Pats-Eagles 1st Quarter: Chung dinged; Mallett struggles

853759.jpg

Pats-Eagles 1st Quarter: Chung dinged; Mallett struggles

FOXBORO - The Patriots wanted to keep their key players out of harm's way Monday night.

And trouble still found safety Patrick Chung. On a first-and-10 from the Eagles 44, LeSean McCoy took a direct snap and went around right end where Chung made the stop and paid the price. Chung left the field, had his helmet taken by the training staff and was walked - with a spotter - to the locker room, possibly for neurological tests.

If Chung is down for a few days - and that is likely - rookies Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner and veteran James Ihedigbo will be moving up the chain. Chung has battled injuries throughout his brief career which have prevented him from reaching his potential.

The Eagles took a more significant blow though. Quarterback Michael Vick went down with an apparent rib injury on a hit from Jermaine Cunningham. Vick was forced to pirouette into Cunningham after a pressure by Kyle Love.

On to the other notes.

Ryan Mallett did not have a good first quarter. Getting the start he threw an interception on a third-and-7 pass intended for Deion Branch. It was a startlingly easy pick for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. That was wiped out by a roughing-the-passer penalty. Given a new life, Mallett took a sack on third-and-7 three plays later. That was wiped out by a defensive hold on Nnamdi Asomugha. Given a third life, Mallett eventually got the Patriots downfield and in for a touchdown early in the second. Mallett finished the quarter 6 for 12 for 60 yards. There was a drop by Jeremy Ebert in there but also a throw off the butt of Eagles corner Joselio Hanson and even on some of his completions (a crossing pattern to Julian Edelman) he threw inaccurately.

Edelman - for all his scintillating work in camp in 1-on-1s - continues to make plays that are questionable. He opted to field a punt at the 7 - iffy decision - then promptly muffed it. Last week, he blundered on a kickoff return. He also had a nice 16-yard run on a quick screen which shows the other side of the coin.

Nate Solder is not looking sharp early. Too much pressure from Trent Cole including one play when he was driven back onto his can. He also got beaten by Cole which led to a screen pass being blown up.

Shane Vereen didn't get a lot of running room and had just 19 yards on nine carries.

Not a good quarter for Marcus Cannon either who had a hold on the second play from scrimmage (he allowed a strip sack in the second as I was writing this).

Brandon Spikes, who was down last week, played this week along with Dont'a Hightower and Bobby Carpenter at linebacker.

The starting Patriots offensive line was Solder and Cannon at the tackles, Dan Connolly and Nick McDonald at guard and Ryan Wendell at center.

Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 51-yard field goal.

The Patriots defensive line is playing well.

Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

curranslant523_1280x720_691350595684.jpg

Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

Monday may have marked a low point in the relationship between the NFL and its on-field employees.

The fight between the league and its best player of the past two decades was in the headlines again. Tom Brady, tied to the NFL’s bumper and dragged around for almost 500 days, had his NFLPA legal team baring its teeth again in the Deflategate mess. The eye-gouging and hair-pulling in that imbroglio over a puff of air allegedly being removed from footballs has cost the league and the PA about $25M so far.

Meanwhile, NFLPA President Eric Winston was saying the league "cannot be trusted to do the right thing when it involves players.” That comment flowed from a Congressional report alleging the NFL tried to exert influence over who would conduct studies regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the condition that’s been blamed for a myriad of former players winding up addled, incapacitated or dead.

I say “may have marked” because the relationship between the two sides has cratered so frequently over the past two years, it’s hard to know exactly what the low point has been. Or how much lower it can go.

And, with the 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement only half done, there is ample opportunity for things to get worse. Because, really, why would they get better?

With the NFL’s owners safe knowing that their emperor/puppet/human shield is still in place to take the hits and do their dirty work, there’s seemingly no groundswell among that group to relieve Roger Goodell of his duties. Despite reports of growing owner discontent over Deflategate, the Ray Rice investigation, and an appeal of a case in which the league was found to have withheld $100M from players, there is no Sword of Damocles dangling over the league to cut ties with Goodell.

He was able to oversee the league’s re-entry in Los Angeles (though that “triumph” was fraught with owner acrimony), is going to get a game played in China, keeps edging closer to getting a franchise based in Europe and may even land one in Las Vegas, has enhanced the league’s reach on social media (the announcement of some games being aired on Twitter) and keeps making billions hand over fist.

Goodell’s presence won’t be an impediment to a new labor deal getting done for another five years. By then, when the issues of Goodell’s role in player discipline, drug testing and his relationship with the union come to the fore, the owners might feel compelled to cut him loose after 15 seasons in charge.

But even then, the league’s owners will be in the business of pointing out to the players how good they’ve had it under the current CBA. The league’s salary cap structure – decried as a disaster in the first years of the deal – has seen the cap grow from $120M in 2011 to $155M this year. Players’ practice time and the wear and tear on their bodies has been reduced thanks to the new limits on contact enacted. Benefits are better. Retired players are getting better care. Players have more off-field marketing opportunities with companies that want to affix themselves to the most popular sport in the United States.

As bad as the headlines have been for Goodell, in five years (or probably fewer since negotiations on a new CBA will begin in 2020) who will remember the disaster that’s been Deflategate? How inspired will players be to miss games and paychecks for the satisfaction of knowing Goodell can’t be his own arbitrator anymore?

To sum it up, Goodell’s dark disciplinary reign may well continue unabated for a few more seasons. But as long as the league rains money on its players through the end of this decade, the clock isn’t ticking on Goodell and the owners in the form of labor strife.

Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

curranslant523_1280x720_691350595684.jpg

Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the Dan Patrick Show -- hosted by Ross Tucker on Monday -- to discuss the petition that was eventually filed to the Second Circuit requesting a rehearing for Tom Brady's case. 

During the discussion, Smith insisted that Brady made a settlement offer long ago that might've resolved things. But because the NFL wanted more, a deal was never struck. Now here we are, almost 500 days since the AFC Championship Game in January of 2015, and Deflategate is still a living, breathing thing. 

"Tom's a standup guy," Smith said. "And I think he made a settlement offer to resolve this. The league chose not to take it, and that's where we are . . . I don't want to go into details, but it was an incredibly generous offer to resolve this. The league asked for something that no man should agree to do."

Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran explained on Monday's episode of Quick Slants that Brady was willing to accept a one-game suspension for a lack of cooperation at the outset of the investigation. But the league was looking for a face to take the blame, Curran explained. 

Both Jim McNally and John Jastremski were willing to take the heat off of Brady, but Brady insisted that he would not throw anyone else under the bus because he believed that there was no wrongdoing on his part or anyone else's when it came to the preparation of game footballs. 

With no one offered up to shoulder the blame, the NFL declined to agree to any proposal from Brady's camp. At that point, it would have been almost impossible to predict that this case would one day be only a step or two from getting the US Supreme Court involved. 

Yet here we are.