The NFL has finished its investigation into the New England Patriots and concluded that the team likely intentionally broke league rules and deflated footballs used in the AFC title game.
While the investigation focuses on the actions of two employees, locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski, the report also concludes that Tom Brady “was at least generally aware” of the inappropriate activities.
The feeling among most NFL insiders is that Brady is going to be suspended for at least one game to start the 2015 season.
A source told Adam Schefter of ESPN that the NFL is “considering discipline” for Brady. Schefter later sent a tweet with a play on the Wells report’s “more probable than not” conclusions.
Some “more-probable-than-not”, opening-night starters in Foxboro:NE QB: Jimmy GaroppoloNE RB: Jonas GrayPITT RB: DeAngelo Williams.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 7, 2015
Schefter is speculating that backup Jimmy Garoppolo will be the starting quarterback for the Patriots when they open the NFL season against the Pittsburgh Steelers because Brady will be suspended.
Others have been quick to point out that these accusations against Brady and the Patriots are a big deal because they involve the integrity of the game and the league.
Andrew Brandt of theMMQB.com called the implications for Brady “serious” and that “the violations in the Wells report strike at the heart of the league’s watchwords — integrity and competitive balance.”
“I would expect a multi-game suspension of Brady, perhaps four games (and it would be games, not weeks),” wrote Brandt.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com was a guest on “The Dan Patrick Show.” When asked who will start for the Patriots in Week 1, Florio guessed it would be Garoppolo, citing the same “integrity of the game of football” issue.
“It’s hard for me to not say Jimmy Garoppolo,” Florio told Dan Patrick. “If it’s Tom Brady then a different set of rules is being applied to Tom Brady than is being applied to all of the guys who get suspended for things completely unrelated to the integrity of the game: smoking marijuana, off-field misconduct. As bad as that stuff might be, that stuff doesn’t jeopardize in any way the integrity of the game of football. This is a game integrity violation. A failure to fully cooperate with the investigation … I don’t know how you can not suspend Tom Brady.
Former NFL head coach and current NBC analyst Tony Dungy was also asked if Brady would be suspended on “The Dan Patrick Show.”
“That’s a tough one,” said Dungy. “When you look at the performance [enhancing] deals, they have always been tougher on that. Whether it is a missed test or whatever, I think this is something the players are going to say [to the commissioner], ‘Hey, you punched a lot of people, so you need to make this fair.'”
“I think there is a possibility of [Garoppolo starting Week 1] because if it doesn’t, [the NFL] is sending a message and I don’t think the commissioner wants to do that. It will be interesting, but I do think there is going to be some game time [missed by Brady]. I just have to believe that.”
There is also the issue of the perceived conflict of interest between the commissioner and the Patriots, specifically Roger Goodell’s close relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft (although there are suggestions that the relationship is not as strong as it used to be) and the power that Kraft may hold over Goodell.
When asked what the commissioner will do, Florio quickly responded, “Punt.”
“How does the commissioner make this decision?” said Florio. “Now that you have this information, you are hopelessly conflicted. Robert Kraft is one of three people who determines how much money the commissioner makes or doesn’t make. The bonuses are determined every March. How can the commissioner be fair and unbiased? … The commissioner is hopelessly conflicted.”
The majority of Goodell’s salary comes in the form of annual bonuses determined by the owners.
It is difficult to say just how much this will sway Goodell when handing down discipline. After all, the NFL had a chance to stop this before it started and make the entire thing quietly go away and they did not.
But the writing on the wall seems clear to many. Most expect Brady to be suspended and miss at least one game in the 2015 season.
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