FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts/notes around the NFL and with the New England Patriots:
1. Quarterback Tom Brady has been in the eye of the media firestorm since the Wells report was released May 6 and he was suspended four games May 11, and it would be understandable if his primary focus was on those things at this time. But I was told that Brady has made it a point not to miss a single voluntary workout as part of the team’s offseason program since they began April 20. He’s been there every day. For those who know Brady well, this news is hardly a surprise.
2. The NFL is holding its spring meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in San Francisco, and it was expected be a run-of-the-mill type agenda focusing on business matters such as the league’s future in Los Angeles, cities eligible to bid for future Super Bowls, and a vote to change the extra point. But the tenor of this year’s meeting went from ho-hum to potentially high-voltage fireworks in light of recent developments with Deflategate. Simply observing the body language between New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and commissioner Roger Goodell will be fascinating. Goodell is scheduled to hold a news conference Wednesday.
3. Some have asked what Kraft accomplished by launching the website Wellsreportcontext.com on Thursday, because it’s not as if the NFL will be reducing any penalties because of it. In fact, the website probably only intensifies hard feelings between the team and league office. But one needs only review Kraft’s remarks in recent months to understand the purpose of the website -- it’s a legacy piece. With conviction that his team did nothing wrong, and that the NFL predetermined the outcome of its investigation from the start, Kraft simply wanted to put the team’s version of events on the public record. Some might believe them. Others might not. But for an owner that feels his team was railroaded by the NFL, the website was deemed the best avenue to tell his team’s side of the story and formally introduce it to any public debate right now and into the future. My feeling is that the Patriots’ fight most likely stops there; I’d be surprised if Kraft filed a lawsuit against the NFL.
4. Of those around the NFL who took shots at the Patriots over the last week (is there anything less classy than piling on to settle old scores without having all the facts?), I was most amused by Cleveland Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby. Dansby told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio that he suspected the Patriots of cheating in other ways, recalling a late-December 2008 game when he played for the Cardinals and his headset didn’t work (the only time he said that happened all season). I covered that game and it’s hard to forget because I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team quit like Dansby’s Cardinals did on that snowy day. The Patriots led 21-0 early in the second quarter, upped it to 31-0 at the half en route to a 47-7 win, and Dansby and his teammates couldn’t get out of there fast enough. But let’s blame it on the headset.
5a. As is often the case when a player is unexpectedly cut, like cornerback Kyle Arrington was by the Patriots on Monday, several teams quickly place an exploratory phone call to express a level of interest. The Panthers were one of the first to do so with Arrington, and the Titans made a late push of sorts, but when all the options were ultimately considered it was going to be hard for anyone to top the Ravens. The fact that Arrington liked the idea of returning to his home state to play in front of family and friends, the Ravens’ need at corner, history of success, and aggressive offer combined to make it an easy choice for him. Like he did with the Patriots in 2014, Arrington will wear jersey No. 25 for the Ravens.
5b. In a different twist, the Ravens had defensive coordinator Dean Pees introduce Arrington to the media in a Thursday news conference. Pees, the Patriots’ former defensive coordinator, touched on how he coached Arrington in 2009 and also that current New England defensive backs coach Josh Boyer has ties to Pees going back to Kent State (2002-2003). Pees said it’s easy for some to forget that a player like Arrington benefits greatly from practicing against quarterback Tom Brady for six years, which was appealing to the Ravens.
6. Did You Know: The Steelers, who visit the Patriots in the season opener, drafted three defensive backs who combined for 29 interceptions in 2014 -- Mississippi cornerback Senquez Golson (second round, 10 INTs), Ohio State cornerback Doran Grant (fourth round, 5 INTs) and Louisville safety Gerod Holliman (seventh round, 14 INTs). One of the Steelers’ goals was to be defensive-minded in the draft (6 of their 8 picks were on D) and to specifically come away with two corners, starting in the second round.
7. When a team opens the financial vault like the Dolphins did with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (six-year, $114 million contract), it immediately puts that player into a leadership role. With that in mind, I'm curious how head coach Joe Philbin truly feels about Suh staying away from most voluntary workouts. It's voluntary, after all, but I have to imagine there is some disappointment there despite what some might say.
8. For the New England college football crowd, New Hampshire wide receiver R.J. Harris is making a good first impression with the Saints after signing with them as an undrafted free agent. "He's got real quick hips. He's explosive. He's stood out in this camp," head coach Sean Payton told reporters at rookie minicamp. "He has real good speed. He's a little thin (6-foot, 194 pounds), but he handles bump and run pretty well. I would say he'd be a guy that we've noticed a little bit. There's some snaps where [it's] 'Who's that?' You go back again and it would be him." Payton said receiver and corner are traditionally the positions where undrafted free agents have the best chance to make the team, but it's a bit early to tell if that will be the case in 2015.
9. What type of player did the Patriots get in signing sixth-year linebacker Dekoda Watson on Tuesday? I checked in with a personnel man who knows him well, and what was relayed is that the 6-2, 240-pound former Buccaneer, Jaguar and Cowboy is a team-first type of player who excels mostly on special teams. He has some solid pass-rush skills on defense, but struggles with instincts at times when playing off the line of scrimmage. From a big-picture perspective, the signing of Watson put the Patriots’ roster at 90 players, which is the maximum number at this time.
10. One of the casualties of the last week as a result of Deflategate was media access to the Patriots’ rookie class. The team has always had a traditional photo with owner Robert Kraft, team president Jonathan Kraft and the top draft pick (this year it’s Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown), while reporters have also had a chance to interview other rookies. Putting rookies in that position this year was deemed a no-win situation, and rightfully so because they had nothing to do with Deflategate. So we’ll have to wait a bit longer to hear from the Patriots’ newcomers.