when the NFL invites teams to bid for Super Bowls in 2019 and 2020 this week at the spring meetings in San Francisco, I expect Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles and New Orleans (the runner-up to Minneapolis in 2018) to be strong considerations. Dallas-Fort Worth could bid too.
4. I think I’ve never seen a football player who looked less like a football player than Garo Yepremian, who died Friday at 70. And for too long, this short and balding football Costanza was best known (almost only known) for the blooper play of all blooper plays—his awkward pass/forward fumble returned for a touchdown in the Super Bowl of the Dolphins’ perfect season. Great column by Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Garo and the gaffe and his career. It's bothersome that one event in a person’s life can obscure all other things, including great things. Yepremian was an Armenian born in Cyprus and living in London in the 1960s when he went to America to try his foot at soccer-style kicking. Without Yepremian—and with a run-of-the-mill kicker—I have serious doubts the Dolphins would have gone 17-0 in the 1972 season. Consider that Miami, a seven-point underdog in Week 3 at Minnesota, was down 14-6 midway through the fourth quarter and drove to borderline field-goal territory with less than five minutes left. Don Shula had seen Yepremian make 38- and 42-yarders that day, and sent him out for a 50-yard field goal. Today, that’s a 50-50 proposition; 43 years ago, it might have been a 15-percent shot. Yepremian hit it, and the Dolphins drove for a last-minute touchdown to win, 16-14. In Week 6, Miami won 24-23, and Yepremian’s contribution was the longest field goal of his life, from 54 yards. In Week 14, capping the 14-0 regular season, he made 40-, 50- and 35-yard field goals in a 16-0 win over Baltimore. It’s easy to remember the gaffe; we should also remember the good with Garo.
5. I think I love the Jaguars paying Dante Fowler a little more than the market rate for the third pick in the draft after he tore his ACL and was lost for his rookie season. Quality move by that organization.
6. I think it hit me the other day, doing a little research on running backs and the draft in recent years for a Todd Gurley story I’m working on. The draft is a crapshoot, period. But the running back position is the crapshootiest of all positions, at least lately. Some of the backs picked in the top two rounds since 2009: Christine Michael, Montee Ball, Trent Richardson, David Wilson (injured, I know), Isaiah Pead, LaMichael James, Mikel Leshoure, Daniel Thomas, Jahvid Best, Ben Tate, Montario Hardesty, Beanie Wells. Between 2009 and 2013, 26 backs got picked in the first two rounds, and half of them are current flameouts.
7. I think the underrated acquisition of the offseason could well be Dennis Allen re-joining the Saints as the assistant to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Sean Payton loves Allen, who always has been good at taking unaderachievers (such as last year’s disappointing second-round cornerback, Stanley Jean-Baptiste) and making them contributors. Looking forward to seeing the New Orleans secondary be more aggressive and efficient with Allen’s help.
8. I think this is one interesting nugget from Dallas Morning News writer David Moore’s stories about Dallas rookie pass-rusher Randy Gregory: As a high-schooler living in Fishers, Ind., Gregory said he lived at 12121 Cowboys Court. Another one: He tested positive for marijuana, according to Moore, three times in a 13-month period starting in January 2014.
9. I think you can add Oakland coach Jack Del Rio to the chorus of those who felt the NFL’s sanction of the Patriots “was a little bit overdone.” It get curiouser and curiouser.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Kevin Cullen, you are really, really good at your job.
b. Another story I loved this weekend: SI’s Tim Layden on American Pharoah’s victory in the Preakness. I so admire great writing done quickly, with great detail. Layden wrote this story in 110 minutes, filed it at 9:20 p.m., and it was posted Saturday night on SI.com. Then he wrote for the magazine. A horse, writing about horses. Such strong prose in the SI.com story, combined with detail like this: Jockey Victor Espinoza hit Pharoah with his whip 32 times in the Kentucky Derby and zero times in the Preakness … and that detail came in a parenthetical. As though Layden was saying, This isn’t really that important, but I want to throw it out there to enhance your understanding of jockey and horse.
c. Smart reading of the legal tea leaves in the Brady case by Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.
d. Great front page of Mississippi’s Jackson Clarion-Ledger on Saturday—B.B. KING: “The thrill is gone.” That’s the entire front page, with a gigantic broadsheet photo of King, who died Thursday from Type 2 diabetes at 89. Imagine: still performing at age 89. That’s what King was doing.
e. The most amazing factoid in the wake of the horrible Amtrak crash near Philadelphia that killed eight commuters last week: The track and infrastructure on the northeast corridor train route that still transports thousands of people a day is up to 150 years old. Not all of it, of course. But some. Which means it was laid or built, in part, right around the time of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
f. “Breaking one’s silence,” Bill Cosby, actually means addressing the horrendous charges against you, not ducking them clumsily.
g. The St. Louis Cardinals are apace to draw 3.5 million fans for second straight year. What a franchise. What a baseball town.
h. Wear those socks high, Cardinals.
i. I will never bench you again in any week you’re on my roster, Corey Kluber. Promise.
j. Coffeenerdness: I think I think coffee is good for you (@UpshotNYT).
k. Beernerdness: If you can get your hands on a Montauk Session IPA (Montauk, N.Y.), I think you’ll be impressed with classic IPA taste, maybe even with the slight bitterness, which I like in my IPAs. A good find at Citi Field and other spots in the East.
l. Paul Pierce is absurd. Steph Curry is absurder.
m. Great Mike Tirico note in the first minute of Golden State-Memphis, Game 6, on Curry: “I watched him take 30 shots before the game from beyond the three-point line, and he made 29.”
n. Golden State, after seven minutes in Game 6 at Memphis, had 25 points. What a beautiful team to watch.
o. Can you imagine what Steve Kerr feels like today? He was on the precipice of picking the Knicks job over Golden State last summer.
p. Steve Kerr’s agent, remember, was Mike Tannenbaum. Yes, that Mike Tannenbaum, before he took the job heading up the Miami Dolphins' front office.
q. Congrats to my nephew, Evan King, for his graduation from McDaniel College. Evan persevered through a tough road after the death of his dad (and my brother) five years ago, and wouldn’t let anything deter him. Proud of you, Evan.
r. Column note: I will be away next Monday, and Greg Bedard will be filling in for me in this space. My daughter Laura is getting married Saturday afternoon in California. It’ll be a great day for the King family; Kings are coming from as far away as Spain and England, from New York and Connecticut. I’ll be back June 1.
The Adieu Haiku
In San Fran this week,
if you see Bob Kraft, tell me
if his eyes shoot darts.