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Cowboys have one of league’s best RB duos heading into 2021



Ezekiel Elliott has been rightfully regarded as one of the best running backs in the NFL since entering the league in 2016. With two rushing titles through five seasons, Elliott’s production speaks for itself. However, coming off his worst season to-date, PFF recently ranked Elliott as just the No. 12 running back in the league.

Despite Elliott’s surprisingly low ranking, PFF still views the Dallas backfield as one of the strongest in the league, as their change-of-pace back Tony Pollard was listed just nine spots lower than the Cowboys workhorse at No. 21.

PFF analyst Sam Monson elaborated of both Cowboys places in the rankings, stating,

12. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

You don’t have to go back very far to find Zeke Elliott at the top of lists like these, but he is coming off a tough year in which he ground out 4.0 yards per carry with a 68.7 PFF rushing grade behind an offensive line that struggled. Elliott hasn’t looked at his best for some time now but remains a good back without many real flaws.

21. Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys

If Pollard was sitting behind any other back, he might have already carved a far bigger role for himself. He is tied with Nick Chubb for the best broken tackle rate in the league since he was drafted (0.25) and tied with Derrick Henry for the best yards after contact per carry average (4.0).”

PFF’s ranking includes their top 32 running backs, and the Cowboys are one of just six teams to have two backs featured. The Cowboys duo is the second best 1-2 punch in the league, if you go by each duo’s combined rank.

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Top takeaway from Donald Trump’s reported involvement in Patriots probe: Spygate will never die and NFL looks worse for it




Let’s start with this: ESPN’s latest Spygate story is an absolutely delicious, dead-of-the-offseason mystery for NFL fans. It’s both believable and perhaps less so. It features backroom deals, political corruption, football, loyalties (real and perceived), quiet martinis, Mar-a-Lago dinners, hotel confrontations, campaign money, cheating and, well, so much more. You should read it in full.

They could have made it a cable drama — “Arlen of Eastown,” maybe. Or just the next season of “Billions.”

The central question that ESPN investigated is this:

In 2008, did Donald Trump, then a real estate developer and reality television personality, get Arlen Specter, then a United States senator from Pennsylvania, to back off an investigation into the New England Patriots Spygate scandal by promising that Pats owner Robert Kraft would make a political donation and/or payoff?

The answer isn’t 100 percent clear. The question and the reporting is fascinating though — unless you’re one of the many people in modern American society that only want to hear exactly what you want to hear about Trump, Kraft, Bill Belichick, the Pats, the NFL, Roger Goodell or a U.S. senator.

If you are one of those people, if you are too sensitive to handle any examination of impropriety by your hero (whomever that is), then go read something else.

For the rest of us, here’s my deep dive into this rather entertaining plot twist.

The Background
In 2007, the Patriots were caught videotaping the defensive signals of the New York Jets from an unauthorized area of the old Meadowlands Stadium. Three days later the NFL stripped the Pats of a first-round draft pick and fined the team and head coach Bill Belichick.

Within a week, the NFL said it had destroyed all evidence and deemed the case closed. This led to critics arguing the investigation was rushed and didn’t adequately look into any prior acts, including previous Super Bowl triumphs. That group included Specter, a longtime critic of the NFL who by February 2008 began an investigation and threatened to bring NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in front of Congress to testify.

The investigation eventually went nowhere. Specter lost a primary election in 2010 and died two years later due to complications from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Did Trump steer Specter away?
Maybe. In an autobiography published in 2012, Specter wrote that: “On the signal stealing, a mutual friend had told me that ‘if I laid off the Patriots, there’d be a lot of money in Palm Beach.’ And I replied, ‘I couldn’t care less.’”

In the book, Specter didn’t identify the “mutual friend” although records show he had dinner about that time with Trump at Trump’s Palm Beach social club, Mar-a-Lago. Trump was friends with both Specter, whom through the years he donated $11,300 to various campaigns dating back to 1983, and Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, who also maintained a home in Palm Beach.

Specter’s son and the ghost writer of the book say the “mutual friend” was Trump.

“My father told me that Trump was acting as a messenger for Kraft,” Shanin Specter told ESPN. “But I’m equally sure the reference to money in Palm Beach was campaign contributions, not cash. The offer was Kraft assistance with campaign contributions. … My father said it was Kraft’s offer, not someone else’s.”

So Trump was the go-between?

Yeah, but …
There are no records that Kraft or any of the billionaire’s businesses ever donated any money to Specter. The two did meet in 2010 at a hotel suite in Boston where Specter sought campaign donations.

Instead, according to tapes of Specter talking for the 2012 book, Kraft brought up the congressional investigation and deemed it “very unfair” to the Patriots. Specter wound up with no money.

So, if Trump was working to set up campaign donations in exchange for Specter to stop poking around about Spygate, then it doesn’t appear Kraft was down with the plan or even knew about it. He never gave any money and instead aggressively confronted Specter.

Perhaps Trump just tricked Specter, doing a favor for his buddy Kraft, who as a fellow businessman he probably liked more than a politician he needed to be friends with. Maybe Trump just bluffed and made Specter think Kraft would provide a campaign windfall if Specter backed off the Spygate stuff.

Trump certainly knew that politicians are easily, and often unduly, influenced, not just by a campaign donation but by the prospect of future contributions. After all, here was a Pennsylvania senator having dinner in Florida with a New York businessman even though Trump gave him only a little over $11,000 in nearly 30 years of campaigns.

And there was that same Pennsylvania senator traveling to Boston to seek money from a Massachusetts businessman. That’s odd behavior from a senator who supposedly “couldn’t care less” about money.

Any suggestion that this was a bribe and not a possible campaign donation makes little sense. There is almost no way that Kraft would risk imprisonment, not to mention the loss of his franchise, to bribe an adversarial U.S. senator over a matter this trivial. Besides, per ESPN, Specter never reported an illegal bribe offer to Senate ethics officials.

What we do know is that Specter’s congressional investigation essentially ended. Maybe it was because lacking subpoena power, the concept was doomed. Or maybe it was because he thought he’d get that “Palm Beach money.”

Whatever it was, Specter did what Kraft wanted and didn’t get a dime for it. That’s embarrassing and just one reason Specter looks far, far worse in this than Trump or Kraft, who don’t seem to have done much of anything wrong here.

As for the NFL …
The ESPN report looks terrible for the league. It reminds that Goodell’s office, in an effort to squash criticism of Spygate, “persuaded the Eagles and Steelers to release statements insisting the league had done its due diligence, even though executives with both teams were convinced the NFL investigation was flawed and deliberately incurious.”

It also notes that Goodell personally called Mike Martz, the head coach of the 2001 St. Louis Rams who lost to New England in the Super Bowl that season, and asked him to release a similar statement. Martz told ESPN that the statement that was eventually released “had been significantly altered by the league.”

This also may explain some of Goodell and the NFL’s actions on the Patriots second famous scandal — 2015’s Deflategate.

In that one, the league went scorched earth and operated beyond ethical norms to label the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady as cheats for playing with allegedly underinflated footballs. The league never proved the footballs in the 2015 AFC championship game were deflated, and most of the case stemmed from its initial lack of understanding of the science behind Ideal Gas Law.

This is speculative, but you can see why Goodell, who had minimized Spygate and then had to fend off a powerful U.S. senator who was threatening the league’s coveted antitrust exemption, would be particularly angered, and even vengeful, when the same team came up in a cheating scandal a few years later.

It’s a hell of a way to run a business.

The Conclusion
First off, Spygate may never end. It’s been nearly 14 years and now it’s dragging a former president into its retelling.

As for this story, no one knows for sure but we’re going with Trump fooled Specter into thinking he’d get big money out of Kraft if he backed off, only for Specter to go seek out that money and have Kraft stiff him.

In all likelihood, Kraft didn’t even know what Trump was up to. If there is one thing we’ve learned about Donald Trump, he has a way of outmaneuvering Washington politicians in ways they never saw coming.

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Report: Donald Trump offered senator money to end Patriots Spygate investigation




The New England Patriots’ infamous Spygate videotape cheating scandal happened nearly 15 years ago, but apparently there’s still more we don’t know about it. And the new details are juicy.


According to Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham of ESPN, Donald Trump met with late Sen. Arlen Specter in 2008, nearly a decade before Trump’s presidency, and offered him “money in Palm Beach” if he dropped his investigation into Spygate. Trump was reportedly acting on behalf of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.




Spokespeople for Trump and Kraft denied the allegation that either man tried to influence Specter’s investigation.

“This is completely false,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump. “We have no idea what you’re talking about.” Miller declined to answer a series of follow-up questions. A Patriots spokesman said Kraft “never asked Donald Trump to talk to Arlen Specter on his behalf.”



“Mr. Kraft is not aware of any involvement of Trump on this topic and he did not have any other engagement with Specter or his staff,” the spokesman said via email.



The alleged meeting between Trump and Specter
Charles Robbins, Specter’s longtime communications aide, told ESPN that Specter first discussed the supposed Spygate money meeting with him in 2010, during a tape-recorded conversation for his final memoir. This exchange appeared in that book, “Life Among the Cannibals.”



“On the signal stealing, a mutual friend had told me that ‘if I laid off the Patriots, there’d be a lot of money in Palm Beach.’ And I replied, ‘I couldn’t care less.'”

Specter never revealed the name of the “mutual friend” to Robbins, but he was “pretty darn sure” it was Trump. Trump and Specter were friends, and had been since the early 1980s when Trump first donated to Specter’s campaign. Trump would go on to donate over $11,000 to Specter’s campaign committees, and referred to Specter as a “close friend” in handwritten notes.




‘Trump was acting as a messenger for Kraft’
Despite the denials from Trump and Kraft, Shanin Specter, Arlen Specter’s son, told ESPN that he got the story directly from his father.

“My father told me that Trump was acting as a messenger for Kraft,” Shanin Specter says via ESPN. “But I’m equally sure the reference to money in Palm Beach was campaign contributions, not cash. The offer was Kraft assistance with campaign contributions. … My father said it was Kraft’s offer, not someone else’s.”




Trump and Kraft were once close friends, with Kraft attending Trump’s wedding to Melania in 2005 and Trump attending the funeral of Kraft’s wife, Myra, in 2011. Trump even reportedly called Kraft every week for a year after his wife died, just to check in on him. According to ESPN, both men disapproved of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of the Spygate investigation.



Specter says that his father told him about the meeting soon after it happened.

“He was pissed,” Shanin Specter says about his father. “He told me about the call in the wake of the conversation and his anger about it. … My father was upset when [such overtures] would happen because he felt as if it were tantamount to a bribe solicitation, though the case law on this subject says it isn’t. … He would tell me these things when they occurred. We were very close.”




Offer of money didn’t impact investigation
Specter turned down the offer of “money in Palm Beach” (which is not illegal if referring to campaign contributions) and continued his pursuit of the truth he felt Goodell was hiding. Specter was furious that Goodell had the evidence — actual Spygate video tapes — destroyed, and even though his investigation was a one-man crusade that lacked subpoena power, his strong rhetoric scared the NFL.



Goodell was so scared of Specter’s investigation — which could have led to a wider probe with subpoena powers — that he convinced the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, and former St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz to release statements saying that the NFL had done its “due diligence.” None of those parties reportedly felt that was true, and Martz told ESPN that the statement he wrote was heavily edited by the NFL before its release.



Despite Goodell’s fear, the NFL still had the power to stonewall Specter, and prevented him from obtaining any documents or interviewing any employees of the NFL or the Patriots. Nearing 80 years old and undergoing chemotherapy to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Specter, who died in 2012, ended the investigation himself in June 2008 having failed to get his fellow senators on board for a larger probe.

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