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Jonathan Kraft on Kirk & Callahan: I have no respect for the way Deflategate was handled

02.03.17 at 9:06 am ET
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Patriots president Jonathan Kraft says he supports Roger Goodell as commissioner of the NFL, but it’s apparent he’s still bitter over the way Deflategate unfolded.

In an interview with Kirk & Callahan Friday, Kraft lambasted the way the league conducted the investigation.

“I and our organization have been pretty clear that the whole air pressure situation –– from the night of the AFC championship game through when it finally ended with the appeals court –– it wasn’t well-handled and was poorly executed and was a waste of time, energy and resources,” he said. “I don’t have respect for the way that process was handled.”

Though the Krafts have been vocal about their unhappiness with Deflategate –– Robert Kraft said recently he thinks Goodell received “bad advice” –– some fans have been critical about their seeming cordial relationship with the commissioner. When the Patriots played the Giants at MetLife Stadium last season, for example, Kraft was spotted hugging Goodell on the sidelines. He told K&C the embrace was about a personal matter.

“That weekend was right after the Paris Bombings and we had been talking about –– it becomes a personal story. That wasn’t a salutation. That had to do with something different. I’ll leave it at that,” he said.

Two of the unanswered questions about the Deflategate saga are the statuses of Jim McNally and John Jastremski, the two low-level Patriots employees who were implicated in the scandal. Kraft wouldn’t confirm or deny their employment with the team. Instead, he said he regrets they got dragged into it.

“As I described, people who didn’t want to be in the spotlight were put in the spotlight,” he said. “People that weren’t looking to be in the spotlight, looking to have themselves made public in lots of ways. That was one of the many bad parts of what I believe was a waste of energy, time and resources.”

Though the Patriots made McNally and Jastremski available at the onset of the Deflategate investigation, they didn’t allow the NFL to conduct multiple followup interviews with them. Kraft defended that decision, saying the team viewed it as unnecessary.

“We cooperated with them that first week,” he said. “We made witnesses available to them, we made electronic devices available to them. I think we cooperated. Did we not make people available a fifth time after we got a letter asking to talk to those people? Yeah, because we were sick of the time-drain on our organization.”

Outside of Deflategate, the other big topic surrounding the Patriots this week has been their relationship with Donald Trump. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Krafts are all friends with the President, with the Krafts even attending his inauguration two weeks ago. Kraft told K&C he feels indebted to Trump for his friendship over the years.

“He was personally critically [helpful] to my father’s recovery after my mother [passed away]. I’ll be forever grateful for that,” he said. “He’s been a close personal friend for a long time prior. Being loyal in life, I think, is a very important character trait. That’s something that’s important to our family and me personally.”

TO LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE JONATHAN KRAFT INTERVIEW, CLICK HERE

Read More: Deflategate, Donald Trump, jonathan kraft, New England Patriots

Friday’s Morning Mashup: Mike Ditka goes off on reporters for asking Tom Brady about Donald Trump; Johnny Manziel’s first autograph appearance is a success

02.03.17 at 9:04 am ET
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Good morning, here is your Friday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: LA Lakers at Boston, 8 p.m. (CSN, ESPN)
NBA: Dallas at Portland, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
NHL: NY Islanders at Detroit, 7:30 p.m. (NHL Network)
College basketball: Western Michigan at Central Michigan, 6:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Iona at Rider, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: URI at Davidson, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Buffalo at Ball State, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Women’s college basketball: Creighton at Villanova, 7 p.m. (FS2)

AROUND THE WEB:

— During an appearance on a New York radio station on Thursday, Mike Ditka went on a rant against journalists asking Tom Brady about his relationship with Donald Trump.

“These people are — can I say this? — (expletive). Now, when you don’t have a choice anymore in our country — when people disagree with my choice, fine. That’s what made America great. There’s gonna be disagreements,” Ditka said on the Bernie and Sid Show. “I like Donald Trump. I think he’s the best man, the best qualified person. I think he’ll do a great job for Americans. There’s a lot of people out there who don’t think that. But we’ll have to wait and see. Let him do his job first. If he can possibly screw it up nearly half as much as Obama, I’ll be surprised.”

Ditka is a vocal Trump supporter and also said he would have kicked Colin Kaepernick off his team for kneeling during the national anthem.

“Kaepernick would be an unknown — a complete unknown. He’d be a complete nobody,” Ditka said. “Nobody would know who he was without the game of football, without the sport he’s playing. Not to respect that, you have to be a pretty unintelligent person, I would think.”

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Read More: Johnny Manziel, Mike Ditka,

Top 5 WEEI Radio Row interviews from Super Bowl

02.02.17 at 10:38 pm ET
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The WEEI shows were full of guests this week on Radio Row in Houston in the lead-up to the Super Bowl.

Here are five of the best interviews you should listen to:

1. Chris “Mad Dog” Russo

Mad Dog joined Kirk and Callahan on Tuesday and, as usual, was fired up and full of opinions. He thinks Goodell should’ve made an appearance at Gillette this season, has no problem with Brady not talking about Trump, and thinks Belichick is “one hell of a coach.” He still hasn’t read the Wells Report .

2. David Portnoy

Portnoy was cranky because Chris Curtis lied to him about being able to get him press credentials because Barstool’s were revoked by the NFL. So Portnoy talked to Kirk and Gerry from a couch in the lobby of the Marriott down the street. Portnoy said the NFL issued a statement about Barstool being banned and then just a few hours later Goodell lied during his press conference and acted like he’s never even heard of Barstool. Portnoy also explained his Goodell/Hitler comparison and has no proof Goodell does not love ISIS.

3. Bill Belichick

The Coach was in a good mood when he joined Dale, Holley and Keefe on Monday. He referenced Mona Lisa Vito again and called media day a “circus without the trapeze and the dancing elephants.”

4. Mike Westhoff

The former Jets special teams coach joined Ordway, Merloni and Fauria and talked about everthing from Deflategate to Eric Mangini and Spygate. He also thinks this Super Bowl is a matchup between the two most “divaless” teams in the league.

5. Ryen Russillo

Russillo was pretty mellow but he finally dished on what really happened with Dino after he left Russillo the infamous voicemail.

Bonus: Chris Simms

Son of Phil Simms, Bleacher Report NFL Analyst, former coaching assistant for the Patriots, humble guy.

“I’m probably the most qualified person on Earth to talk about quarterback play,” he said. He thinks Brady is guilty in Deflategate because of Murphy’s Law (?) and said, “I’m going to toot my own horn here,” then name-dropped his way through his life story and resume.

Thanks to Deflategate, Roger Goodell gets to ignore NFL’s concussion crisis at Super Bowl

02.02.17 at 8:11 pm ET
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At his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference Wednesday, Roger Goodell was asked five questions about Deflategate, a scandal about footballs that lost air pressure in cold weather. He didn’t receive any queries about the NFL’s concussion crisis, which kills more ex-players each year.

That’s a win for the commissioner.

Roger Goodell wasn't one question about concussions Wednesday.

Roger Goodell wasn’t asked one question about concussions Wednesday. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Deflategate wasn’t spawned to distract from the issue of brain trauma, but it’s an unintended result of the interminable saga. The more time that’s spent talking about Tom Brady’s deflated footballs, the less time there is to delve into the recent tragic death of former Patriots running back Kevin Turner. CTE withered Turner’s body away to nothing, much like ALS would.

The NFL’s decades-long negligence towards treating head injuries came to the forefront three years ago, when PBS released its Frontline documentary, League of Denial. The film chronicles the work of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the first neurosurgeon who discovered CTE in an NFL player, former Steelers lineman Mike Webster.

As part of its effort to obfuscate concussion research, the NFL pressured Omalu to not go public with his findings. Last year, the New York Times compared the NFL’s attempts to downplay head injuries to that of the tobacco industry. An investigation found the two businesses shared lobbyists, lawyers and consultants.

These days, there’s no downplaying the link between football and brain trauma. Of the 96 deceased former NFL players whose brains have been tested at Boston University, 92 of them had confirmed cases of CTE. But that doesn’t mean Goodell hasn’t tried.

During his pre-Super Bowl presser last year, Goodell said there’s no more risk in playing football than sitting on the couch. The tone-deaf comment came just two days after Hall of Fame quarterback Ken Stabler was posthumously diagnosed with CTE.

Statements like those make it difficult to take the NFL seriously when it comes to combating brain trauma. Yes, the league deserves credit for donating $100 million to concussion research last fall. But given its checkered history, the NFL must always be looked at with suspicion. That’s why the recent report about concussions being down 11.3 percent this season shouldn’t be taken at face value. It’s doubtful that every concussion is being reported. Just three weeks ago, the Dolphins violated protocol when they didn’t remove Matt Moore from their playoff game against the Steelers after he had suffered a vicious hit to the head. It’s likely those kinds of incidents happen on a weekly basis. But unless it’s a quarterback or another skill position player, few viewers notice.

It’s debatable how much football fans care about the concussion epidemic. Participation in youth football is down 14 percent from its high in 2009, but up until this year, NFL ratings continued to soar. And though viewership decreased in 2016, the presidential race and a lack of quality games were probably the main reasons why. Ratings rebounded after the election was over.

The lack of interest in the film Concussion, which flopped at the box office, indicates there’s apathy surrounding the issue of brain trauma and football. Deflategate, meanwhile, unfolded like a celebrity trail. Tom Brady, the most famous football player in the world who plays for the most hated team, was accused of cheating. From a sexiness standpoint, the two stories don’t compare.

That’s why Goodell is still answering Deflategate questions. And he probably doesn’t mind, either. He won in the courts and reaffirmed his unilateral disciplinary power. It likely would’ve made him much more uncomfortable if Boston sportswriters fired off questions about Turner. There’s no dispute about the facts there: Turner died because he played football. Goodell can’t hide behind a court ruling.

The drama of Deflategate adds intrigue to Super Bowl week. Talking about dead football players would ruin the party.

Read More: Concussions, Deflategate, Roger Goodell,

New Jersey sports columnist thinks Patriots fans should get over Deflategate

02.02.17 at 12:30 pm ET
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A throng of Boston reporters peppered Roger Goodell with questions about Deflategate at his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference Wednesday. One New Jersey sports columnist wasn’t amused.

In a piece for NJ.com, Steve Politi chastises Boston media members for their fixation on Deflategate. He says it’s time to move on.

“So what is it going to take, Boston? If Roger Goodell agrees not only to visit Foxboro next season, but sit in a dunking booth at the 50-yard line for a couple hours before the season opener, would that do it?,” he writes.

In an ironic twist, Deflategate may actually wind up benefitting the Patriots. It didn’t impede them this season, considering they went 3-1 during Tom Brady’s absence and are back in the Super Bowl. And given how well Jimmy Garoppolo played when he was filling in for Brady, the Patriots could trade him for a bounty of draft picks this offseason. A big haul for Garoppolo would likely replace the first-round pick they lost last year –– and then some.

All of this success, Polito says, should be enough to satisfy Patriots fans.

“I think I’m beginning to understand why a man sitting in the White House but still worried about the crowd size at his inauguration is a loyal Patriots fan,” he writes. “The people who follow this team want to have their cake and eat it too and smash it the smug face of you-know-who.”

From a legal standpoint, Deflategate is a settled matter. But outside of anecdotal evidence such as text messages between low-level Patriots employees, there’s still nothing that proves Brady conspired to illegally deflate footballs. In fact, the scientific community says the balls naturally lost air pressure.

Maybe the greatest quarterback in league history was suspended four games for something he almost certainly didn’t do it. Goodell, the man who smeared Brady’s reputation throughout the nearly 18-month scandal, will be in the building when he plays in the Super Bowl Sunday. The following day, he might even have to hand Brady the Super Bowl MVP trophy. If Polito can’t see the allure of that story, and why sports writers would ask about it, perhaps he should find a different line of work.

Also, Goodell’s two-year absence from Foxboro has only perpetuated the saga. Two of the five Deflategate-related questions he received Wednesday were about that very topic. Until Goodell returns to Gillette Stadium, the final chapter of this interminable story will still be unwritten.

Read More: Deflategate,

Ryen Russillo on Kirk & Callahan: John Dennis got me fired

02.02.17 at 10:50 am ET
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Nearly 12 years ago, former WEEI host John Dennis left ESPN’s Ryen Russillo a profanity laced voicemail. In it, Dennis threatens to rip Russillo’s ears and nose off for allegedly flirting with his daughter. On Kirk & Callahan Thursday, Russillo explained the dust-up.

“We talked once. It wasn’t super friendly,” Russillo said in an interview from radio row. “He called me once to threaten me again about not talking about what he had said to me, which I thought was interesting. Then I ran into him and told him how I feel.”

The two reportedly almost came to blows at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, according to accounts from The Big Lead and Deadspin. Both men tweeted about the incident afterwards, which Russillo says he regrets.

“It was a mistake on my part to tweet about it, and my place let me know,” he said.

Prior to joining ESPN full-time in 2009, Russillo was a local radio personality in Boston, hosting shows on 1510 The Zone. He also did pre- and post-game Patriots coverage on WBCN, but says Dennis got him fired from the gig.

“The only thing that really bothered me the most about it was how many people lied about it,” he said. “I lost my job with the Patriots on the pre- and post. He went to the Krafts and got me fired.

“I was sitting outside my apartment. I was 29, I think I was making like $30,000 a year at the Zone. I was going to make $5,000 at BCN for the entire season doing pre-, half and post. And I needed that $5,000 grand, man. I was a broke kid.”

Russillo has rebounded since then. He’s a fixture on ESPN Radio, hosting alongside former college football standout Danny Kanell on weekday afternoons. Recently, he made headlines when he spoke out against the politicization of sports talk radio. On K&C, Russillo explained why he stays away from those topics, including Tom Brady’s relationship with President Donald Trump.

“I don’t know why sports talk radio has become –– at least in the last year-plus –– social awareness,” he said. “I’m surprised that people look at it that way and say, ‘[Brady] needs to answer for it.’ Answer for what? You know he probably voted for him. So why does it have to be confirmed? I think everybody has been so upset about the hat in a locker. I just don’t get it. I just can’t do that segment.”

Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Pat McAfee retires from NFL to join Barstool Sports; Patriots get ’19-0,’ ‘Perfect Season’ trademarks

02.02.17 at 8:42 am ET
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Good morning, here is your Thursday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

THURSDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: Atlanta at Houston, 8 p.m. (TNT)
NBA: Golden State at LA Clippers, 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
NHL: NY Rangers at Buffalo, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Women’s college basketball: Indiana at Michigan State, 6 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Women’s college basketball: Maryland at Purdue, 8 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
College basketball: Bryant at Mount St. Mary’s, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Memphis at South Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPNews)
College basketball: Michigan State at Nebraska, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Missouri at Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Eastern Illinois at Tennessee State, 8 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Arizona at Oregon State, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Belmont at Murray State, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: UAB at UTEP, 10 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Arizona State at Oregon, 11 p.m. (FS1)
College basketball: Gonzaga at BYU, 11 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Saint Mary’s at Pacific, 11 p.m. (ESPNU)

AROUND THE WEB:

— Colts punter Pat McAfee has decided to retire from the NFL after eight seasons to join Barstool Sports.

On Wednesday night, the 29 year-old announced his retirement on Barstool Rundown on Comedy Central before posting his statement on Twitter.

By retiring, McAfee is walking away from the $2.75 million he was set to receive from the Colts this year.

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Read More: New England Patriots, Pat McAfee,

Roger Goodell used a kid reporter as a human shield at embarrassing Super Bowl press conference

02.01.17 at 5:29 pm ET
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Roger Goodell used a kid reporter as a human shield at his annual Super Bowl press conference Wednesday. That’s how well the afternoon went for him.

It didn’t take long for the commissioner to start reeling. The third question he received came from the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin, who asked him if he regrets the way Deflategate was handled.

“No,” Goodell said. “We had a violation. We went through a process. We applied the discipline in accordance with our process. It was litigated, as you know, expansively, and validated by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.”

A couple of minutes later, the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy followed up with a question about Goodell’s two-year absence from Gillette Stadium. The commissioner seemed annoyed, but still managed to answer calmly.

“I would tell you that it’s not awkward at all for me. We have a job to do,” he said. “We do our job. As I said, there was a violation. We applied a process and discipline and we came to the conclusion that was supported by the facts and by the courts.

Then Comcast SportsNet’s Tom E. Curran came with a fact-check. The appeals court, contrary to Goodell’s previous statements, didn’t uphold the NFL’s investigation. Instead, it confirmed his unilateral disciplinary power in the CBA.

Now Goodell appeared to be ticked.

“Tom, if you look at the Second Circuit Court, the decision they said is there were compelling, yet overwhelming facts here. That’s the point I just made,” he said.

Following an exchange about whether Goodell thinks there’s been an erosion of trust in the league –– shockingly, he doesn’t –– the commissioner tapped out. He called on the NFL’s “Play 60 Super Kid,” a seventh-grader named Sophie.

In comparison to previous years, Wednesday’s affair was understated. Goodell appeared lethargic, offering some dry remarks about the Super Bowl at the start of the press conference instead of his usual State of the League address. It was also moved up from its usual Friday afternoon time slot. Without a looming scandal, perhaps Goodell didn’t feel like there was any news he needed to bury.

Thanks to Donald Trump’s chaotic candidacy, and now presidency, the NFL is currently out of the spotlight. The league’s domestic violence crisis has faded to the background, despite Goodell’s disastrous handling of the Josh Brown situation earlier this season. Brown, who admitted to serially abusing his wife in journal entries, was only suspended one game following a domestic violence arrest. The former Giants kicker was placed on paid leave after his journal was publicized.

But since there was no video of Brown assaulting his wife, the story disappeared. Same with the concussion epidemic. Last week, the NFL claimed the number of reported concussions dropped by 11.3 percent in 2016. But there were no questions on that data, even though several teams appeared to violate concussion protocol this season. The most recent example came three weeks ago, when the Dolphins left quarterback Matt Moore in a game against the Steelers after he had suffered a brutal hit in their wild card matchup.

Painkiller abuse also wasn’t a topic, even though recently released emails between members of the Falcons brass from 2010 show they were concerned about players excessively taking opioids. Last summer, a federal judge green-lighted a lawsuit from more than 1,500 ex-players that says NFL coaches and employees recklessly pushed painkillers on them.

The only heat Goodell faced, outside of a couple of inquiries about the Chargers leaving San Diego, came from a throng of Boston reporters still obsessed with Deflategate. Towards the end of the proceedings, a reporter from WPRI Providence ask him if he had spoken to Tom Brady this season. Back on his toes, Goodell refused to comment, saying he doesn’t talk about private conversations with players. Shortly thereafter, the Boston Herald’s Tom Schattuck brought up the edited Patriots transcripts from Media Night, which omitted mentions of Donald Trump and Goodell. The commish pleaded ignorance, much like he did with the Barstool credentials ban.

“I am not aware of anything being deleted from transcripts or anything else,” he said. “I must tell you, that’s one thing I’m not responsible for around here is the transcription.”

Unfortunately for Goodell, Sophie couldn’t offer him another lifeline. Reporters are only granted one question.

Read More: Concussions, Deflategate, Falcons, patriots

Bill Belichick forces assistant coaches to smell his sweaty feet

02.01.17 at 12:28 pm ET
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Bill Belichick doesn't always dress to impress.  (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick doesn’t always dress to impress. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

Working under Bill Belichick doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Low-level assistants are banished to darkened film rooms, where they chart plays for hours on end. In order to make it, coaches must possess an insatiable love for football. And, apparently, the ability to withstand foul odors.

In an ESPN profile, Seth Wickersham examines why Belichick has recently traded in his iconic gray hoodies for business casual attire. After years of dressing like a hobo, Belichick now looks like a CEO. But there’s no word on if his locker room behavior has undergone a similar transformation. According to the piece, Belichick likes to beleaguer his assistants when players don’t appear to be prepared. In an apparent attempt to accentuate his point, he also sometimes removes his shoes:

“After they reconvened for film, Belichick would notice that, say, a receiver messed up a read.

“Why the f— doesn’t he know what to do? Didn’t anyone tell him?” he’d say.

“The coaches would be moderately horrified at what sometimes happened next: Belichick would remove his sneakers and put his feet on the table. The room was hot. His feet smelled. There was neither an end nor an escape in sight. There was essentially no daylight between the guy in those meetings and the guy we saw on the sideline — until lately.”

Unless Rex Ryan is on staff, that sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. Being associated with greatness carries a great price.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots,

Chris Simms on Kirk & Callahan: ‘I’m most qualified person in the world to talk about quarterbacks’

02.01.17 at 11:33 am ET
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Former NFL quarterback Chris Simms has been one of Tom Brady’s biggest antagonists in recent years. The Bleacher Report analyst once said he doesn’t think Brady is a top five quarterback and also believes Brady was guilty in Deflategate. In an interview with Kirk & Callahan Wednesday, he defended both claims.

Though Simms says he now thinks Brady is a top five QB, he still doesn’t rank him at the top of the position.

“That would be like me saying, ‘Brett Favre is the best quarterback in football” in 2009 and 2007, when Tom Brady was in the prime of his career. It’s just disrespectful to say that,” he said. “Right now, the best quarterback on the planet –– you guys know who it is –– it’s No. 12 up in Green Bay. That’s just the way it is.”

When Simms was pressed on his viewpoint, he cited his resume.

“I’m going to toot my own horn here,” he said. “The first quarterback I ever saw was Phil Simms; the first linebacker I ever met was Lawrence Taylor. I was around the game my whole life. I went to quarterback challenges and caught passes from Dan Marino and Brett Favre and John Elway and my dad. I was the No. 1 recruit in the nation. I worked under Jon Gruden for six years, I worked for Bill Belichick. I played for Jeff Fisher, I played under Josh McDaniels. So I’m just giving you my honest take. I don’t care about stats. If we’re going to talk about stats, then I want Phil Simms to be named ahead of Dan Marino for Super Bowl rings.”

In 2012, the Patriots hired Simms to be a quality control coach and scouting assistant. Since he only lasted one season in New England, Gerry Callahan and Kirk Minihane said they think he might harbor some ill-will towards the Patriots. But Simms says he enjoyed his time with the Patriots, and chose to quit so he could spend more time with his family.

“Listen, I had money in the bank and I had played in the NFL. I knew I didn’t have to grind it out to make my career work,” he said.

During the Deflategate saga, Simms was one of the Patriots’ most ardent critics. He says he still thinks the Patriots cheated, despite what the science says.

“The biggest thing is, if all of the balls were at 12.5 before the game and then ‘Murphy’s Law’ decides to take a little more out of some footballs and a little less air out of some footballs, I just don’t think that’s what happened,” he said. “There was a guy who went into a room. I think Tom Brady destroyed his cell phone and things like that all look very guilty. Plus, the way he talked in front of the podium.”

“Murphy’s Law,” presumably, is the Ideal Gas Law. Simms may not be a scientific expert, but at least he’s an expert on quarterback play –– at least according to him.

“I’m probably the most qualified person on earth to talk about quarterbacks,” he said. “It’s all I’ve ever been around, it’s all I’ve studied. I was the kid at five years old that knew everybody.”