New England quarterback Tom Brady has been suspended four games and the Patriots will also lose a first round pick in the 2016 draft and a fourth rounder in 2017. The Patriots also will be fined $1 million.
The suspension includes the Week 2 matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
Brady, 37, a two-time NFL most valuable player, is coming off his fourth Super Bowl victory.
In January, four days after the AFC championship game in question, Brady stood at a lectern and denied knowing about any footballs being deflated.
“I didn’t alter the ball in any way,” he said. “I have no knowledge of any wrongdoing.”
Not only is Brady a face of the NFL, but his stardom transcends sports. He is married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen and has a net worth of $120 million, according to Celebritynetworth.com.
The Patriots have been accused of cheating in the past, and in 2007 were caught breaking league rules by videotaping the sideline hand signals of New York Jets coaches. That incident, nicknamed Spygate, cost New England Coach Bill Belichick $500,000 _ the maximum allowable fine _ and the league docked the Patriots a first-round draft pick.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has imposed significant penalties on prominent players and coaches before. In 2007, the Atlanta Falcons’ Michael Vick was suspended indefinitely for his role in a dogfighting ring; that star quarterback didn’t return to the league until 2009, after a 17-month prison sentence.
New Orleans Coach Sean Payton, whose team won the Super Bowl in February 2010, was suspended for the entire 2012 season after the league determined the Saints had a pay-to-injury bounty system in place.
Of course, Brady’s alleged transgression doesn’t rise to the level of dogfighting, or paying for players to injure opponents (a practice the Saints still deny.) But the NFL takes seriously any suggestion a team is bending the rules to gain an advantage. At that January news conference, a reporter asked Brady if he was a cheater.
“I don’t believe so,” Brady said. “I’ve always played within the rules.”
Evidently, that’s not a universal sentiment in the NFL. The Wells report revealed that the league was advised a day before the AFC title game that at least some opponents believed the Patriots had deflated game balls before.
Ryan Grigson, general manager of the Indianapolis Colts, sent an email to senior members of the league’s football operations department the day before the AFC championship game and included a note from Colts equipment manager Sean Sullivan.
Wrote Sullivan: “As far as the gameballs are concerned it is well known around the league that after the Patriots gameballs are checked by the officials and brought out for game usage the ballboys for the Patriots will let out some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better, it would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don’t get an illegal advantage.”
Prior to the Wells report, the public information was that the NFL didn’t learn about the deflated-football issue until a Colts defender intercepted a Brady pass in the first half.
According to the Wells report, Brady appeared for a requested interview but declined to provide any documents or electronic information _ including texts and emails _ that were requested. Wells said he limited those requests to texts and emails related only to the subject matter of the investigation.
But Brady’s agent, Don Yee, said the scope that Wells was seeking was “actually very, very wide.”
“I probably should have made the letter public that we received from the NFL’s lawyers,” Yee said in an interview with CNN’s “AC360” with Anderson Cooper. “But in any event, if we would have provided the phone or the text messages _ you have to understand Tom is also a member of the union, the Commissioner’s office actually does not have any subpoena power. If a prominent player were to provide all of their private communications absent a subpoena, that sets a dangerous precedent for all players facing disciplinary measures.”