The hottest of sports takes, it seems, have been derived from Deflategate, with no shortage of top names offering their thoughts on Tom Brady.
Several former players — Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Jerome Bettis, Mark Brunell — were quick to condemn the Patriots quarterback in late January.
But since the initial report came out a mere 31 weeks ago (sigh), it seems support has swelled for Brady as frustration toward NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the league has grown tenfold. And those former players who spoke out all those months ago haven’t publicly adjusted their stances since the newest episodes have played out in this television drama.
Support lately, however, has come from odd corners since his four-game suspension was upheld in June and he subsequently took the matter to federal court.
Here is a look at who has said what recently:
The odd corner
Richard Sherman, of “U Mad Bro?”
Briefly: The Seattle Seahawks cornerback has faced Brady twice in his career, going 1-1. To put it nicely, they don’t seem to care much for one another. (Thank you for this meme, Sherm.) But Sherman has never shied away from voicing logical criticism of the NFL. He did just that by comparing the Patriots’ $1 million fine with the $1.88 million Brady stands to lose if he sits for four games.
He said it: “You’re fining players more than you’re fining organizations? That should bring up some red flags. But nobody’s talking about that. Last year, (Colts owner) Jim Irsay got fined what, 500 grand? People are just so focused on, ‘Oh, that’s a huge fine for the organization.’ It’s not. A million dollars is peanuts to the Patriots, who will make [hundreds of] million dollars this year.”
Antonio Cromartie, of Brady is “an *$$^@!#” fame
Briefly: A big plus for Cromartie in joining the New York Jets in 2010 was facing Brady twice a year in the AFC East. But just because he would compete against a sure-fire Hall of Famer on a consistent basis does not mean he has to like Brady. Cromartie used colorful language to describe his thoughts about Brady four years ago. But Cromartie said Brady’s punishment does not fit the crime and he should not serve a suspension.
He said it: “I think the fine is a $25,000 fine. They got fined, they got took away draft picks. But the maximum fine, I think, was $25,000. And in the rulebooks, there’s no suspension in the rules. There’s only a $25,000 fine with the CBA and with the ruling that’s going on. So I don’t see how you can try to lay the hammer down on someone when the rule states for itself there’s no suspension for it. There’s only a maximum fine for $25,000. So it’s just the point of, are we trying to go back to the Spygate and get more from that?”
Terrell Suggs, He Who Shall Not Say Brady’s Name
Briefly: The Ravens and Patriots — and especially Suggs and Brady — have endured a rich and lively rivalry in the last decade. Another chapter was written when e-mails showed Baltimore tipping off Indianapolis about the possibility of deflated footballs before the AFC title game, though the Ravens vehemently denied that. Suggs, the Ravens’ star linebacker and emotional leader, refuses to say Brady’s name, usually referring to him with only pronouns. He followed that protocol when he indicated Deflategate shouldn’t stain Brady’s legacy.
He said it: “The guy’s a winner. He’s won with whatever kind of personnel he’s had, so I don’t think it really tarnishes [his legacy].”
Joe Thomas, Browns offensive lineman? Sure
Briefly: The eight-time Pro Bowl does not have a cutthroat rivalry with Brady. But he called it like he sees it. His secondary point to calling Brady’s suspension over the top was to clear up the confusion around football preparation rules. Either use footballs straight out of the box or let the quarterbacks do whatever they want to them.
He said it: “I would equate what [Brady] did to driving 66 [mph] in a 65 speed zone, and getting the death penalty.
“I think he’s trying to do everything he can to gain a competitive advantage to help him do his job better, which is to throw the football. Why should we be punishing a guy that wants to do his job better?”
The Donald, the trucker-hat wearing Republican presidential candidate
Briefly: The polls’ favorite has a “great friend” in Brady and Trump doesn’t want to see his friend go through anything he doesn’t deserve.
He said it: “I think it’s ridiculous the way they’ve treated [Brady]. He’s a friend of mine, he’s a great friend of mine, he’s a great guy, and I think it’s ridiculous the way they’ve treated him. To spend $10 million in legal fees, and now it’s probably higher than that, it’s crazy. He’s a great star. They ought to go back to playing football. This country has bigger problems.”
The expected corner
Randy Moss, the ever-loyal teammate
Briefly: Moss and Brady went through an undefeated regular season together and Super Bowl heartbreak together. You wouldn’t expect anything less when the Patriots were in Moss’s home state last week, Moss stood up for the quarterback he once helped break the record for touchdown passes in a single season.
He said it: “One thing y’all have to realize is Tom’s human. I’m not going to sit up here and tell you that it doesn’t affect him. I think not only does it affect him, it affects everybody in his circle. As a professional, you just have to live with it and just move on from it. We talk every month, but that [Deflategate] is something we don’t talk about. … I told Tom, first and foremost, that I’m gonna stand by him regardless of what happens, and I don’t call him to talk about anything negative. Friends are supposed to stay positive and move you in the right direction, and that’s what I’m there for.”
John Cena, West Newbury native and wrestler/actor/general muscle flexor
Briefly: It’s pretty simple. Cena, a WWE star and Patriots fan, doesn’t want Brady to be distracted from his own greatness.
He said it: “Let your accomplishments speak for yourself. There is no better argument to any speculation than to go out there and just kick some a--. You are great; you are part of a great organization that prides itself on trying to create a dynasty atmosphere. Stay the course, keep doing well, and years from now we’ll just wonder why we spent federal tax dollars investigating deflated footballs.”
Mark Wahlberg, Boston native and hamburger connoisseur
Briefly: Wahlberg gave him a bro-hug and basked in his greatness after the Super Bowl and absolutely does not think Brady did anything to the footballs, making the crack that Brady’s footballs “are beautiful.”
He said it: “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. I think Tom Brady is the best quarterback to ever play the game. Should have six championships. Will before it’s all said and done.”
The confusing corner
Darrelle Revis, the one-and-done Patriot
Briefly: So they won a Super Bowl together, then Revis blew town for New York and money (but can you blame him?), hopped on the cover of Sports Illustrated in Joe Namath style, and now thinks the quarterback he won a championship with in February should take the four-game suspension and roll with it. Alrighty then.
He said it: “I think it’s dragged a little too far, it’s a little too much. I feel he got the suspension, the four games, and, you know, live with it. … I don’t know all the information, I don’t know everything about the whole situation. But Tom, I know he’s a competitor. He wants to win, and it’s unfortunate what’s going on right now with the situation.”
The ‘He’s guilty’ corner
Gregg Doyel, Indianapolis Star columnist
Briefly: He has taken Brady to task throughout and did not veer off course in his last column on the subject.
He said it: “Tom Brady, cheater. … Tom Brady, liar. … Tom Brady, shameless. … Tom Brady, guilty.
“He’s worse than a liar, worse than a cheat. He’s a man of low integrity.”
Tom Brady's 2015 NFL debut will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium. NFL upheld his suspension. Right call.— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelStar) July 28, 2015
Bob Kravitz, WTHR columnist
Briefly: You may remember this name. His tweet reporting that the NFL was investigating the Patriots for possibly using underinflated footballs exposed this whole thing. From the beginning, he has believed Brady has had some involvement, though he thinks now the sides need to settle the case, leaving Brady with a one- or two-game suspension.
He said it: “Do I believe the Patriots purposely deflated some of those footballs? Yes, I do. … Do I believe Brady was involved? It just makes sense that he was. But when it comes to actually proving it, or coming close to proving it, the Wells Report generally failed to make a thoroughly persuasive case. … This judge sounds more like a fan than he does a federal arbitrator, and based on what we’ve heard Wednesday, it sounds like he’s leaning in Brady’s direction.”
Bart Hubbuch, New York Post columnist
Briefly: Even after the full transcript from Brady’s appeal hearing became public, Hubbuch believes Brady was involved in the deflation of footballs and deserving of punishment.
What he said: “Why did it take him six months to defend himself? He did not come out with a full-throated defense until six months later after I think he was comfortable that the NFL had released all the information they had against him. He didn’t come out with his defense until six months later and it was in a Facebook post. Now he won’t talk to anybody. He hasn’t spoke and that’s another violation.”
ESPN’s NFL player survey
ESPN conducted a survey of 100 NFL players earlier this month, revealing that 72 percent believe the Patriots deflated footballs but that 86 percent are not upset by it. Fifty-eight percent do not believe the Patriots are “cheaters” and 78 percent said Brady should be suspended “fewer than four games.”
The narrowest divide came on this question: Do you think deflated footballs impact the outcome of games?
Yes: 48 percent.
No: 52 percent.Follow Rachel G. Bowers on Twitter @RachelGBowers.