Tom Brady will be suspended for the first four games of next season for his alleged role in deflategate and the New England Patriots will be docked a first-round pick in next year’s draft for the cheating scandal, the NFL announced in a statement on Monday.
Brady, who led the New England Patriots to victory in the Super Bowl for the fourth time last year, was punished for violating the “NFL policy on the integrity of the game” according to a report from the league’s official site. In addition to the suspension and the lost first-round pick, the Patriots will also lose a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft and will be fined $1 million.
NFL Executive President Troy Vincent sent letters to Brady and the Patriots explaining the punishment, which were released to the press. In it, Vincent criticizes Brady for refusing to co-operate with the league’s investigation into the cheating accusations and said that the testimony he did provide “ 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 letter to Brady read. “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.”
The news comes one week after the league issued its report on the controversy, in which two Patriots staffers are alleged to have underinflated game balls during last year’s AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. The report, conducted by attorney Ted Wells, said that it is “more probable than not” that the two employees tampered with footballs before that game and “more probable than not” that Brady knew about it.
Brady, who has built up one of the greatest resumes in the history of the sport with two league MVP awards and three Super Bowl MVP awards, has said in the past that he prefers balls that are “deflated.” Deflating the air out of balls can help a quarterback’s grip, but the league mandates that game balls be inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch.
The balls used by the Patriots in the first half of the Colts game were found to be inflated below that level and a series of text messages by the two Patriots employees alleged to have organized the team's deflations indicated that they did it regularly and that Brady knew about it.
In 2006, Brady and Peyton Manning lobbied the league to change its rules to allow road teams to handle the footballs they used on offense. Before it was the home team that managed the balls for both sides.
Boston Globe writer Ben Violin reported that longtime Patriots employees and alleged game ball fixers Jim McNally and John Jastremski have been suspended indefinitely and banned from handling game balls.
Vincent’s letter to the Patriots made a point to note that head coach Bill Belichick and other Patriots staff members were not found to have participated in the deflation by the report, but that “it remains a fundamental principle that the club is responsible for the actions of club employees.”
Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to start the first four games of the year against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Buffalo Bills, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Dallas Cowboys.