Felger: Happy new year

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Felger: Happy new year

By Michael Felger

A few thoughts for you coming out of the weekend, led, of course, by the events last night in Pittsburgh.

It will be interesting to see what asterisk gets applied to the Patriots' 39-26 wipeout against the Steelers. I only say that because it seems that every one of their big wins recently has come with one. You know: Brad Childress blew it. Or the Chargers put the ball on the ground. Or the Ravens aren't as good as everyone thought.

Obviously, most of those asterisks were handed out by the crowd that simply refuses to believe the Patriots can be a better team without Randy Moss. I'm sure these folks will be coming up with something after Sunday night. (Roethlisberger sucks? Steelers injuries? Fluke performance?)

For the rest of us, the facts are becoming abundantly clear. The Patriots are no frauds. Pick apart their 7-2 record as much as you like, but Sunday showed us what they are capable of. It turns out last Sunday's debacle in Cleveland was an aberration, not a harbinger. It turns out they can play defense. It turns out there's more than enough room on a football field for Tom Brady to throw the ball without Moss performing that overhyped, overrated and grotesquely cliched task: stretching a defense.

Beyond all that, Sunday showed us that the Patriots have the character and resilience that championship-caliber teams must have. It turns out they can respond to adversity. It turns out they can take coaching and handle a star quarterback getting in their face (how do you think Moss would have responded to Brady's second-quarter rant?).

Certainly, there will be some weeks ahead when the Pats struggle. They aren't running the table. The doubters will have some material to work with, no question about it. Who knows, maybe the Pats hit the skids again this Sunday against nemesis Peyton Manning.

But here's what I took from Sunday: When the bleep hits the fan, unlike last year's fragile, pouty bunch (captained by Moss), this year's squad won't use it as an excuse to get worse.

In the end this Patriots team might not be talented enough. But they'll be in it all the way. And when the season is over, win or lose, at least we'll recognize them.

Are we once again seeing proof that David Krejci is the Bruins' most valuable forward? I don't know why anyone would need more evidence after what happened in the playoffs last season, but we're seeing it just the same.

The B's offense has stagnated badly of late, registering just one goal over the past two games, both coming at home and both coming against division rivals. They've played three games total since Krejci went down with a concussion, and the more they play the more apparent it is that their five-goal, third-period explosion in Pittsburgh was a fluke. Take out that stanza, and the Bruins have gone from two goals (vs. the Pens), to one (vs. Montreal) to zero (vs. Ottawa).

In a related story, the B's top line, with Patrice Bergeron filling Krejci's spot between Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic, has also cooled (no goals the last two games).

In case you haven't noticed, the B's are also having salary cap problems, which is why every contract matters and every dollar needs to be scrutinized. Bergeron is obviously a popular player with Bruins fans. But someone still needs to explain why it was necessary to give him a three-year extension with an annual salary cap charge of 5 million per season eight months before they had to. Krejci, meanwhile, carries an annual cap charge of 3.75 million.

There's another subplot at play with the Bruins, and that's their ability to perform at home. After an atrocious season at the Garden last year, the Bruins have gotten out to a 2-4-1 start on Causeway Street this season. What are these guys doing (or not doing) to prepare to play when they're at home? Is there a common denominator off the ice?

In the meantime, the B's await the return of their most indispensable (and cost-effective) forward.

We got another glimpse into the character of LeBron James this weekend. Fresh off throwing coach Eric Spoelstra under the bus for his deployment of minutes in the Heat's loss to the Celtics on Thursday, LeBron explained away the situation by evoking the image of the ultimate role model.

"You kind of understand sometimes what Randy Moss was talking about when he said, 'I will not be answering any more questions,' because every time I say something it gets turned out of character," said James.

Leave it to James. While the rest of the world was either laughing at Moss or scorning him, the King was actually taking his words to heart. Sort of makes sense, doesn't it?

Felger's report card posts Tuesday. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Brady legal team adds former Solicitor General Olson

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Brady legal team adds former Solicitor General Olson

Tom Brady’s legal team has added another heavy hitter with Supreme Court experience and has filed a motion for more time to mull another appeal.

Former US Solicitor General Ted Olson, who has argued more than 60 cases before the Supreme Court, has been added as counsel in the wake of the Patriots quarterback’s Deflategate suspension being reinstated. 

Sports Illustrated legal analyst and University of New Hampshire law professor Michael McCann calls the move the "clearest sign yet they will exhaust their appeals rather than give up."

In addition to filing a notice Friday that added Olson, the NFLPA, on behalf of Brady, requested an extension of the window to appeal the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that reinstated the four-game suspension imposed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The window is normally 14 days and this motion requests and additional two-week extension. 

From the court filing:

”The Court's opinion will affect the rights of every player in the NFL. Accordingly, the NFLPA and its members would benefit from additional time to analyze the implications of the decision for labor-management relations between the NFL and the NFLPA."

Olson, 75, was assistant attorney general from 1981-84 and Solicitor General under President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He has won 75 percent of his Supreme Court cases, which include two Bush v. Gore cases.
 

Patriots could take a chance on free-falling UCLA LB Myles Jack

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Patriots could take a chance on free-falling UCLA LB Myles Jack

Myles Jack would have been better off with a gas mask than the truth. The UCLA linebacker that figured to be a top-five pick parachuted out of the first round entirely after acknowledging he’ll need microfracture surgery. 

“[The degenerative problems are] there, but it’s nothing extreme,” Jack said. “Down the line, possibly I could have microfracture surgery — potentially. Who knows what will happen? Nobody knows how long anybody is going to play in this league. To play three years in this league would be above average.”

And over the falls Jack went. This is not conjecture. Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said that if it weren’t for Jack offering his take on his medical future, he wouldn’t have fallen. 

Asked if he was surprised Jack fell, Gettleman said, “Not after what he said today, very frankly. The kid came out and said he is going to need a microfracture.” 

Laremy Tunsil, he of the aforementioned gas mask, only slipped to 13. Though we’ve heard many times, you can’t fix stupid, NFL teams were willing to take a risk on a kid like Tunsil who is healthy physically but moronic enough to allow someone to fix a camera on him while he smokes weed.

But not Jack. What’s pertinent on Friday as the second and third rounds draw closer is how far will Jack drop and whether the Patriots would be willing to make a move to go up and get him.

It’s spitballing we’ve been doing with Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith all week as well. 

Indications I’ve gotten are that the Patriots would indeed be willing to take the risk with Jack but that there’s much more concern about Smith, who’s got nerve damage in the wake of his January knee blowout.

With the Patriots holding four picks on Friday, the opportunity is there for the team to roll the dice a bit. They’ll want to get one surefire contributor who figures to be a safe pick. But with the roster as well-stocked as it is, rolling the dice on first-round talent that’s slipped down the board could also be in play.

To get Jack, the Patriots may have to move up into the 30s. Conjecture has been that he won’t last long once Round 2 begins.
 
Amazing the Pandora’s Box opened by going to Vegas, leaning on integrity of the game.

 

Goodell: 'Of course' he'd pick up the phone for Brady settlement talks

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Goodell: 'Of course' he'd pick up the phone for Brady settlement talks

While a settlement between the NFL and Tom Brady seems unlikely -- OK, highly unlikely -- commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN Radio on Friday that he would "of course" pick up the phone if the Patriots or their quarterback called to discuss an agreement. 

Still, Goodell didn't say whether or not he would be open to knocking down Brady's four-game suspension that was reinstated by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from earlier this week. 

"We had a lot of discussions last summer," Goodell said. "There were a lot of offers back and forth about what to do to settle the issue. They chose to pursue the issue and we chose to move forward and we are where we are."

There continue to be voices speaking out on how Goodell may wield too much power when it comes to player discipline, the latest of which being that of Saints quarterback Drew Brees. But Goodell defended his role, as he has most of this week, citing the importance of the "integrity of the game."

"I am not going to hand off the integrity of the NFL to somebody who does not understand our business," Goodell said. "That is what we're going to maintain when it comes to the integrity of the game. Maybe something as it relates to the drug program and whether proper protocol is followed? I get it. Go ahead. Somebody else can make that decision. But when it comes to integrity of the game, that is the commissioner's responsibilities and has been since the day the NFL was formed."