Nearly a week has passed since Roger Goodell upheld Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his involvement in Deflategate, but the New England Patriots maintain innocence – both theirs and Brady’s.
At this point, what is the general perception of what the NFL was trying to accomplish here? Was it to punish Brady for what the league felt was a lie and a cover-up, or was it to penalize the Patriots for breaking – or at least coming close to breaking – rules for much of the last decade and beyond?
Frankly, a compelling case could be made for either side.
“When an investigation begins, if you’re fortunate enough to find a leak from somebody inside the league who knows something and can tell you, good for you,” MMQB writer Peter King said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But my experience covering the league for a long time is that in most cases, there is a stonewalling that happens, and . . . I think the NFL just went into stonewall mode: We’re not releasing any information, we’re not talking about it, we are in investigation mode, and we’re not going to do anything to compromise the investigation.
“The problem was that some of the information that was out turned out to be incorrect,” King continued. “One of the letters from Dave Gardi, an NFL vice president . . . had incorrect information in it about what had been found at halftime of the AFC Championship Game. Then some of the information that was on ESPN about 11 of the 12 footballs (testing) more than two pounds per square inch under the limit – which very clearly meant they had been tampered with – turned out to be absolutely untrue. So at that point, I think the Patriots are extremely justified in asking for a correction of the public record so that expectations do not run amok, that Tom Brady (isn’t presumed) guilty before the investigation starts.”
But is he? Did Brady do what the NFL is claiming?
“I don’t think anybody truly knows in my business absolutely 100 percent whether he’s guilty or not guilty,” King said. “All I know is that what I read in the Wells Report and what I’ve read since then, there’s definitely some red flags. There’s definitely some things that would concern me and make me wonder about Brady’s innocence. But I still have not heard of anything that directly connects or directly in my mind proves that Tom Brady ordered the code red.”
King doesn’t think Brady will be in action when the Patriots host the Steelers in Week 1, but he hasn’t closed the door on that possibility.
“I think probably not, but I have no idea,” King said. “Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk had a great comment the other day. He said anybody who talks with confidence about what is going to happen on opening day or in the first few games of the season is foolish – because you just have no idea. I think the one good thing for football fans is that both sides have asked for clarification and a final resolution of this before the season starts, which I think is fair.
“I think the smartest thing is to just basically defer everything to the end of the year when we have some information, some evidence and some real knowledge of what happens to air pressure in footballs when it’s cold outside,” King continued. “We don’t know anything about it now, other than theory. What happens if we find out that the (air pressure of the) average football – when it’s the 40s or 30s in a two-hour period out in cold weather – goes down an average of a pound-and-a-half? That’s what happened to the Patriots’ footballs in the championship game.”