Deflategate

Gary E. Lindsley

It was in March 2012 that the first-ever National Football League coach was suspended.

Not only was New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton suspended, he was left without a job for a season. Unprecedented.

The suspension was handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after Payton was accused of trying to cover up a system of cash payouts for devastating hits on key opponents, especially quarterbacks.

Goodell called the hit bounty “particularly unusual and egregious” and “totally unacceptable.

“We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game. We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities,” he said at the time.

“No one is above the game or the rules that govern it,” Goodell said.

The league accused Payton of ignoring instructions from the NFL and Saints ownership to ensure bounties were not being paid.

Goodell not only took Payton to task for denying the program even existed, he also slammed him for trying to encourage denials by telling his assistants to make sure their ducks were in a row.

There were other suspensions and fines related to Bountygate. But it was not the first time the NFL fined or scolded a coach and/or a team.

The New England Patriots have a long history of cheating, if not overly pushing the envelope as well as legalities and ethics.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am and always have been an avid Miami Dolphins fan. But that fact does not alter the Patriots’ escapades over the years.

For me, the Patriots transgressions started back in December 1982 when the Patriots were hosting the Dolphins at their stadium in snowy Foxborough, Mass.

Neither team was able to score during the game’s first three quarters because of the falling snow — that is until stadium snowplow operator Mark Henderson drove onto the snow-covered field and cleared a spot so Patriots’ kicker Josh Smith could kick a field goal — the game winning points.

Yet, that pales compared to Spygate in the 2000s. That is when the NFL not only took the Patriots to task, but it also handed down what was at the time some pretty stiff penalties — and rightfully so.

New England was a powerhouse — even after a young Tom Brady stepped in for an injured Drew Bledsoe. The Patriots did Bledsoe wrong, but that is another story.

It was in 2001 that Brady stepped in for Bledsoe and led the Patriots to a Super Bowl win. Nothing could touch the Pats, at least until they were caught videotaping the New York Jets’ signals during the Jets’ home opener in 2007.

The Patriots throttled the Jets 38-14 in that game.

The NFL, though, determined the Patriots had illegally videotaped its opponents from 2002-2007.

Goodell fined the Patriots $250,000 for the Jets’ game and stripped the team of a first-round draft choice.

However, Patriots coach Bill Belichick garnered an even larger fine — $500,000, which was the largest penalty ever against a coach at the time.

And the end of the 2014 NFL season brought us Deflategate — the Patriots were accused of deflating game balls after they were checked by NFL officials.

After an investigation by NFL-appointed heavy-hitter Ted Wells, Brady was suspended in May without pay for four games in the upcoming 2015 season.

Not only that, but the Patriots were fined $1 million as well as lost their first-round pick in the 2016 draft and their fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft.

Brady appealed, but the team did not. This week, Goodall rebuffed Brady’s appeal and the suspension still stands.

What is very interesting about the latest pronouncement from Goodell was that it was learned this spring that Brady allegedly destroyed his cell phone before meeting with investigators.

Nothing to be alarmed about there. Brady said he was changing phones and it was normal procedure.

To me, until Belichick is treated like Payton and is suspended for at least a season, then the Patriots’ antics will continue.

Unless Kraft is prohibited from attending or having anything to do with the Patriots, besides receiving a measly — to him — $1 million fine, the Patriots’ culture will not change.

It is win at all costs — pure greed.

And it sets a bad example for young athletes. Not only do the antics of the Patriots cast a shadow over the game beloved by so many, it sends the wrong message to the athletes of tomorrow.

Brady, Kraft and Belichick need to come clean and set the example of what is right, not wrong.

Gary E. Lindsley may be reached at glindsley@heraldbanner.com.

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