FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are preparing for a fight. The reigning Super Bowl MVP will appeal his four-game suspension, his agent said, and the team threw its “unconditional” support behind its quarterback after the NFL came down hard on its biggest star in the “Deflategate” scandal. “Tom Brady […]
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are preparing for a fight.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP will appeal his four-game suspension, his agent said, and the team threw its “unconditional” support behind its quarterback after the NFL came down hard on its biggest star in the “Deflategate” scandal.
“Tom Brady has our unconditional support,” Patriots owner Bob Kraft said in a statement issued on Monday night. “Our belief in him has not wavered.”
Five days after an NFL investigator reported that it was “more probable than not” that the Patriots broke the rules, the league handed down its punishment: Brady was banished for four games, and the Patriots were penalized $1 million — matching the largest fine in league history — and docked two draft picks for using improperly inflated footballs in the AFC Championship game.
NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent also indefinitely suspended the two equipment staffers who carried out the plan, including the one who referred to himself in text messages obtained by the league as “The Deflator.”
In letters to the team and Brady, Vincent wrote that the league’s investigation found “substantial and credible evidence” that the quarterback knew the employees were deflating footballs. It also said he failed to cooperate with investigators.
The investigation by attorney Ted Wells found that Brady “was at least generally aware” of plans by two Patriots employees to prepare the balls to his liking, below the league-mandated minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.
“Each player, no matter how accomplished and otherwise respected, has an obligation to comply with the rules,” Vincent wrote, “and must be held accountable for his actions when those rules are violated and the public’s confidence in the game is called into question.”
Unless the suspension is overturned on appeal, Brady would miss the first four games of the season — including the league’s marquee Sept. 10 opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers at which the Super Bowl championship banner would be traditionally raised. He would also miss games against Buffalo in Week 2, a home game against Jacksonville and a game at Dallas.
Brady would return the week of a Patriots-Colts AFC championship rematch in Indianapolis. Backup Jimmy Garoppolo, a 2014 second-round selection from Eastern Illinois who won the Walter Payton award as the best player in the FCS, has thrown 27 NFL passes, including one touchdown.
Brady has three days to appeal the suspension to Commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee.
“The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis,” Brady’s agent, Don Yee, said in a statement that questioned the NFL’s integrity and opened the still-raw wound of the league’s botched investigation of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case.
“The NFL has a well-documented history of making poor disciplinary decisions that often are overturned when truly independent and neutral judges or arbitrators preside,” Yee said. “Sadly, today’s decision diminishes the NFL as it tells its fans, players and coaches that the games on the field don’t count as much as the games played on Park Avenue.”
The Patriots would lose next year’s first-round pick and a fourth-round choice in 2017. Kraft, who said after the Wells Report was released that he would abide by the league’s decision, reversed himself on Monday, saying in his statement that said the punishment “far exceeded any reasonable expectation.”
It’s the second time in eight years the Patriots have been punished for violating league rules. In 2007, the team was fined $500,000 and docked a first-round draft pick, and coach Bill Belichick was fined $250,000 for videotaping opposing coaches as a way to decipher their play signals.
In his 243-page report released by the league last week, Wells found that the team broke the rules again, this time by deflating the game footballs after they had been checked by officials.