NFL suspends Brady for four games, hits Patriots hard for 'Deflategate'

Tue May 12, 2015 1:37am EDT
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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.

Brady's agent and Patriots owner Robert Kraft both sharply criticized the punishment, prolonging a turbulent season for the most-profitable U.S. sports league, which has already had to deal with scandals involving domestic violence and child abuse.

"The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis," said Brady's agent Don Yee, adding that the quarterback will appeal the suspension.

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.

An underinflated football would likely give Brady a better grip and allow him to throw longer and with more accuracy, especially in the chilly and wet conditions the Colts and Patriots played in to determine who would go to the Super Bowl.

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.

In a statement, Kraft, considered one of the league's most-powerful owners and an ally of Commissioner Roger Goodell, expressed his "disappointment in how this one-sided investigation was handled" and said Brady, who has led the Patriots to four championships, "has our unconditional support."   Continued...

A ball boy holds footballs as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) warms-up ahead of the start of the NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, Arizona, February 1, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson