The NFL has levied their punishment against the New England Patriots for deflating footballs used in games, including a four-game suspension for Tom Brady, a $US1 million fine for the team, and the loss of a 2016 first-round pick and a 2017 fourth-round pick.
After the Wells Report was first released, Patriots owner Robert Kraft issued a defiant statement, but also indicated that the team would not fight the charges. After the penalties were handed down, Kraft’s tone changed, saying the punishment “far exceeded any reasonable expectation.”
That suggests he’s gearing up for a fight.
The focus of the Patriots’ defence will undoubtedly be the circumstantial nature of the evidence. However, the team may also argue that the league showed bias against them during the investigation and that evidence of that bias was left out of the Wells Report.
According to the Wells Report, after the footballs were tested at halftime of the AFC Championship game, Mike Kensil, the NFL’s vice president of game operations, spoke with Patriots Equipment Manager Dave Schoenfeld. Here is how the report describes the conversation:
“Although they have different recollections of the precise sequence and content of the conversation, it is clear that Kensil told Schoenfeld that the NFL had tested the Patriot game balls at halftime, found that they were all under-inflated, and had re-inflated them back to a pressure level within the permissible range. Kensil cautioned Schoenfeld that the footballs should remain properly inflated and subsequently left the field.”
However, Patriots sources relayed their version of the conversation to Greg A. Bedard of Sports Illustrated and Kensil is portrayed as much more antagonistic:
“Patriots sources are steadfast — and their belief was conveyed to the league, according to a source — that Mike Kensil, the NFL’s VP of game operations, walked up to Patriots equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld on the sideline after halftime and said, “We weighed the balls. You are in big f—— trouble.”
Kensil is a key player in the entire investigation. Kensil is one of two senior NFL officials whom Indianapolis Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson emailed prior to the AFC title game with concerns about Patriots deflating footballs.
According to Bedard, Kraft views this incident (and others) as evidence that the NFL showed bias against the Patriots, presumably because it shows some in the NFL had already deemed the Patriots guilty before the investigation had even started.
One source “close to Kraft” told Bedard that the Patriots owner was already “furious” with the investigation, but he became “out of his mind with anger” when the report did not exonerate the team.
It is clear that the penalties handed down by the NFL are from the end of this incident and the entire thing could get even messier.
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