The NFL penalized the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots Monday for deflating footballs in the 2014 AFC Championship, with star quarterback Tom Brady receiving a four-game suspension. The Patriots were fined $1 million, and also must forfeit a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2017. Brady's agent said he would appeal, and the team's owner issued a statement implying that the team would also appeal the punishment because it "far exceeded any reasonably expectation."
Brady will miss games in Weeks 1, 2, 3 and 5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys. He can still participate in all offseason, training camp and preseason activities, which include preseason games.
Brady's contract calls for the 38-year-old to make $8 million this season, meaning his suspension would cost him about $2 million.
The NFL's punishment comes after a 243-page report by league-appointed attorney Ted Wells stated that it was "more probable than not" that Brady was aware the footballs were below the NFL-mandated minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.
The Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship, 45-7, and went on to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl two weeks later.
NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent described Brady, equipment assistant John Jastremski and locker room attendant Jim McNally as "not fully candid during the investigation," in a written statement.
Vincent also wrote a letter to Brady.
“With respect to your particular involvement, the report established that there is substantial and credible evidence to conclude you were at least generally aware of the actions of the Patriots’ employees involved in the deflation of the footballs and that it was unlikely that their actions were done without your knowledge. Moreover, the report documents your failure to cooperate fully and candidly with the investigation, including by refusing to produce any relevant electronic evidence (emails, texts, etc.), despite being offered extraordinary safeguards by the investigators to protect unrelated personal information, and by providing testimony that the report concludes was not plausible and contradicted by other evidence.
“Your actions as set forth in the report clearly constitute conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football. The integrity of the game is of paramount importance to everyone in our league, and requires unshakable commitment to fairness and compliance with the playing rules. Each player, no matter how accomplished and otherwise respected, has an obligation to comply with the rules 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.”
Brady's agent, Don Yee, tweeted a statement in response to the NFL's punishment.
Full statement from Tom Brady's agent Don Yee: "The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis. In (cont)
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) May 11 2015
"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," Yee wrote. "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."
Patriots' owner Kraft, who has had a close relationship with his star quarterback, also weighed in. “Despite our conviction that there was no tampering with footballs, it was our intention to accept any discipline levied by the league," his statement said. "Today’s punishment, however, far exceeded any reasonable expectation. It was based completely on circumstantial rather than hard or conclusive evidence."
“Tom Brady has our unconditional support. Our belief in him has not wavered,” the statement read.