Over the next week I will be posting a series on the five most important Patriots heading into training camp. First up is number five, rookie guard Tre Jackson.

 

As this writer highlighted previously (http://sportsofboston.com/2015/06/17/why-tre-jackson-could-be-patriots-most-important-rookie/), Tre Jackson has one of the most important opportunities heading in to camp. With the retirement of Dan Connolly, at least one guard spot is wide open and there could be another one open as well depending on how well Ryan Wendell performs in August.

Everyone saw how problematic it was for the Patriots last September when their offensive line failed to play well. If that happens again this season, even more damage could be done. The Patriots play one the NFL’s best defensive lines in week two (Bills) and will likely be in a high scoring game in week five against Dallas’ high flying offense. Although the Pittsburgh defense has declined over the past several years, they still have a formidable pass rush that will provide the Patriots with a week one test.

If Jackson can win a starting spot and play well, the Patriots will not have to worry about Tom Brady’s protection. If he cannot, there is a strong chance Brady will spend a lot more time on his back in 2015 than any season before. Another name to watch at the guard spot is Shaq Mason, but Jackson is ahead of him in development and already has a rapport with starting center Bryan Stork, as the two were teammates at Florida State. All in all, Jackson is a player who essential but under the radar to the Patriots offense in 2015.

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ABC News reported early Wednesday that Tom Brady and his players association representatives will fight in Federal Court any suspension that is given by Commissioner Roger Goodell when he hands down his appeal decision. In other words, Brady wants to be fully exonerated of any wrong doing or he will go to court.

Brady was originally suspended four games following the release of the Wells Report that stated it was “more probable than not” he knew of intentional ball deflation on the part of Patriots employees. He appealed the ruling and on June 23 was at the NFL offices for his appeal to be heard. Goodell has hinted that his verdict could come soon, and it is likely it would come before the last few days of July, when teams open training camp.

If Brady goes to court, he could file an injunction, which would allow him to play as the legal process plays out. If he is cleared, he would miss no time. If a court rules that he should serve his suspension, then he will begin serving upon the court’s ruling.

NFL players have had good fortune appealing discipline in Federal Court over the past 12 months, as both Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson had their suspensions overturned.

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The Patriots and kicker Stephen Gostkowski agreed to a four year contract extension on Wednesday afternoon. Gostkowski was the team’s franchise tag designee, and the deal came before the 4 pm deadline for franchise tag players to sign long term extensions.

The deal is worth $17.2 million total and will keep Gostkowski in New England through the 2018 season. He had originally been given the franchise tag in March.

Gostkowski was drafted out of Memphis in 2006 and has been the team’s kicker ever since, winning a Super Bowl this past season and playing in two others. He is regarded as one of the better kicker’s in the NFL and helped the team move on from Super Bowl hero Adam Vinatieri. He led the NFL in scoring in 2014 with 156 points. He was 35 of 37 on field goal attempts in the regular season and also registered 53 touchbacks on  kickoffs.

The deal was first reported by Chris Gasper of the Boston Globe.

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Roger Goodell was spending time at a conference in Sun Valley when he told a CNBC reporter that a ruling on Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady’s appeal could come as early as next week.

Goodell initially responded to questioning by saying a decision is “coming soon” and then elaborated that it could be next week. Brady was originally suspended for the first four games if the 2015 season in May and his appeal was heard on June 23. The appeal was a marathon affair, lasting the entire day and into the night. Since the appeal, both sides have been mum regarding the potential outcome.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was also spotted at the conference, but according to Goodell none of their discussions were regarding Brady.

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There are some two months left before the start of the new NFL season, and two months left for New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to prepare for the possibility of playing without Tom Brady.

The team is still awaiting the decision on Brady’s appeal, which could still see his four-game “deflategate” suspension overturned. Continue reading Week 1 Odds Have Pats Picked Over Pittsburgh »

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Former Patriots and Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident earlier this week. The penalty for Spikes is one year probation, a fine, and he has lost his license. The accident occured early on the morning of June 7.

Spikes crashed his Mercedes into another vehicle on route I-495 causing minor injuries to the passengers of that vehicle. When police arrived, Spikes had left the scene and was nowhere to be found. The Patriots released Spikes just over a day after the incident.

Spikes was first with the Patriots from 2010- 2013 before signing with the Bills prior to the 2014 season. He returned to New England in May of 2015, prompting him to say that he “and the hoodie kissed and made up.” The reunion was short, however, as Spikes total time with the Patriots in his second stint was one month. There is no word yet on if any other teams may try to sign Spikes, but right now that prospect seems unlikely.

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Tom Brady will meet face to face with Roger Goodell on Tuesday in the much anticipated “deflategate” appeal. Brady will be looking to have his four game suspension completely wiped out. Goodell will be the arbitrator and have final say on whether or not Brady’s  case merits a change in his discipline. If he chooses to uphold the punishment, Brady will likely sue the league in Federal Court.

Brady has some science on his side as several organizations have recently come out to debunk the science in the Wells Report, including a lengthy New York Times article.(http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/opinion/deflating-deflategate.html?_r=0)

Brady also has the issue of precedent on his side as no violation of this minor a magnitude has ever been punished so severely. There is also no direct proof that Brady ordered the footballs to be lowered below the league minimum or that he endorsed the practice.

However, Brady will still have to overcome the fact that he refused to turn records of text messages over to investigators and he will have to prove no wrongdoing. If he cannot do this, it is unlikely that Goodell will wipe his entire punishment away, something that would cause the league to lose face and would be a waste of the Wells Report cost, which was reportedly over $5 million.

The decision will have lasting effect on both the NFL and the Patriots. If the suspension is overturned, the entire process in which the NFL investigated the Patriots and Brady will be questioned. Also, Goodell’s handling of all discipline would be questioned also, as this would not be the first time he had a major decision overturned. If the suspension is upheld, the league will be facing a court battle with one of its biggest stars. Needless to say, the fireworks for the NFL are going to come early this summer, and they will begin tomorrow.

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