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Troy Vincent Accepts Blame For Hall Of Fame Game Fiasco, A Change Of Course For NFL Business

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Stop the presses and sound the alarms. A high-ranking NFL official is accepting blame for a major gaffe.

According to ESPN, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent has sent a letter to all 32 teams explaining how and why the NFL failed to create a safe playing surface for the cancelled Hall of Game. And in that letter, Vincent said he failed in his responsibility.

"... [U]ltimately I am accountable for ensuring the field is of the highest standard," Vincent wrote.

Of course, this being a letter from Vincent, there was no apology or full acceptance of blame -- at least, not in the portions reported by ESPN. Instead, there was quite a bit of buck passing and blaming the third parties involved with the field preparation. And there was, obviously, the perfunctory pledge of commitment to safety going forward.

But still, the image of Vincent -- aka the man who used an Olympic soccer hashtag in the excitement building up to the cancelled game -- saying "ultimately I am accountable" for this major NFL flub is no small thing. And it makes you wonder ... where has this been, particularly over the last year-and-a-half?

This goes back to DeflateGate. (Everything always goes back to DeflateGate.) Vincent was the man in charge that night in Foxboro. Vincent was, in his own words, "charged with preserving the integrity of the game, overseeing all football operations." Vincent was asked if he was "in charge of basically everything that happens on game day." He answered to the affirmative.

Yet somehow, if Vincent is to be believed, the first he had heard about suspicions of underinflated footballs came with "six or seven minutes remaining" in the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game. That's despite an extensive web of officials who had been clued in to the Colts' suspicions in the days leading up to the game. And that's despite sitting next to director of football operations Mike Kensil, who is confirmed to have been informed of the suspicions via email days earlier.

Now at this point, you have the director of football operations knowing about suspicions of cheating in the second-biggest NFL game of the year, and he's seated next to the executive VP of football operations, and somehow it doesn't come up in conversation? Somehow Vincent was out of the loop?

That story has some gaping holes. But that's not the point.

The point is this: Kensil went on a fire-and-brimstone rager that night, reportedly taunting the Patriots by telling them they were caught red-handed after commanding a science experiment that would have resulted in an F grade from any decent high school chemistry teacher. (Kensil is no longer the director of football operations after being "reassigned" ... to work in other countries.)

And in those experiments, NFL officials saw PSI numbers below 11.5, and they thought they had struck gold. Cheaters!

Ah, yes. But this:

Jeffrey Kessler: OK. So prior to this game, OK, had you ever heard of the Ideal Gas Law?

Troy Vincent: No, sir.

Kessler: Do you know if anyone in the NFL Game-Day Operations had ever discussed the impact of the Ideal Gas Law in testing footballs?

Vincent: Not with me.

Kessler: You had never heard of that?

Vincent: I hadn't.

Kessler: OK. Now, in the procedures that were set up prior to this game, OK, were there ever any procedures where the referees were told they should record temperature inside the room while they were testing each football? Do you know if that was ever an instruction given to the referees that they should write down temperature or take temperature?

Vincent: No, sir.

Kessler: OK, that was not done?

Vincent: No, sir.

Kessler: OK. How about recording? Did you know that they used multiple gauges sometimes, different types of gauges to test footballs prior to this game?

Vincent: There's one gauge, yes, sir.

Kessler: There is one gauge or multiple gauges?

Vincent: Well, there's two, two gauges, but they use -- they use the one gauge to test.

Kessler: Right. But you knew there were two types of gauges that could be used?

Vincent: Not types. I know that there are two gauges that are on the premises.

Kessler: The logo gauge and what we are calling the non-logo gauge?

Vincent: Yes.

Kessler: Did officials have instructions prior to this  game as to whether they should use a logo gauge or a non-logo gauge to test?

Vincent: Not to my knowledge.

Kessler: OK. Were they asked to record anywhere in writing which gauge they used when they were doing testing?

Vincent: Not to my knowledge.

Kessler: Now, with respect to whether the balls were wet or dry, do you know if there were any procedures prior to this to record if a ball was wet or dry at the time it was being tested for pressure?

Vincent: No, sir.

Kessler: OK. How about the timing of when the testing was done? Was it ever instructed you should record what minutes the test was done so you could see how long the ball was in the room at the time of testing?

Vincent: No, sir.

This is testimony from Tom Brady's appeal hearing at NFL headquarters. It did not go very well for Mr. Vincent. In fact, he was drowning so badly here that commissioner Roger Goodell, serving as a fair and impartial arbitrator, stepped in to interrupt the line of questioning in an effort to throw one of his top executives a life preserver.

Unfortunately for Vincent, it didn't help much.

Kessler: OK. So in all other NFL games generally, there is no testing at halftime at all, correct?

Vincent: No, because we typically don't have a breach with a game ball violation.

Do you see it? Did you catch it? Let's run it again.

"No, because we typically don't have a breach with a game ball violation."

That right there is the executive vice president of football operations, the man in charge of "everything" that night, stating on the record that he was operating with the presumption of guilt when he oversaw a shoddy testing procedure in a crowded officials locker room in Foxboro that night.

Obviously, this has all now become ancient history. But the recent news only lends credence to the idea that "DeflateGate," this massive "scandal" which resulted in unprecedented punishments for a player and team, could have been avoided entirely if the NFL had been willing to own its own mistakes and ignorance from the very get-go.

For good measure, let's go back to one more of the greatest hits between Kessler and Vincent.

Kessler: Now, when you say, "They had 11 balls under compliance," what you meant is that they had 11 balls that were below 12.5 being measured, correct?

Vincent: Yes.

Kessler: But at the time, you didn't know that some of that reduction could happen just because of cold or wetness or other factors, right? That just wasn't something you were aware of, correct?

Vincent: I didn't include science. No, sir.

"I didn't include science" in this very basic scientific test.


The point here, many moons later, is to state that perhaps if Vincent came out and accepted some responsibility for lacking any and all control of those testing procedures in Foxboro, then perhaps we all could have been spared the embarrassing saga that has played out ever since. Vincent should have taken the blame for the NFL, and he should have released a simple statement back in January 2015 which said, "We were made aware of violations, and we attempted to test the footballs, but we were not competent enough to do so properly, and so we cannot rightfully enforce any discipline on the accused parties. We will, however, closely monitor their game ball preparation -- as well as game ball preparation around the league -- going forward, as this incident has shed a light on how woefully disorganized we have been in that regard for years."

That would have been embarrassing for Vincent and the league -- almost as embarrassing as being forced to cancel an exhibition game due to bad paint on the field -- but it would have been the right thing to do.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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