Brady considers past, content to focus on present

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Brady considers past, content to focus on present

INDIANAPOLIS -- Super Bowl XLVI is Tom Brady's fifth trip to the Big Dance. In his first Indiana media session he was asked how Number Five compares to the others.
Dangerous idea. It is the Patriot Way to avoid comparisons of any kind, whether teammates or seasons. To elevate one is to -- at least in the public eye -- denigrate another.

Brady addressed the subject broadly with careful enthusiasm.

"They're all pretty special," he said. "I say it every week: It's pretty hard to win a football game in the NFL. Every week there's a certain level of quality of competition that you face. Thirty-two teams throughout the year, really, with hopes of being in this situation. I think we're very fortunate to be here. We've overcome quite a few things, quite a few adversities to get us here.

"We're really honored to represent the AFC. I think we've certainly earned it; the Giants have earned it. It makes for a great game. One week from now we'll be about to kick off at about this time. We'll spend the time getting ready, but I know all the players will be very anxious to get the game going."

Now take the same theme and hold it under a different light.

Of course he's happy to be in another Super Bowl. Of course he's grateful for your team's resilience and conscious of the hard work. But how do the feelings compare between the former rookie quarterback and the current record-breaking field general? Are the emotions tinged by time? Does he ever allow himself a lingering look backward?

While Brady didn't eulogize his career, he neither denied his NFL mortality.

"I think, for all the players, you don't know if this is your last time taking the field," he said. "This is a very physical sport; there's a lot of players who go out there one day and the next day they don't have the opportunity to play again. That's part of this sport."

It would be impossible to feel invincible in Indianapolis. Brady will be playing in the house respected rival Peyton Manning built; there's no escaping Manning's absence here. The neck injury and surgeries that kept him an impotent spectator this season hang over Lucas Oil Stadium. His younger brother Eli, whom the Patriots face next Sunday, will be asked about it. The fact Brady missed a season with that 2008 ACL tear make he and Manning a morbid pair of brothers in missed time.

Once the subject of time is raised, it's like people can suddenly hear the clock ticking.

"You wish everybody the best of health when they take the field, but a lot of things you can't control," said Brady. "It was really a bummer for me when I missed the season. I've spoken to Peyton several times and I know how disappointed he is to miss a season, but if anybody will be back, it will be him."

A diversion from himself, from the questions of his own future. But with a Super Bowl one week away Brady is perfectly content to focus on the present anyway.

Red Sox make Mitch Moreland signing official

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Red Sox make Mitch Moreland signing official

The Red Sox officially announced the signing of first baseman Mitch Moreland Thursday. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the team designated left-handed pitcher Williams Jerez for assignment. 

Moreland has played his entire career with the Rangers, winning a Gold Glove at first base last season. He hit .233/.298/.422 with 22 homers and 60 RBI for the Rangers last season before becoming a free agent. He has a career batting average of .254, with a career-high 23 homers in both the 2013 and 2015 seasons. 

A second-round pick of the Red Sox in the 2011 draft, Jerez started his professional career as an outfielder before being moved to pitcher. 

John Harbaugh: Ravens’ trickery different than Patriots ‘deceptive’ formation

John Harbaugh: Ravens’ trickery different than Patriots ‘deceptive’ formation

FOXBORO – John Harbaugh explained on Thursday the difference between the rules loophole his Ravens exploited recently and the one the Patriots exploited in the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff Game that caused him to cry, “Foul.”

What it boiled down to? Everyone knew about the loophole the Ravens took advantage of when they committed an en masse holding penalty at the end of the game against the Bengals. 

Nobody had seen what the Patriots successfully pulled off when they made eligible receivers ineligible and vice versa and went on a touchdown drive that changed the tenor of the game.

“You’re right. I don’t want to get into all that,” Harbaugh said when I asked what the difference was. “That’s all been hashed out. I believe what I believe and I think it’s all been proven to be right.

“The point about [the punt hold] is, it’s been talked about, it’s been looked at, it’s been something that’s been used for 20 years so it’s nothing new,” he explained. “It’s nothing that hadn’t been addressed before by officials or the competition committee.”

Harbaugh said that, in Super Bowl 47, his Ravens used the tactic and his brother Jim, coach of the Niners, took it up with the Competition Committee. John Harbaugh supported the change, he said. The league declined.  

“Everybody knew about that so it didn’t create an unfair advantage for anybody,” said Harbaugh.

LISTEN: New Quick Slants podcast w/ more stories of Ravens antics

After the Patriots beat Baltimore in a tremendous game, Harbaugh was in a snit in his postgame press conference alleging the “nobody’s ever seen that [eligible-ineligible trickery] before.” He said the play was “illegal” and “deceptive.”

I mentioned that Alabama had run the play in a nationally televised game against LSU and that the Titans had done the same thing on a game-ending play against the Jets a few weeks earlier.

Aside from whether or not the information was accurately communicated by the officials, the tone of Harbaugh’s comments left little room for interpretation. He indicated the Patriots were underhanded and that his comments seemed to discredit New England.

“That was not the intent and if you go back and read my comments at the time and the tone of it anybody that takes it that way is taking it the wrong way,” said Harbaugh. “That was not the point of it at all. You had an eligible receiver that wasn’t identified and an ineligible receiver that wasn’t identified as such. The official had no way to identify that for the defense so there was no signal or any other way that they could do that. That was something that was addressed the very next week. If somebody wants to look at it some certain way, that’s not my concern.”

When I offered that referee Bill Vinovich not only identified Shane Vereen as being ineligible but added, “Don’t cover 34…” over the stadium mic, Harbaugh wasn’t having it.  

“That’s not something that had ever been gone over,” he insisted. “Players were never taught don’t cover that player. When you’re on the field, you can’t hear that microphone. That’s not something you can even hear or are listening for. The next week there was a tweak.”

Indeed there was. And not just with the officials then being on the hook to make more detailed announcements. The further tweak, perhaps spurred by the formation chicanery and Tom Brady’s recommendation that Baltimore “study the rules” came when the Ravens passed on intel to the Colts for the AFC Championship Game. One of the recommendations from Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg was to watch that the Patriots’ sideline staff didn’t monkey with the kicking balls. That was included in a letter to NFL Operations man Mike Kensil along with an allegation that it was “well known around the league” that the Patriots deflate footballs before the game and that the league needed to keep an eye on that.

Harbaugh hasn’t hidden from the fact he found Brady’s comment offensive.

"I was pissed off," he said this past summer. "It was uncalled for. And the rules are deeper than that, and I know the rules, and I stand by why that play shouldn't have been allowed...So yeah, that should never have been said."

He has, however, disavowed any talk by his staff about the Patriots allegedly deflating footballs. "Any conversation that was had with the Colts had nothing to do with deflated footballs, which is what we've been saying since the very start," Harbaugh said in 2015. "I know that we've answered the questions from the beginning to the end very simply. Our yes is yes. Our no is no. We've answered questions directly and honestly and straightforward from the start."

Whether the Patriots’ formation plays and the Ravens response to it led to a $30M investigation that hijacked the NFL’s attention for 20 months and resulted in a four-game suspension for Brady is still not definitively known. Could Rosburg and the Colts equipment man have possibly discussed kicking ball chicanery without sharing notes on the belief the Patriots deflated footballs? Rosburg and former Patriots defensive coordinator and current Ravens coach Dean Pees were both spoken to by investigator Ted Wells. What did they offer

Just like everything else between Ravens and Patriots, it’s complicated.