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As NFL draft nears, league needs to make a decision about Deflategate

If the NFL plans to punish the Patriots, why wouldn't that come before the NFL draft?

The draft is less than two weeks away but there is still no word from the NFL about Deflategate and any possible punishments for the defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots.

It is important to know the outcome of the NFL's investigation because it might involve draft picks. If the league is heavy handed, maybe they will fine the team and take a way a top draft pick or two from New England, which has nine overall selections.

If league commissioner Roger Goodell wants to slap the Patriots on the wrist (which I suspect), and sweep this mess under the rug, then he will probably take away some late round selection(s) in this or next year's draft.

But to say nothing at this point feeds into the accusations that Goodell and New England owner Robert Kraft are buddies and that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will continue to tamper with rules because he doesn't have any fear of the consequences.

If the Patriots are found guilty of deflating balls in the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts, it was a smart gamble. Is winning a title worth a few draft picks, possibly in the later rounds?

Heck yeah.

It's possible that the Patriots are innocent but we don't know for sure because there has been no announcement, which is amazing considering all 32 owners are billionaires and surrounded by some of the brightest business minds and lawyers in the country.

There have been numerous allegations that the Patriots have deflated their game balls in the past because it makes them easier to grip and throw and cuts down on fumbling in the cold and rain.

There have been reports that the league was focusing on a Patriots locker room attendant, that Belichick knew nothing of the incident until a day after the game and that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano were involved in a conspiracy to get the Patriots.

Maybe the NFL has gone mum because the Patriots might be visiting the White House soon, or it doesn't want this story to become part of draft weekend. But the league has already penalized Cleveland for its general manager texting coaches during games in 2014, and Atlanta was fined and lost a draft pick in 2016 for piping in crowd noise during home games over the past two years.

And what about the Patriots, who had the Spygate incident back in 2007 where they were caught in an unapproved location filming an opponent's defensive signals?

Nothing yet.

Enough road playoff games

One of the best revelations to come out of The Castle in late February was owner Steve Bisciotti saying the Ravens had to do better against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals.

If they take care of that business then the Ravens could win the AFC North and get some playoff games at home. Instead of Joe Flacco having difficulty barking out signals because of crowd noise on the road, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady would have that problem at M&T Bank Stadium.

Ravens outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil would also have an advantage, just like former Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney when he would go against former Ravens tackle Jonathan Ogden in Indianapolis.

Also, if the Ravens played here instead of Foxborough, Mass, there would be one less "gate" to worry about.

Good luck, Tebow

Tim Tebow has converted me into becoming one of his fans.

He reportedly will be the fourth quarterback on the Philadelphia Eagles roster, and that certainly isn't a good position. But when a player doesn't give up on his dream, as long as he keeps his chances in perspective, it's a great story.

It's still a long shot for Tebow, who has played for Denver, New England and the New York Jets. A lot of teams bring in a fourth quarterback just so the starter and backup don't get tired from all the repetitions they take before the start of the regular season.

But in coach Chip Kelly's wild and imaginative offense, Tebow has a chance because of his running ability and elusiveness in the pocket. Hopefully, he has worked on his mechanics and throwing motion in the two years he hasn't played.

Each preseason, it seems that the media finds one college player, usually a quarterback, to focus on and the coverage gets out of hand. With Tebow, I never thought he was going to be a great quarterback in the NFL despite winning the Heisman Trophy and leading Florida to two national titles.

He was successful in college because he could run, improvise and get others around him to play at a higher level. But he never showed great accuracy, and that can't be taught on any level. You're either accurate or you're not.

Realistically, he was a backup at best, but I never got into all the hype about his religious convictions and the legions of fans that followed him. He just seems to be a decent person pursuing a life long ambition, and getting another opportunity to prove himself.

The NFL was made from stories like Tebow.

Keep an eye on Gillmore

The Ravens will go into the draft needing a big-play tight end, but it will be interesting to see how second-year player Crockett Gillmore develops through training camp.

The 6-foot-6 and 251 pound Gillmore, a third round draft pick out of Colorado State, had 10 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown last season, and surprised even some members of the Ravens front office by being able to make catches downfield.

Maybe he'll become the Rick Wagner of this year's team. No one expected Wagner, entering his third year, to be as dominant as he was last season as the starting right tackle.

Rice should get comfortable

The phone of former Ravens running back Ray Rice hasn't been ringing off the hook with job offers from NFL teams.

If that does happen, those calls probably won't come until late into training camp when a team is desperate for a running back because of injuries. It's safe to assume Rice has been training hard, and will be somewhat productive if he returns.

After his domestic violence incident, his major mistake was making public the texts he exchanged with Bisciotti in September. Rice got bad advice and he is finding out that action is unpardonable.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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