The story followed a predictable pattern. Citing unnamed sources, an ESPN report accused the Atlanta Falcons of breaking NFL rules. Before long, even though the day was Super Bowl Sunday and football writers theoretically had better things to do, the story was picked up by other news outlets, who reported the assertion that the team could be facing fines and the loss of a draft pick. And then ... well ... there was ... silence.
BL: Ross, what great offense did the Falcons commit?
"The crowd noise, I think that can have an impact. I would say it’s higher on the integrity scale than people recognize."Ross Tucker
BL: You speculate on a number of reasons why the customary gnashing of teeth did not occur over this issue. First, it’s not like the Falcons were competing in the Super Bowl.
RT: Correct. You know, my sense is from a tweet I sent out, I just said, "Wait a minute, the Falcons admit to cheating and nobody cares? But the Patriots, that was a huge deal on every single nightly news channel for several days?" And the response I got was, No. 1, the Falcons aren't good. They weren't in the Super Bowl. They weren't winning.
And No. 2, they admitted to it. So in the court of public opinion, or at least on the Twitterverse, as long as you A.) admit to it and B.) you're not good, it doesn't matter and you're able to cheat.
BL:So we should not conclude from this series of events that the whole world is out to get the Patriots?
RT: No, but I would say this: you're certainly going to get a lot more scrutiny when you've been as dominant as they've been over the last 14 seasons, No. 1. No. 2, when you've already been caught doing something inappropriate before and sanctioned by the NFL as a result, you'll lose the benefit of the doubt, and people will then have the right, at least in their mind, to question anything and everything you've accomplished.
BL: Alright, we've talked about infractions — or alleged infractions — here. And In your article, you used the phrase "integrity of the game." Where does the use of artificial noise rank among various threats to the "integrity" of the NFL?
[sidebar title="Something's Fishy" width="630" align="right"]Cheating has always been part of bass fishing competitions whether the prize was a fishing rod, thousands of dollars or just bragging rights [/sidebar]RT: I know there are people that will submit to you that it's not that big a deal but the first thing I would say is, No. 1, if it's not that big a deal, then why would you do it? I mean, you obviously think that there's some value in it. Secondly, from my perspective as an offensive lineman, I think it's a bigger deal than taking a little air out of the ball.
I mean, you take a little air out of the ball, it's still a football. You still have to throw it, you still have to hold it. And for the Falcons with the crowd noise, I think that can have an impact. I would say it's higher on the integrity scale than people recognize.
BL: I guess I can't help but think when we're talking about integrity and the NFL, this is pretty small potatoes compared to failing to acknowledge for decades the connection between concussions and brain damage.
RT: Yes, I think there's a big, big distinction there. Although I will tell you something that's pretty interesting is you look at the NFC Championship game, Russell Wilson took one heck of a shot — was not given any type of concussion testing protocol.
Julian Edelman got a viscous blow in the Super Bowl, and they say that he was tested but I don't know that anybody really believes that, so that's one thing that's concerning to me about what's going on with the concussion stuff is it feels like there's a certain protocol unless you're in the NFC Championship or unless you're in the Super Bowl, so to speak.
This segment aired on February 7, 2015.