The NFL has suspended Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady without pay for the first four games of the season, fined the New England Patriots $1 million and taken away two draft picks as punishment for deflating footballs used in the AFC title game, the league said in a statement Monday.
The NFL also indefinitely suspended the two equipment staffers believed to have carried out the plan, including one who called himself "The Deflator."
Brady will miss the season's showcase kickoff game Sept. 10 against Pittsburgh, Week 2 at Buffalo, a home game against Jacksonville and a game at Dallas.
He will return the week the Patriots face the Colts in Indianapolis (Of course he will - ed.).
The Patriots will also lose a first-round pick in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2017.
Within a matter of hours, Brady's agent Don Yee issued his own statement.
“The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis. In my opinion, this outcome was pre-determined; there was no fairness in the Wells investigation whatsoever. There is no evidence that Tom directed footballs be set at pressures below the allowable limits. In fact, the evidence shows Tom clearly emphasized that footballs be set at pressures within the rules. Tom also cooperated with the investigation and answered every question presented to him.
"The Wells Report presents significant evidence, however, that the NFL lacks standards or protocols with respect to its handling of footballs prior to games; this is not the fault of Tom or the Patriots. The report also presents significant evidence the NFL participated with the Colts in some type of pre-AFC Championship Game planning regarding the footballs. This fact may raise serious questions about the integrity of the games we view on Sundays.
"We will appeal, and if the hearing officer is completely independent and neutral, I am very confident the Wells Report will be exposed as an incredibly frail exercise in fact-finding and logic. 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, and a former federal judge has found the commissioner has abused his discretion in the past, so this outcome does not surprise me. 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.”
If the NFL is confident that the Wells Report is solid, they should accept Yee's challenge of an independent arbiter hearing the appeal. If that happens, I still find it hard to believe that Brady's suspension would be completely overturned. However, I can see a reduction to, say, two games.
One of the main reasons cited for the severity of the punishment was Brady himself was less than cooperative due to his refusal to hand over his personal cell phone. The NFL had given him assurances that none of his personal material would be compromised and that the investigation would merely be limited to text messages or emails related to DeflateGate. Personally, I don't blame Brady one iota for not handing over his phone. I'm sure he had visions of risque photos of his smokin' hot wife Gisele Bündchen ending up online (Or worse yet, a repeat of the Kate Upton-Justin Verlander hacking scandal). I believe the NFL may have actually gone lighter on Brady had he been more forthright.
As for on the field, the Pats will turn to second year QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Given that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is the modern day King Midas, I can totally see the Pats going 4-0 (or 2-0 if Brady's suspension is reduced) in that stretch. Given that Brady will turn 38 years of age this August, it would behoove the Patriots organization to get an idea of what they have in Garoppolo. Granted this isn't the way they wanted to find out, but I have a feeling it will end up being the proverbial silver lining about 5-10 years down the road.