FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady and Robert Kraft declared war on commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL on Wednesday.
Brady posted a passionate response to his four-game suspension on Facebook, directly addressing Deflategate for the first time since January. Kraft went back on his word and reentered the fray, targeting Goodell and the NFL’s lawyers and turning the final day before training camp into a no-holds-barred fight.
It was a rousing show.
It wasn’t, however, totally convincing. There are still inconsistencies in the Patriots’ explanations, compared with those offered by Goodell and the NFL on Tuesday in reaffirming Brady’s suspension, that warrant exploring.
1. Kraft said that by standing down in May, he had hoped that the NFL would be lenient on Brady.
I don’t doubt that this was part of Kraft’s rationale when he announced at the owner’s meetings in San Francisco that he wanted to “end the rhetoric” and begrudgingly accepted the Patriots’ penalties for Deflategate — losing a 2016 first-round draft pick, a 2017 fourth-round pick, and paying a $1 million fine.
“I acted in good faith and was optimistic that by taking the actions I took, the league would have what they wanted,” Kraft said Wednesday. “I was willing to accept the harshest penalty in the history of the NFL for an alleged ball violation because I believed it would help exonerate Tom.”
Except that’s not painting the entire picture. Kraft went to San Francisco that weekend looking for a fight, as evidenced by the fiery interview he gave Sports Illustrated’s Peter King leading up to the meeting.
It was only after Kraft polled the room, so to speak, and heard from other owners that he decided to stand down.
“There isn’t much support for the Patriots,’’ one owner told colleague Dan Shaughnessy at the beginning of the meetings. “I’ve been hearing all the claims of Patriot fans and folks poking holes in the Wells Report, so I read it again last night. You know what? The league has enough on them.’’
Kraft certainly had Brady’s intentions in mind when he backed down, but he also knew he had nowhere to go by fighting the league.
2. Tom Brady said his phone was “broken,” not “destroyed.”
Brady might have a very good point when he says that Goodell has no right to view his personal cellphone. And Brady’s right to privacy could factor significantly in his favor in a lawsuit.
But Brady already lost in the court of public opinion after the NFL revealed Tuesday that he ordered his personal assistant to destroy his cellphone on or around March 6, the same day he was set to meet with attorney Ted Wells.
Brady defended himself Wednesday, saying that his phone was simply “broken” prior to the hearing.
“To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong,” he wrote.
I have no way of knowing who is right here. I wasn’t in the room and haven’t been privy to the communications.
You know who does know? Both the NFL and Brady.
A stenographer was in the room during Brady’s appeal on June 23, per the collective bargaining agreement. Both sides should have a transcript of every word that was said.
Brady was under oath at his appeal. And Goodell was very specific in his ruling that Brady admitted that he destroyed his phone as part of his normal practices.
“Mr. Brady’s agent explained, and Mr. Brady confirmed in his testimony, (a) that his ordinary practice, when he gets a new cellphone, is to give the old cellphone to his assistant for destruction,” Goodell wrote, “and (b) that he followed that ordinary practice with the cellphone that he used from November 6, 2014 until early March 2015.”
If Brady says that this is false, well, let’s roll back the tape.
3. The Patriots staunchly believe they did nothing wrong.
Wednesday’s statements were the strongest yet from Kraft and Brady that the Patriots did nothing wrong in Deflategate.
“Six months removed from the AFC Championship Game, the league still has no hard evidence of anybody doing anything to tamper with the PSI level of footballs,” Kraft said.
Brady was even more steadfast in his defense.
“I did nothing wrong, and no one in the Patriots organization did either,” Brady wrote. “The fact is that neither I, nor any equipment person, did anything of which we have been accused.”
OK, so we’ll go back to the question people have been asking for two months — why are Jim McNally and John Jastremski still suspended? Something’s not adding up here.
4. Brady said no counter offer was made.
Brady wrote that he wanted to settle with the NFL, but that the NFL didn’t respond to his offer and didn’t seem inclined to make a deal.
“I authorized the NFLPA to make a settlement offer to the NFL so that we could avoid going to court and put this inconsequential issue behind us as we move forward into this season,” Brady said. “The discipline was upheld without any counter offer.”
Except that runs counter to two reports that came out Monday, from NFL.com and Pro Football Talk, stating that the NFL was willing to drop the suspension down to one or two games had Brady conceded some points.
Pro Football Talk wrote that “per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL was willing to drop the suspension by ‘at least 50 percent’ if Brady: (1) admitted to having knowledge of whatever Jastremski and McNally were doing to the footballs; (2) admitted to failing to cooperate with the investigation; and (3) apologized.”
So, what’s the story here? Was it the NFL that refused to deal, Brady who refused to accept a compromise, or somewhere in between?
5. Brady argues that being “generally aware” isn’t enough to punish.
This could be one of Brady’s key points in a lawsuit — that the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement does not mention a standard of being “generally aware,” as Wells wrote, as grounds for a four-game suspension.
“It is disappointing that the commissioner upheld my suspension based upon a standard that it was ‘probable’ that I was ‘generally aware’ of misconduct,” Brady wrote.
Except Brady should read Goodell’s ruling more carefully. The NFL no longer believes Brady was “generally aware.” They believe he was driving the bus.
“The evidence fully supports my findings that (1) Mr. Brady participated in a scheme to tamper with the game balls after they had been approved by the game officials for use in the AFC Championship Game,” Goodell wrote. “Mr. Brady knew about, approved of, consented to, and provided inducements and rewards in support of a scheme by which, with Mr. Jastremski’s support, Mr. McNally tampered with game balls.”