<
>

ESPN's Sal Paolantonio shares Deflategate viewpoint, highlights how NFL in tough spot

Editor's note: This post has been updated since its initial posting. See specific updates below in italics.

ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio was a guest on San Diego’s Mighty 1090 AM on Friday and provided his viewpoint based on his six-month reporting of Deflategate.

One of the top takeaways from Paolantonio is the mention of Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay as those who NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would anger most if he reduces or overturns New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's suspension.

The discussion began with radio host Dan Sileo opining that the NFL Players Association is letting it be known that Brady would be willing to accept a fine, but any suspension would be fought in court.

"There are several things going on behind the scenes, and as you know, I've been covering this since the story broke at the AFC Championship Game," Paolantonio began. "It's now been a six-month process, a four-week appeal process, which of course ... I think they built the Lincoln Tunnel in a shorter period of time, for crying out loud. It's a joke that it’s taken this long. It's inertia.

"Your old man used to say what? If you don't know what to do, do nothing. I think behind the scenes they don't know what to do. The bottom line is that the NFL's attorneys have most likely, from what I've been told, gone to the commissioner and said, 'We can't come up with a ruling that is defensible in court.' The NFL, I believe, thinks it's going to lose in court. And if they can't come up with a ruling on this appeal that is defensible in court, then they are going to look awful silly.

"That's the rock, but the hard place is if they do vacate the suspension and exonerate Brady, then of course you're totally undermining Troy Vincent -- your vice president for game-day operations -- and you're undermining the authority of the very commissioner making the ruling, since he was the one that signed off on the initial four-game suspension in the first place.

"Not only that, add in that you’re angering some of the hardcore owners out there, and I know who they are and I'm going to name them right now -- Jim Irsay of the Colts, Steve Bisciotti of the Ravens, and others in the AFC who believe that the Patriots have gotten away with murder for years and have not been publicly punished properly. (Update, Sunday, 8:11 a.m. ET: A league source tells ESPN that Bisciotti has not spoken about Deflategate publicly or privately.)

"So I don't know what the league is going to do ... the [NFL Players Association] is trying to get ahead of the news story, trying to force the issue, and trying to have a pre-emptive strike here.

"What do I mean by that? Basically, [they're] showing the world and the commissioner's office publicly, 'We're going to court if we don't like the outcome.' They're basically telling the lawyers, 'You better pony up, because when we go to court, we're going to win.'"

(Update, Sunday, 11:25 a.m. ET: The Ravens have issued the following statement to ESPN from owner Steve Bisciotti: "I have not and will not put any pressure on the commissioner or anyone representing the NFL office to take action in what everyone is calling 'DeflateGate.' The story circulating that I've put pressure on Roger [Goodell] is 100 percent wrong. The reports are unfair to Robert Kraft, who is honorable person and to his franchise. Let's talk about football and the start of training camp. Fans and people like me want the issue resolved now.")

(Update, Tuesday, 9:25 a.m. ET: Colts owner Jim Irsay told the Indianapolis Star he has had no contact "at all" with Goodell regarding Goodell's impending decision on Brady's appeal. "That's not true at all. I haven't talked to Roger Goodell about Deflategate since late January. Not true. That's not the way things work involving someone else's business and someone else's team. It's not something I've ever seen, and I've been around ownership [in the NFL] for half a century.")