Falcons' Blank says failure to admit mistakes hurt Patriots

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ATLANTA (AP) — Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Thursday there is a "general feeling" that the Patriots' failure to acknowledge mistakes added to the punishment they received for deflating footballs.

Blank stressed while at a community improvement event that he has no direct knowledge of the Patriots' case.

The Patriots were hit with more severe punishments than the penalties the Falcons received on March 30 for pumping fake noise into games.

Blank said it was only natural that he compared the teams' penalties this week when the NFL took action on the Patriots.

"Of course you think about it," said Blank, who along with Falcons coach Dan Quinn and other employees painted five Habitat for Humanity homes a few blocks from the Georgia Dome.

"The league feels a tremendous sense of responsibility, as do all the owners, in reinforcing the culture of the NFL, the shield and make sure the game remains as balanced and as pure and as true to its integrity and its ethics as can be done. When they find any organization or any individual has gotten off those tracks it's their job to remind them of that and bring them back on the tracks and do it in a way that really reinforces what the league is about.

"I think in the case of New England they have done that."

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games and the Patriots were fined $1 million and the loss of a first-round draft pick next year and a fourth-rounder in 2017. Brady is appealing the suspension.

The Falcons were fined $350,000, stripped of a 2016 fifth-round draft pick and team president Rich McKay was suspended from the league's powerful Competition Committee for at least three months.

Blank said his team's penalties were "a little difficult" but "reasonable."

"I mean, nobody likes to write big checks, nobody likes to lose a draft pick and nobody likes to have an important person in our organization, our team president, suspended from a committee he has led for many years," he said.

The Patriots' penalties were more than "a little difficult," perhaps in part because of their refusal to accept mistakes.

"That seems to be the general feeling, that some of the frustration whether on an individual basis or organizational basis, was the failure to acknowledge," Blank said.

Blank and Patriots owner Robert Kraft took different approaches when faced with allegations.

Blank told The Associated Press in early February his team was wrong to pump in fake crowd noise in 2013 and 2014. "Anything that affects the competitive balance and fairness on the field, we're opposed to, as a league, as a club and as an owner," Blank said.

The NFL said the Falcons cooperated fully in the investigation.

The league's appointed investigator, Ted Wells, said the Patriots and Brady were not fully cooperative, contributing to the penalties.

Blank praised Kraft as "one of the great owners" in the NFL. He predicted Kraft and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will protect their relationship.

"Putting aside my personal relationship with him, he's one of ... a handful of owners, when they stand up in that room and they talk, everybody else listens, because they have a history of putting the league ahead of their own franchise," Blank said. "Robert has done that, has demonstrated that.

"I think after things are processed, Robert will be in a good place, I think the commissioner will be in a good place, I think their relationship will be a good one and they will continue to work for the benefit of the National Football League for a long time."


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