NFL suspends Brady four games for 'Deflategate,' fines Patriots
By Steve Ginsburg
(Reuters) - The National Football League came down hard on the New England Patriots on Monday for their role in Deflategate, suspending star quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of next season and fining the franchise $1 million.
The NFL also said the Patriots will forfeit their first-round selection in the 2016 draft and a fourth-round pick in 2017 for using under-inflated footballs in last season's AFC Championship game.
Ted Wells, an attorney hired by the NFL to investigate the allegations, said in a 243-page report that it was "more probable than not" that Patriots personnel "were involved in a deliberate effort" to circumvent rules by using deflated footballs in the team's 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game.
The suspension and fine were considered severe compared to previous NFL sanctions and carried greater weight by being levied against one of the most popular players in the league and the Super Bowl champions.
The $1 million fine ties the largest ever for a team in the NFL, equaling the amount the league ordered San Francisco 49ers owner Edward Debartolo, Jr. to pay in 1999 after he pleaded guilty to a felony for his role in a Louisiana gambling scandal.
Brady, who has three days to appeal the suspension, has a guaranteed base salary of $8 million for the 16-game 2015 NFL season. If the four-game suspension with no pay is upheld, Brady will miss games against Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Dallas. Ironically, his first game back on Oct. 18 would be against the Colts.
Vincent, the NFL's vice president of football operations who handed down the sanctions, said he was influenced by the Patriots' 2007 Spygate scandal and the lack of cooperation by Brady and the Patriots.
"We relied on the critical importance of protecting the integrity of the game and the thoroughness and independence of the Wells report," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. Continued...