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NFL notebook: League investigating Patriots ‘expeditiously’




The NFL issued a statement Friday on the so-called Deflategate, stating the investigation is ongoing and the league will “fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay.”

The NFL investigation is being led by league vice president Jeff Pash and outside attorney Ted Wells, who led the investigation into the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal in 2013.

After the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl with a 45-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday night, reports surfaced that the Patriots purposely deflated footballs.

The investigation reportedly has found 11 of New England’s 12 allotted game balls were underinflated.

The NFL said it began the investigation Sunday night and had conducted nearly 40 interviews and are “continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence.”

The NFL said, “The playing rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games. We take seriously claims that those rules have been violated and will fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay. The investigation is ongoing, will be thorough and objective, and is being pursued expeditiously.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft also released a statement Friday, saying he received a notice of the investigation on Monday and “instructed our staff to be completely cooperative and transparent with the league’s investigators. During the three days they were here, we provided access to every full- and part-time employee the league’s representatives requested to speak with and produced every communication device that they requested to search.”

“Competitive balance and the integrity of the game are the foundation of what makes our league so special and I have the utmost respect for those principles,” Kraft said. “Our organization will continue to cooperate throughout the league’s investigation.”

—Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who caught the winning touchdown pass in overtime in Seattle’s 28-22 win over the Green Bay Packers, became the fourth Seahawk to be fined out of that NFC Championship Game.

The league penalized him the standard $5,512 for throwing the football into the stands after the score.

From the AFC title game, New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was fined $8,268 for a late hit in his team’s 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

The NFL previously this week fined Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, wide receiver Chris Matthews and guard J.R. Sweezy, as well as Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews.

—Seattle safety Earl Thomas was a limited participant in practice Friday and listed as questionable for the Super Bowl, although he is fully expected to play on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.

Thomas suffered a dislocated shoulder in the NFC title game against the Packers and had sat out the first two practices of the week. But coach Pete Carroll said Thomas is ready to play.

Cornerback Richard Sherman, who suffered a sprained elbow, practiced all week and was among six Seahawks listed as probable Friday.

For the Patriots, six players were listed as questionable: former Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner (knee), linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), defensive tackle Chris Jones (elbow), wide receiver Brandon LaFell (shoulder/toe), Sealver Siliga (foot), center Bryan Stork (knee).

Stork missed the AFC title game but is expected to play in the Super Bowl.

—The Indianapolis Colts suspended running back Trent Richardson for two games for “personal reasons,” general manager Ryan Grigson revealed.

After being inactive for the Colts’ divisional win against the Denver Broncos, Richardson said “that situation will never happen to me again.” He then missed the Colts’ walkthrough before the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots because of what he called “a very serious family emergency.”

He missed that game due to what the Colts called “personal reasons,” but on Friday Grigson told reporters that Richardson had in fact been suspended for two games. Grigson did not elaborate on the reason or say whether Richardson would sit out the second game next season or even be on the team.

—Coach Todd Bowles now has all of his top assistants in place as the New York Jets announced the hiring of Kacy Rodgers as defensive coordinator and Bobby April as special teams coordinator.

Rodgers and April join Chan Gailey, who was hired earlier in the week to be Bowles’ offensive coordinator.

Rodgers, 45, coached defensive line for the Miami Dolphins from 2008 through 2014 and worked with Bowles in Miami for the first four seasons under Tony Sparano.

April, 61, has been coaching in the NFL for 23 years. The Jets will be his eighth team.

—The Oakland Raiders hired former Buffalo Bills quarterbacks coach Todd Downing to the same position.

The Raiders also announced three other assistant hires to new coach Jack Del Rio’s staff: Mike Tice, former coach of the Minnesota Vikings, as offensive line coach; Marcus Robertson, defensive backs; and Sal Sunseri, linebackers.

—The Denver Broncos hired Bill Kollar to be their defensive line coach, reuniting Kollar with coach Gary Kubiak.

Kollar, a 26-year NFL coaching veteran, spent the last six seasons with the Houston Texans, where he worked with Kubiak for much of that time.

Kollar, 62, started his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1984 and also has coached defensive lines in Atlanta (1990-2000), St. Louis (2001-05) and Buffalo (2007-08).

—The Houston Texans continued to adjust their front office, promoting Jon Carr to director of college scouting and hiring Matt Jansen to the new position of coordinator of college scouting.

Carr replaces Mike Maccagnan, who left to become the New York Jets’ general manager earlier this month.

Carr has been a scout with the Texans since 2007. Jansen has interned in the personnel departments of the Texans and Baltimore Ravens.

—The Baltimore Ravens announced that they intend to terminate the contract of defensive tackle Terrence Cody after the Super Bowl — even though Cody will be an unrestricted free agent in March anyway — and the player’s agent is blaming the NFL for creating “an atmosphere of hysteria.”

The Ravens did not say whether the decision had anything to do with Cody being investigated for animal cruelty by Baltimore County police, but Cody’s agent, Peter Schaffer, reportedly thinks so.

Schaffer told The Baltimore Sun that Cody is very upset over the death of his $8,000 Spanish bull mastiff, who died after Cody had taken it to a veterinarian for treatment. The agent also said the police investigation was frivolous.

“The fact that the NFL has created such an atmosphere of hysteria that tramples on due process rights, the right of law and common decency is a tremendous problem in our league and our society,” Schaffer told the Sun. “This young man’s dog has died and the Ravens were so worried about possible ramifications from the league that they took a preemptive strike. If I find out that anyone holds anything against my client because of this, I will take every and all legal action to make sure my client’s rights are vindicated.”

—The NFLPA filed a grievance against the NFL over the new personal conduct policy.

Owners unanimously approved the policy changes last month. Because the policy was not collectively bargained, the players’ union requested its grievance be heard immediately.

“The league’s revised conduct policy was the product of a tremendous amount of analysis and work and is based on input from a broad and diverse group of experts within and outside of football, including current players, former players and the NFL Players Association,” the league said in a statement. “We and the public firmly believe that all NFL personnel should be held accountable to a stronger, more effective conduct policy. Clearly, the union does not share that belief.”

In December, the NFLPA said, “Our union has not been offered the professional courtesy of seeing the NFL’s new personal conduct policy before it hit the presses. Their unilateral decision and conduct today is the only thing that has been consistent over the past few months.”

—The Dallas Cowboys are expected to restructure quarterback Tony Romo’s contract this offseason in an effort to create more salary cap space, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Romo signed a six-year, $108 million contract two years ago, with $55 million guaranteed. The Cowboys hope to restructure his deal for a second consecutive year, converting most of his $17 million base salary into a bonus to prorate the cap hit over the remaining years.

Romo’s cap number for 2015 is $27.7 million. Last year, the Cowboys created about $10 million in cap space by restructuring his contract.

—After new Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo expressed some skepticism about the team’s current quarterbacks, owner Jimmy Haslam was non-committal about 2014 first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel.

“We’ve got to get a quarterback and got to get it fixed,” Haslam during the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards on Thursday night. “What I would say to our fans is: We’re going to continue to work really hard to find that quarterback who can make us a championship team.”

DeFilippo, who replaced Kyle Shanahan after spending the past three seasons as the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders, said Thursday that Manziel doesn’t have the inside track to the starting job next season.

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