NFL's investigation into Patriots now in the hands of a key figure in DeflateGate

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By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

FOXBORO, Mass. -- The Patriots' newest controversy feels like it won't amount to much in the way of punishment. It seems like just a big misunderstanding and not a case of malicious intent. It appears that Bill Belichick can't be connected to the incident in question. It smells like the Pats will only face a minimal penalty, after admitting that a video crew violated league rules in recording the Bengals' sideline last Sunday.

But the NFL is investigating the matter, and now it's in the hands of commissioner Roger Goodell and another key figure in the calamity known as DeflateGate, NFL executive VP of football operations Troy Vincent. That's how the NFL Network's Judy Battista described the situation at the league meeting in Dallas, where Goodell also spoke on the matter Wednesday. Battista believes - for now - that this really does appear to be an honest mistake by an independent contractor hired to record video for a Patriots team documentary, and nothing related to the Pats' football operation.

Still, fans would have a right to be nervous if they hear it's being handled by Troy Vincent, who was instrumental in determining the Patriots' stiff penalty for DeflateGate - a four-game suspension for Tom Brady, a $1 million fine for the Patriots organization, and the loss of a first- and fourth-round pick.

"Troy Vincent is still gathering information; this is really in Troy Vincent's hands," said Battista. "It's a football operations decision, at least now. He's been doing interviews, he's been looking at the video, and I would expect a decision - whenever it's going to be - to not be a significant issue.

"They seem to feel that this is not an issue of competitiveness, that affected competitiveness. They seem, at least now, inclined to believe the Patriots' version of events, that this was inadvertent - maybe it was the mistake of an inexperienced crew, but that it was not a football matter."

Although the reporting on the investigation has been consistently encouraging for the Patriots, the phrase "at least now" is ominous and could become more concerning as the investigation goes on. Goodell declined to offer a timetable on the conclusion of the investigation during his league meeting press conference.

"It’s under review, we’re going to be thorough," Goodell said. "We’re going to take our time and make sure we look at everything that’s pertinent here, and make a decision."

The longer the investigation takes, the worse it's going to feel. Especially when you consider who's in charge of it.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].