New York's football hierarchy assembled for the 22nd annual Gridiron Gala in Manhattan Tuesday night in support of the United Way of New York City, but the topic on everyone's lips had nothing to do with the Giants or the Jets.
It was all about the Patriots.
Some 24 hours after the NFL handed down stiff penalties against Tom Brady and the Patriots for their role in using deflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game in January, many were still digesting the discipline and its meaning.
"The National Football League has researched and investigated, done their work, and you have to believe that the league has done their due diligence," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who was honored at the gala. "We stand by that."
Joe Namath said he thought it was too early to make any declarations on the topic.
"I don't know if this is settled yet," the Jets' Hall of Fame quarterback said, noting Brady's appeal of his four-game suspension. "Performance-enhancing drugs, to me, is a far worse issue than what we're talking about with the ball being deflated a little bit."
It wasn't only NFL notables who spoke on the subject. New Giants defensive back Josh Gordy was on the Colts team that lost in the AFC Championship Game and alerted the league to the underinflated footballs. "I'm tired of hearing about it," he said. "I always tell everybody, unless they're going to give us a win I don't have an opinion on it. It is what it is. They got the win and we didn't."
Giants running backs Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams said they had a discussion with new teammate and former Patriots Shave Vereen about the allegations and ruling. But they did not divulge what was said.Most players -- former and current -- believed that the four-game suspension was too harsh. "I don't think the punishment fit the crime," former Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer said. "I think it's a dangerous thing when you start becoming more about the politics of the game than how it affects the game. I think it's dangerous. Not a good precedent was set."
Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara, one of the Hometown Heroes honored at the gala, tried to express his feelings and tread lightly on the subject.
"You want to trust that Roger Goodell has the NFL's best interest at heart with upholding the integrity of the game," he said. "But, my mentality is to always side with the players and always agree with the players because we're like our own fraternity."
Amukamara said the investigation casts suspicion on the Patriots. "One can question, like, what else have they done?" he said. "You hear of SpyGate and you hear of DeflateGate and one can think, 'What else have they done?' But I'm not worried. Now, if they would have beaten us in the Super Bowl, then I think my reaction right now would have been completely different and my perspective would have been completely different.
"But that's not the case."
With Kimberley A. Martin