Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports

Mike Lombardi on OMF denies he spoke to ESPN for Patriots story: I hope Barstool Sports has 'good legal counsel'

Alex Reimer
January 05, 2018 - 1:43 pm

Barstool Sports’ David Portnoy alleges ex-Patriots executive Mike Lombardi is Seth Wickersham’s primary source for his explosive ESPN feature story about the intensifying rift between Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Robert Kraft. Lombardi, who served under Belichick in Cleveland and New England, occasionally tweets back and forth with Wickersham. Portnoy says Lombardi is spreading inaccurate information about the Patriots, because he’s getting phased out of Belichick’s inner-circle.

The OMF crew asked Lombardi about Portnoy’s accusations in an interview Friday. Lombardi issued a forceful denial, threatening legal action.

“I hope he’s got good legal counsel, because isn’t that defamation of character right there?,” Lombardi said. “Clearly, I’m not involved in the story. I’m not involved in any of it. I’ve been out of the Patriots organization for over a year, so I don’t know what David is talking about. … I’m not responsible for any part of that story whatsoever, and I’ll take a lie detector test to prove it.”

When pressed about his relationship with Wickersham, Lombardi said the two converse about music and “nothing to do with the Patriots.” In the story, Wickersham says he spoke to more than a dozen “New England staffers, executives, players and league sources with knowledge of the team's inner workings.” 

While Lombardi agrees the circumstances surrounding the Garoppolo trade are curious, he wouldn’t speak to whether he thinks Robert Kraft instructed Belichick to trade the young quarterback, which the story alleges. Instead, Lombardi says he believes agent Don Yee was the biggest complicating factor. Yes represents both Brady and Garoppolo. (Yee issued a statement denying the ESPN report Friday.)

“I think they tried to sign (Garoppolo), and Don Yee represents both players,” Lombardi said. “That really becomes a very difficult challenge to face. How are you going to sign a guy when the guy represents both players? How do you sign that player? He has to represent Tom and the best interests of the organization, and knows Jimmy wants to play right away, and why would Jimmy do a contract that would preclude him from playing right away? Therein lies the problem. And the cap number became really ridiculous as the cap went up.”

Lombardi asserted several times throughout the interview he’s just speculating and not privy to information about the Patriots’ inner-workings. But he did assert that any decision involving Brady and Garoppolo almost certainly involved more than Kraft issuing Belichick a mandate.

“This is a bigger issue than just somebody saying one thing to another,” Lombardi explained. “You’re talking about a guy who’s won five Super Bowls. This is a guy who’s going to get into the Hall of Fame –– all of them are going to get into the Hall of Fame. There’s a lot of things that go into it, that I’m not privy to. … It really involves a deeper level than just A or B. This is more of a false duality situation –– it’s A, B, C or D if you look at it that way.” 

Though Lombardi spoke in generalities about Wickersham’s reporting, he was also firm on one point: the story had multiple sources.

“I don’t think there’s one source to that story, to be honest with you,” Lombardi said. “There has to be more than one person. Because nobody could know all of that.”