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Deflategate a big deal with Patriots deserving more than slap on the wrist

We waited more than 100 days for the Wells report to tell us what we already knew: that several members of the New England Patriots staff were involved in "Deflategate," and the report also implicates quarterback Tom Brady.

Where are all those arrogant Patriots fans now? When anyone suggested that the team was involved in cheating, they always called or sent out nasty emails about how everyone was jealous of their team, or that this was just "gamesmanship" by the Patriots.

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No, it's called cheating.

And while the Wells report skirted around the conclusion, leaving NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with some wiggle room when it comes to punishment, Brady's golden-boy image has been tarnished. The Patriots also continue to build on their reputation as cheaters, a team always looking for a shortcut to success.

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A few months ago, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he expected an apology if his team, Brady and head coach Bill Belichick were innocent of the charges. Now, I wonder if he will apologize because this episode is a challenge to the integrity of the league.

I've heard some defenders of New England say this would not be a big deal if it were some other team, one that has not had the success of the Patriots. No kidding. New England is a storied franchise, a model for other NFL and professional teams. The Patriots might have the greatest head coach of all time in Belichick, and one of the best quarterbacks in Brady.

So, yes, this is a big deal.

But Goodell will do nothing. We all know he is buddies with Kraft, and the NFL can't afford any more black eyes after recent off-field issues with several prominent players. The league will fine Kraft mere pocket change, and Brady will pay a fine just like Belichick when he was involved in stealing and illegally taping opponents' signals years ago. The NFL will take a draft pick away, a seventh-round selection next year.

Ooh, harsh stuff.

But at least the truth is out. In the NFL, there is an old saying that if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying. I bet the Patriots came up with that one.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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