SALEM — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady spoke at Salem State University on Thursday night, taking part in a sitdown with sportscaster Jim Gray despite the controversy swirling around him thanks to Deflategate and the Wells Report.
Though the night was intended as a fireside chat, Gray wasted no time getting to Deflategate.
“We’re going to keep the evening to what it was supposed to be. However, there is an elephant in the room,” Gray began.
“Where?” Brady deadpanned.
Gray mentioned the Wells Report, which stated that it’s “more probable than not” that Brady had knowledge of what assistant equipment manager John Jastremski and officials locker room attendant Jim McNally were doing, as the report said the pair likely “participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls” on the night of the AFC Championship game in January, after the footballs had been inspected by game officials.
The mention of the report brought a boos from the crowd. Gray then asked for Brady’s reaction.
“I don’t have any reaction,” Brady said. “Our owner [Robert Kraft] commented on it yesterday, and it’s only been 30 hours, so I haven’t had much time to digest it fully. But when I do, I’ll be sure to let you know how I feel about it. And everybody else.”
Gray pressed Brady on when he’d talk about the report, and the 37-year-old replied, “Hopefully soon.
“There’s still a process that’s going forth right now, and I’m involved in that process, so whatever happens, it happens, and I’ll certainly want to be very comfortable in how I feel about the statements I make.”
Given that Brady’s agent, Don Yee, released a statement on Thursday calling the Wells Report “a significant and terrible disappointment,” it doesn’t seem much of a leap to think Brady kept quiet on the advice of Yee and perhaps other counsel.
Brady had committed to the speaking engagement several weeks ago, and it sold out in 20 minutes. A few thousand people crowded into Rockett Arena, clearly partial to the New England signal-caller, no matter what is being said about him outside of the region.
The air thick with humidity, Brady entered the arena to raucous cheers — a few minutes earlier, a brief “MVP! MVP!” chant broke out — flanked by police officers and security personnel, and took a seat on the stage alongside Gray, as they were introduced by Salem State president Patricia Maguire Meservey.
Outside, there were no fewer than nine television trucks, and Salem State allowed the first 10 minutes of the event to be broadcast before cutting off the feed. That time included Meservey’s remarks and Gray questioning Brady on Deflategate and the Wells Report.
Gray asked Brady if the controversy has detracted from his joy over winning the Super Bowl.
“Absolutely not,” Brady said, drawing more cheers. “We earned everything we achieved as a team this year.”
Gray was booed again when he asked Brady if the Super Bowl win was tainted. Brady replied, “No, absolutely not.”
“You know, I’ve dealt with a lot of things in the past, I dealt with this three months ago,” Brady said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of adversity in my career, and I’m fortunate I have so many people that love me and support me, and certainly I accept my role and responsibility as a public figure, a lot of it you take the good with the bad . . . We’ll get through it.”
Gray noted that Brady, who was wearing a dark sport coat with a pocket square but no tie, is getting “pummeled” in the court of public opinion. Brady admitted that “as a human” you care what others think of you, but he also knows that in his position, there are those that like him and those that don’t.
On his conspicuous absence from the Patriots’ visit to the White House last month, Brady repeated what a team spokesman had said at the time: He had a family commitment. If New England repeats as Super Bowl champion this upcoming season, Brady said he will attend the White House, though he hopes he has a little more notice.
Once they turned from those topics, Gray asked Brady about his family, his leadership style, and of course about his now four Super Bowl titles with the Patriots, and what it feels like to win the championship.
“You lay in bed and you dream about moments like that,” Brady said. “The joy just overpowers you. The experiences of losing those games [Super Bowls XLII and XLVI] taught me a lot. You wake up after those games and you think, ‘That must have been a bad dream.’
“And after this game, I was like, ‘That wasn’t a dream, right? That was real?’ You pinch yourself a few times. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into accomplishing such a great feat, and the competition is so tough. It’s a highly competitive league.
“Our team has always found a way to be competitive, to put the best that we could on the field. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”