INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Dwayne Allen was in an awkward position Wednesday.
As a tight end for the Colts, he was trying to toe the company line on “Deflategate.” As a player rep, he found himself defending Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
For Allen and his teammates in the Indianapolis locker room Wednesday, speaking about this year’s big offseason scandal has become an increasingly delicate balancing act.
“I had no idea what judgment was going to come down,” Allen said when asked about Brady’s four-game suspension. “As an NFL player rep for my team, we have guys that are going to help him through the appeal process and, again, whatever is just will be just.”
That’s about as much as anybody in Indy’s organization has said since the Wells report implicated Brady and two Patriots employees for deliberating underinflating game balls in January’s AFC championship game — a 45-7 blowout of the Colts in Foxboro.
General manager Ryan Grigson, who tipped off the NFL about the Patriots using illegal game balls, still has not spoken publicly about the investigation or the punishments announced Monday. In addition to Brady’s suspension, the Patriots were fined $1 million and will have to give up a first-round pick next year and a fourth-round pick in 2017.
While Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been outspoken that the penalties were too harsh, the Colts have mostly remained silent.
Punter Pat McAfee, the pace-car driver for last weekend’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, carefully weaved his way around the topic last Friday by saying it was a “shame” that the scandal had “cast a shadow” over the sport. Coach Chuck Pagano said simply that the team was moving forward when rookie mini-camp opened last weekend.
Players did their best Wednesday to dampen any chatter over the Patriots’ integrity.
“That team’s a great team, a great organization,” said cornerback Darius Butler, who entered the league as New England’s second-round draft pick in 2009. “Obviously Brady’s one of the all-time best quarterbacks. I’ve been a part of that organization personally. I can’t question their integrity or anything like that.”
Nobody in the organization contends Indy’s loss in January was the result of illegal footballs.
Brady has had the Colts’ number for years. He opened his career with six straight wins over Indy, including twice the playoffs, then lost four of the next five including the AFC championship game following the 2006 season. Since then, Brady has gone 6-0 against the Colts, winning by a combined score of 251-125. He is 4-0 all-time against Andrew Luck, and the Patriots have eliminated Indy from the playoffs each of the past two seasons.
The Colts have spent most of the offseason looking for ways to get past New England this year.
They tried to fortify the defense by signing a handful of veteran free agents and through the draft. And they tried to improve the offense by adding speedy receiver Phillip Dorsett and running back Frank Gore.
Of course, the topic of the Patriots will surely come up in the fall: If Brady’s suspension is upheld, his season debut would likely come in Indy on Oct. 18.
“I don’t know if that’s coincidence or something else, but it will be a hot ticket,” Butler said. “It will be exciting to line up against that team.”