More than three months after the New England Patriots were accused of deflating footballs in the AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts, a report commissioned by the NFL has concluded that quarterback Tom Brady was likely aware the team was cheating. Now, Brady, along with others involved in the scandal, could be facing consequences.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the NFL is considering discipline for Brady, locker attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski. While there is no precedent for fining or suspending players for intentionally using underinflated footballs, the league may take action. Schefter reported that the potential discipline against the Patriots could be handed down in a matter of days.
It's unclear what type of punishment the Patriots might face. Suspensions, fines and a forfeit of draft picks have been used in the past to discipline players, coaches and an organization. According to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, it will be up to NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent to handle the disciplinary action.
“Based on the evidence, we also have concluded that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls,” said the report, which was led by investigator Ted Wells.
The Patriots are no strangers to being punished for alleged cheating. After “Spygate” found that New England videotaped their opponent’s defensive signals, head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, the Patriots were hit with a $250,000 fine and the team had to forfeit their first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
NFL now considers discipline which may include Patriots and Brady getting fined, suspension and forfeiture of draft picks. All in play.
â€” Eric Macramalla (@EricOnSportsLaw) May 6, 2015
If Brady were hit with a one-game suspension, he may be forced to sit the 2015 regular-season opener. Week 1 is set to begin on Thursday, Sept. 10, as New England hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since Brady took over as the team’s starting quarterback in 2001, he’s opened every season under center for New England.
The Wells Report found that Patriots ownership, head coach Bill Belichick and other Patriots coaches likely weren’t involved in deflating the football. But that doesn’t mean that only Brady could be punished for the scandal.
John Clayton on @SportsCenter: "don't be surprised" if Belichick is disciplined in addition to Brady and 2 attendants
â€” Michele Steele (@ESPNMichele) May 6, 2015
According to the Wells Report, Belichick asked Brady if he was involved in deflating footballs for the team’s game against the Colts. The quarterback denied any wrongdoing, just like he’s done when asked by members of the media.