NFL didn't push Patriots not to fight 'Deflategate' penalty: Goodell

Wed May 20, 2015 3:51pm EDT
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By Steve Ginsburg

(Reuters) - New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft's decision not to appeal the team's "Deflategate" penalty was made without pressure from the National Football League, Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Wednesday.

"The decision that Robert made was his decision," Goodell said during a 25-minute news conference at the end of the NFL owners' meeting in San Francisco.

Kraft said on Tuesday he would reluctantly accept rather than appeal a $1 million fine and loss of draft choices imposed by the NFL against the Super Bowl champions for the team's role in the "Deflategate" scandal.

"I admire and respect Robert, as you know," Goodell said. "We've had plenty of discussions over the last couple of weeks. And this was his initiative and something he wanted to do. I certainly admire the step he took."

The NFL punished the Patriots, one of the league's most successful franchises, for purposely deflating footballs used in the team's 45-7 playoff victory over the Indianapolis Colts that put New England in the Super Bowl. Deflating a football could give the quarterback a competitive edge by allowing him to better grip the ball.

The NFL also has suspended Tom Brady for four games next season after an investigator hired by the league concluded the Patriots star quarterback was aware of the plan to deflate the footballs. Brady, a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player, has appealed the suspension.

Goodell said Kraft's decision would not affect Brady's appeal, which the commissioner said last week he would deal with on a still-to-be-determined date.

The players union on Tuesday formally requested that Goodell recuse himself as the arbitrator in Brady's case, saying his "history of inconsistently issuing discipline ... makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner."   Continued...

Owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft  at Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, March 31, 2015.  REUTERS/Aram Boghosian/Pool