Thirty-five days after hearing Tom Brady’s appeal in NFL offices and just hours before the Patriots are set to open training camp, commissioner Roger Goodell announced his decision in the star quarterback’s case: the four-game suspension is upheld.
For the moment, the Patriots must begin preparing second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to start the season, with veteran Matt Flynn to serve as his backup.
Garoppolo, a second-round pick last year out of Eastern Illinois, is undersized by conventional standards — he’s listed at 6 feet 2 inches, but is noticeably shorter than Brady, who is 6-4 — but the team believes he has the right makeup to succeed.
Brady found out in May he would be forced to sit for a quarter of the season after the league found it was “more probable than not” he had knowledge of footballs deliberately being deflated before the AFC Championship game in January.
Garoppolo played in six regular-season games last year. His most extensive work came in second half of New England’s Week 4 blowout loss in Kansas City and the season-ending defeat to the Bills, in which he was sacked three times.
Garoppolo finished the season completing 19 of 27 passes for 182 yards and one TD, with a 101.2 passer rating.
Garoppolo, 23, has been hailed for his work ethic, leadership, and ability to lead the huddle. Earlier this month, receiver Brandon LaFell told SiriusXM that Garoppolo has grown since being drafted.
“I feel like studying behind Tom has been great for him. If we have to be without Tom for the first couple games, I’m pretty sure Tom will be in Jimmy’s ear helping him prepare each and every way he can to go out here and lead this team,” LaFell said. “I think we have a great group of guys around him that will kind of take the pressure off Jimmy so he doesn’t feel like he has to go out there and win the game himself.”
Patriots veterans must report to training camp by Wednesday, and the team affirmed Tuesday night that the previously scheduled news conferences with Bill Belichick and team captains Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater will still be held. Additionally, all assistant coaches will be made available to reporters.
Statements from Don Yee, Brady’s longtime agent, the Patriots, and the NFLPA were all sent out Tuesday afternoon, all of them expressing varying degrees of anger toward the league and Goodell.
The Patriots have stood by their franchise quarterback throughout this process, and did so again via their statement, which was not attributed to any specific member of the club.
“We cannot comprehend the league’s position in this matter,” the statement said. “Most would agree that the penalties levied originally were excessive and unprecedented, especially in light of the fact that the league has no hard evidence of wrongdoing.
“We continue to unequivocally believe in and support Tom Brady.”
The statement went on to say that the laws of science “underscore the folly of this entire ordeal” and that it is “incomprehensible” as to why the NFL is destroying the reputation of one of its greatest players.
The NFL made a preemptive strike in the courts Tuesday, petitioning the US District Court in New York to confirm Goodell’s decision and enter judgment in favor of the league. The move also makes it more difficult for Brady and the NFLPA to have their case heard in federal court in Minnesota, where historically player-friendly judge David Doty presides, or in Massachusetts.
One recent case that went through federal court, the StarCaps case involving the Vikings’ Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, took two years to make its way through the courts.