The NFL suspended Tom Brady for four games for his role in the Deflategate scandal, but his decision to not turn over his phone may have hurt his defence more than any actual evidence of footballs being deflated.
Pro Football Talk has obtained a copy of the transcript from Brady’s hearing to appeal his suspension. During the hearing, Brady flat-out denied ever asking somebody to deflate footballs and said he would “disapprove” if anybody was doing something to the footballs after he had checked them before the game.
In an appeal hearing, the NFL’s lead investigator, Ted Wells, was asked if he “rejected” this testimony. Wells confirmed during the hearing that he did reject Brady’s testimony because of the decision to not turn over documents requested by the investigation, namely emails and text messages from the phone Brady admitted to later having an assistant destroy.
Q. You rejected the testimony of Mr. Brady that he knew nothing about the ball deflation in the AFC Championship Game, right? You rejected that?
A. I did reject it based on my assessment of his credibility and his refusal or decision not to give me what I requested in terms of responsive documents. And that decision, so we can all be clear and I will say it to Mr. Brady, in my almost 40 years of practice, I think that was one of the most ill-advised decisions I have ever seen because it hurt how I viewed his credibility.
Q. If he had given you that, you would have accepted his statement?
A. I do not know. I can’t go back in a time machine, but I will say this. It hurt my assessment of his credibility for him to begin his interview by telling me he declined to give me the documents. And I want to say this. At that time, neither his lawyer nor Mr. Brady gave me any reason other than to say, “We respectfully.” They were respectful. They said, “We respectfully decline.” There wasn’t anything about the Union or it wasn’t anything, This was what my lawyer told me and I am going to follow my lawyer’s advice. I was given no explanation other than, “We respectfully decline.” And I did, I walked Mr. Brady through this request in front of his agents and lawyers. So I understood that he understood what I was asking for and they were declining.
Q. Did his agents or lawyer ask you what the authority was for you asking for those types of information?
A. No, that’s not my recollection. They asked the authority for him to do the interview, I think.
Q. You don’t recall them asking for the authority to demand emails or cell phones or anything like that?
A. My recollection, there’s email. The email says what it says. But I thought the emails said authority to conduct the interview, but we ought to grab the email.
This appears to be at the core of the NFL’s decision to punish Brady. There is no smoking gun linking Brady to a conspiracy to deflate the footballs and even the science behind the deflated footballs and whether they were tampered with is arguable at best for the NFL.
In other words, it appears that Brady was not suspended for his role in deflating footballs but rather he was suspended for not cooperating with the investigation. This is consistent with the statement from NFL executive VP Troy Vincent to the Patriots explaining the punishments when they were originally handed down.
Vincent told the team “the failure of Tom Brady to produce any electronic evidence (emails, texts, etc.), despite being offered extraordinary safeguards by the investigators to protect unrelated personal information” contributed to his punishment. “Although we do not hold the club directly responsible for Mr. Brady’s refusal to cooperate, it remains significant that the quarterback of the team failed to cooperate fully with the investigation,” Vincent wrote.
The NFL clearly thought the phone and its records were important to the investigation. In addition to suspicious text messages between Brady and
equipment assistant John Jastremski, the person alleged to have deflated the footballs, the NFL also points to a gap in the phone records that reveal three text messages between the two on February 7, three weeks after the AFC Championship game, were deleted and never recovered by investigators.
The case against Brady’s involvement is weak. But in the end, the case against Brady was no longer about whether or not he did anything illegal and was more about his decision to not turn over his phone and cooperate.
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