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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Fri Nov 27 - 12:00 AM | Sun Nov 29 - 10:40 AM

View from Above: The truth behind a deflating reality - Pats have few choices

If you're one of those who feels the Patriots should do whatever they can to improve an impaired draft standing this year, you may want to reconsider that thought.

Thanks to the on-going idiocy of the entire "Deflategate" farce, the NFL continues to punish the Patriots for every day that goes by without a final resolution.  This week in New York, possibly without Tom Brady or Roger Goodell present in court, the league will begin arguing why they believe TB12 should still be suspended for whatever role he may have played, science-and-logic-be-damned.

No matter this week's testimony - as both sides will present arguments and no less than three judges will ask questions - the general legal consensus seems to be a final decision could be weeks, or even months away from being rendered.   It seems obvious a quick conclusion to this mess would be in everyone's best interest, right?

Well, except the NFL's.

Why?  Because the longer this stretches out, it keeps the Patriots from possibly making moves to potentially improve their standing for the 2016 NFL Draft - which, in case you've forgotten, has the Patriots standing on the sidelines without a first-round selection.  If the goal has been to continually "punish" the Patriots for whatever transgressions they may have committed over a deflated set of footballs - and it sure seems to be the case - why would the league care how long it takes to conclude this sad tale?

That's just it.  The NFL doesn't care.  And seeing as there are media outlets now suggesting Jimmy Garoppolo could be dangled as trade-bait for a chance to grab a higher draft pick than where the Patriots currently stand in the 2nd round (at #60 overall), I'm wondering why the team would even consider such a move at this stage.  

If there's no TB12 to start the season, you'd potentially be leaving the team in the hands of a true rookie QB, rather than giving Garoppolo his chance to show what he's learned.

I don't believe that's what we're looking for here.

Is the NFL holding New England's future "hostage" over something that should have been decided months ago?  Maybe.  We're all already painfully aware the league considers this entire escapade a matter of "integrity."   But once again, the NFL should turn a mirror onto itself, to see where true integrity really exists. Or doesn't.

It makes little-to-no sense to have this drag on any further.  Unless of course, someone has the NFL's "ear" and wants the league to drag this out, making certain to all but tie-up Patriot plans for moving forward as long as possible.  Goodell said in his "state of the league" address last month "This is not an individual player issue; this is about the rights that we negotiated in our collective bargaining agreement."

Commissioner-speak for "we got our butts beat on this, and I don't like it. Neither do my bosses, the owners.  We press on."

Using Garoppolo as a chit in a possible trade for a higher draft pick doesn't make much sense, or even cents, given the current climate.  NE should stand pat on this one.

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The Belichick tree is sprouting new limbs

It was hard not to see spring really has arrived, while watching the proceedings from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last week.

More specifically, it was easy to see the limbs growing from the Bill Belichick coaching tree - or rather, the Belichick Front Office tree.

Bob Quinn (Detroit), John Robinson (Tennessee) and Jason Licht (Tampa Bay) all held court at various times through the proceedings in Indiana, and paid some kind of tribute/respect to a person responsible for their current status in running their own teams.  Former Patriot director of college scouting Thomas Dimitroff (now Atlanta's GM) has also previously said as much.

Thanks, Bill Belichick.

While each learned his own skill set of abilities working in the Patriots' trenches, it is curious to note the apparent desire of other NFL teams to try and mimic what New England has accomplished for itself over the past decade-and-a-half.  

If you can't beat 'em, hire 'em?  

That, and having a pervading attitude of positivity over negativity seems to be catching on.   While some talent evaluators tend to tell you what a player can't do, the Patriots have for a while had a different tact.  "Tell me what the guy can do, don't tell me what he can't do, and we'll find a way to put that positive skill set in the defense and not ask him to be in a position where he can fail," Licht told reporters, as an example of what he learned in New England.

Robinson added, "New England is a unique place...it forces you to learn more than just 'this player can do this.'  It's 'he can do this and this is how he's going to fit into our football team here.'" 

Other teams seem to be catching on to at least a part of what could be called "the Patriot Way."  But will it work for them?  The seeds toward realizing that potential have been planted in a few other places around the NFL, at the very least.

Thoughts on the Skin Show

I'll be the first to admit, I'm not a fan of watching a bunch of big guys running around in tights.

But strangely enough, watching the proceedings from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last week was somewhat mesmerizing.  There wasn't anything in particular to get terribly excited about, no one player turned himself into the "gotta have guy" for 2016.  There were some good performances, and even a few funny ones.

But the curiosity factor is always high among football die-hards during the week, and I suppose that got the best of me, too.  Defensive line prospects seemed to fare pretty well, and while that might not be an immediate need for the Patriots, watching some of the big guys maneuver their way through some of the testing was intriguing.  

Perspective is important, however.  While some may see the "Underwear Olympics" as a big deal, the opposite is really closer to the truth.  Timing, measuring, poking, prodding and interviewing is only a small part of what goes into an evaluation of a players' NFL-worthiness.  As we've mentioned here previously, when you can include more football-centric drills into the Combine mix, you may come closer to gathering the information needed to really evaluate a player.

Until such a time, "Men in Tights" will remain an oddity.  It will help obscure, lesser-known players in comparison to athletes from bigger schools, sure.  A certain time or a measurement might serve as a tie-breaker over another player or draft selection.  And there are also a player's Pro Days, which everyone worth drafting seems to hold as well.  

But if scouts are really doing their jobs, they should already know these things - which pretty much renders the Combine moot.  This is the NFL, however, and the league does have a 24-hour network to program with plenty of fans clamoring for football - any football - once the off-season arrives.  

As such, the NFL Combine will continue to operate as the league equivalent of a Victoria's Secret Fashion Show - it will attract eyeballs, and show lots of skin, sure...but offer very little substance.  And do you care?

John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster, and just completed his 23rd year as the Patriots' stadium voice.  Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for 27 seasons and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame.

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