Patriots hope to take game out of officials' hands

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Patriots hope to take game out of officials' hands

FOXBORO -- The Patriots weren't blaming anything on the replacement officials, Wednesday.

Prior to practice, they were unaware of any progress between the NFL and NFL Referees Association, amidst reports that an agreement on a new deal was at hand.

Their comments about replacement officials were made with the belief that they would once again be on the field for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills. The overall sentiment in New England's locker room was that, regardless of who is officiating on Sunday, the Patriots know they have to be better at controlling what they can control.

"We all know whats going on," said Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch before Wednesday's practice. "We've just got to go out and take the game out of the refs hands and just play our game. We'll be ok.

"My biggest thing is, I'm staying as far away from that situation as possible," added Branch. "Let those guys handle that . . . I think enough is enough, but like I said, we've just got to go out and play our game. We can't worry about the refs."

Taking the game out of the officials' hands has, at times, been more difficult through the first three weeks of this season. But replacement officials or not, the Patriots saw the same tape of Sunday nights game that everybody else saw.

And if the regular refs are on the field Sunday, the Patriots will still have to take the game out of their hands by, quite simply, playing better football.

"That's our job every week," said Branch. "I'm talking about, for years. You never want to leave the game in anyone else's hands. It's our job, as players, to go out and play our game. Leave no doubt, period, regardless of the situation that we have going on now, versus if the original refs were in here. We've got to go out and make sure we play our game."

Doing so is just part of the mental toughness that goes along with an NFL season.

"Thats what we have to do," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Wednesday. "You cant really approach it any way else, other than to worry about what you can control. You cant worry about what call is made or not made, or who is out there, the wind, the weather, the crowd noise its just part of mental toughness that you have to persevere."

Most -- if not all -- of the Patriots seem to agree. Even those who have the most to improve upon from Sunday night's loss, like cornerback Devin McCourty.

Bad calls or not, replacement officials or regular officials, if McCourty and the rest of the Patriots defense can make the plays they failed to make against the Baltimore Ravens, they should be able to get back to .500 on Sunday.

"It's tough," said McCourty. "Each game has its own flow. I think the key for us is just working on what we can control. A lot of things we have no control over. But there are certain plays put there that we can control fully. And we've got to take advantage of them.

"Go out and play. What we do on the field is what really matters. That's how you play every game. You don't want to leave plays in someone else's hands."

Patriots officially side with Brady vs. NFL by filing amicus brief

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Patriots officially side with Brady vs. NFL by filing amicus brief

Robert Kraft and the Patriots organization have been saying for a long time that they hope Tom Brady prevails in his fight with the league over Deflategate. Kraft reiterated that stance on Tuesday at the NFL's annual spring meetings.

But on Wednesday, the Patriots took their support for Brady to a different platform. The team has filed an amicus brief stating that it supports Brady and the NFLPA now that the union has filed a petition to be granted a rehearing by the Second Circuit. 

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, it is a noteworthy move because the last time an NFL team took legal action against league was when late Raiders owner Al Davis sued the NFL. It is important to note, though, as SI.com's Michael McCann explains, that the Patriots have not actually "switched sides" in this instance. As one of 32 teams in the league, they are technically still a part of the NFL Management Council et al. v. NFL Players Association et al. With its amicus brief, however, the team is advocating for a rehearing of a case that the NFL recently won. 

Filing the brief may not necessarily have any legal impact on the case -- judges can ignore the team's opinion in its amicus brief if they so choose -- but its value may be more than simply symbolic in nature. Attorney Daniel Wallach notes that the team's amicus brief covers ground that Brady's petition for rehearing couldn't cover due to page limits. 

On the first page of the amicus brief, in the document's second footnote, the language is strong: "From the outset of this matter, the League's conduct reflects less a search for the truth than pursuit of a pre-determined result and defense of a report which, despite no direct evidence of tampering or Mr. Brady's involvement, was reiled on to impose penalties with no precedent or correlation to the alleged offense."

The Patriots have continued to update The Wells Report in Context, a website that argues the findings of the NFL's investigation into Brady that has also accumulated various reports and scientific studies that support Brady's innocence. But this amicus brief is another way for the team to show that it has its quarterback's back. 

The NFLPA filed its petition for a rehearing on Monday and now awaits a decision from the 13 judges of the Second Circuit as to whether or not they will grant Brady a rehearing.

Statistically speaking, Brady is facing long odds to be given a rehearing, but his legal team believes there's reason for optimism