Five days after the Wells Report found that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady “was at least general aware” that his team had purposely deflated balls during its AFC Championship rout of the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL announced he would be suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2015 season.
In addition, the Patriots were fined $1 million and will lose a first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and a fourth-round selection in 2017.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell authorized the discipline, imposed by the league’s executive president of football operations, Troy Vincent, who pointed to Brady’s lack of cooperation with the Wells investigation as a factor in his suspension.
“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,” Vincent wrote in a letter to Brady. “Moreover, the report documents your failure to cooperate fully and candidly with the investigation, including by refusing to produce any relevant electronic evidence, 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.”
The Wells Report singled out two Patriots personnel – Jim McNally and John Jastremski – as being responsible for under-inflating game balls, the latter of whom admitted to investigators that he had spoken about the issue with Brady on January 19. Three days later, the Patriots quarterback told reporters he had no knowledge of balls being deflated, saying “I have questions too. There’s nobody I know that can answer the questions I have.”
Following the release of the report, Brady’s agent, Don Yee, said it “contains significant and tragic flaws” and called the findings “a terrible disappointment.”
“Its omission of key facts and lines of inquiry suggest the investigators reached a conclusion first, and then determined so-called facts later,” Yee said in a statement. “It is a sad day for the league as it has abdicated the resolution of football-specific issues to people who don’t understand the context or culture of the sport.”
Yee also called the Wells Report “a sting operation.”
At press time Thursday, the Patriots have yet to comment on the NFL’s disciplinary actions, and Brady has declined to speak about the Wells Report in detail: During an appearance at Salem State University last week, moderator Jim Gray repeatedly pressed the quarterback on the matter, though he would only say “I haven’t had much time to digest [the report] fully. But when I do I will be sure to let you know how I feel about it.”