Tom Brady took the fight over his “Deflategate” suspension to social media and federal court on Wednesday, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft backed the three-time Super Bowl MVP, saying “I was wrong to put my faith in the league.”
One day after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rejected Brady’s appeal, the star quarterback posted a 507-word statement on Facebook with his firmest denial yet, writing: “I did nothing wrong.” Kraft followed with an unscheduled address to the media gathered at Gillette Stadium for the opening of training camp and the team’s defense of its fourth Super Bowl championship.
“It is completely incomprehensible to me that the league continues to take steps to disparage one of its all-time great players, and a man for whom I have the utmost respect,” the Patriots owner said. “I have come to the conclusion that this was never about doing what was fair and just.”
Just before the courts closed in Minneapolis, the NFL Players Association asked U.S. District Judge David Doty to overturn Brady’s four-game suspension — or at least put it on hold until the case can be heard. The union asked Doty to throw out the suspension before Sept. 4; that would keep Brady from missing any practices before the Patriots’ Sept. 10 season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“We need to free him up for that first week,” union attorney Jeffrey Kessler told the Associated Press. “We don’t believe this discipline can ever be sustained.”
The lawsuit argues that the NFL made up its rules as it went along and misapplied the ones that were already on the books. In an interview with the AP, Kessler called it “offensive” that the league accused Brady of destroying his cellphone to obstruct the investigation, a claim Goodell made in upholding the suspension on Tuesday.
“We believe they highlighted this issue solely to inflame the public, to suggest there is some secret information being withheld, and that’s wrong,” Kessler told the AP. “It’s an unfair character assassination of a player who has done nothing but be a model citizen for this league.”
Brady defended the cellphone swap on Facebook.
“To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong,” he said. “There is no ‘smoking gun’ and this controversy is manufactured to distract from the fact they have zero evidence of wrongdoing.”
Brady was suspended four games and the Patriots were docked $1 million and two draft picks in May for what the league found was a scheme to provide improperly inflated footballs for the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts. Investigator Ted Wells zeroed in on two equipment managers — one who called himself “The Deflator” — and said Brady was “at least generally aware” of the illegal deflation scheme.
Kraft said the Patriots did nothing wrong, but the team fired the two equipment managers. He said he didn’t fight the team’s penalty because he thought the league would go easy on the star quarterback.
Now, he said, he regrets his decision.
“I truly believe that what I did in May … would make it much easier for the league to exonerate Tom Brady. Unfortunately, I was wrong,” Kraft said.
Goodell’s house watched
Police in Scarborough, Maine, said they received a request from the NFL on Tuesday to keep a close eye on a $6.5 million home Goodell owns on the peninsula of Prouts Neck. “They did reach out and let us know about the decision and that it might not be popular,” Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton told the Portland Press Herald.
• Locking up their top pass-rusher, the Redskins agreed to a five-year, $57.5 million contract extension with linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.
• Bears receiver Kevin White, the No. 7 pick in this year’s draft, will open training camp on the physically unable to perform list because of a shin injury.