NFL Deflategate: Brady suspended four games

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NEW YORK – The New England Patriots have the air taken out of their 2015 season as they learned the league has decided to suspend quarterback Tom Brady for four games of the regular season for his role in Deflategate. The Patriots have been fined one million dollars and have lost two draft picks (1st round pick in 2016, and 4th round pick in 2017).

Brady now has three days to file an appeal with the league over the suspension.

Here is the timeline for how Deflategate unfolded until today’s punishment.

For months during the football season, Tom Brady and John Jastremski, the man in charge of preparing the footballs the star quarterback would throw in each game, didn’t communicate by phone.

But in the first several days after the NFL began to investigate how the balls used by the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game lost so much air pressure, the two were in touch often.

Attorney Ted Wells and his investigators, hired by the league, found this sudden flurry of calls and texts to be suspicious and one important piece of the puzzle. Wells’ report, released last week, found Brady probably had at least a general knowledge about how the balls were deflated. The report points its finger at Jastremski and the man who carried the balls from the officials locker room to the field, Jim McNally, as the likely perpetrators.

Brady, when interviewed, denied knowing about or being involved in the deflation efforts. He said recently at a public event that the team earned everything during its Super Bowl-winning season.

Here is how Brady responded to news of the investigation, according to Wells’ report, and comments the quarterback has made since the situation became public.

January 18

The AFC championship game pitted the Indianapolis Colts against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. It was a close first half — the Patriots led 17-7 at intermission.

At 9:55 p.m., midway through the second half, the first suggestion of wrongdoing came in, according to the Wells report.

Bob Kravitz, a columnist for Indiana television station WTHR, tweeted: “Breaking: A league source tells me the NFL is investigating the possibility the Patriots deflated footballs Sunday night. More to come.”

Meanwhile, the game took a turn that rainy night. It ended up the second most lopsided AFC championship game ever. Brady threw three touchdown passes, leading the Patriots to a 45-7 blowout and allowing them their sixth trip to the Super Bowl.

At 11:22 p.m., Kravitz tweeted a link to an article about the possible deflation.

Brady on the radio: ‘God, it’s ridiculous’

The next morning at about 7 a.m., Brady was taking part in his weekly telephone interview with the Dennis & Callahan Morning Show on Boston sports radio station WEEI. He said he had not heard of the article and other reports.

A host asked, “Would you care to tell me if you were deflating balls?”

“No,” Brady responded, laughing. “I have no idea.”

“So they say the acceptable limits between 12 and a half and 13 and a half pounds, I guess, per square inch,” one of the hosts said. “But they deflate it more, you can grip the ball better. Did you get the sense that you were able to grip the ball better than the Colts last night?”

Brady laughed.

“Would you care to weigh in on that?” a host asked.

“I think I’ve heard it all at this point,” Brady said.

“We were trying to figure it out whose job it is to take the air out of the ball. I’m pretty sure it’s (Patriots owner) Bob Kraft’s,” a host said.

“It’s nobody’s,” Brady responded.

“It’s not (Patriots President) Jonathan Kraft?” a host asked.

“No. God, it’s ridiculous,” Brady said.

At 7:36 a.m., CNN Sports confirmed that the NFL was looking into the allegation.

Texts, calls and an unusual meeting

Shortly after that interview, John Jastremski, an equipment assistant for the Patriots, texted Brady, “Call me when you get a second.”

Brady called back less than a minute later, and the two spoke for 13 minutes, according to the Wells report.

Jastremski says the two discussed the deflation issue, and that it was “probably” the only time they did so, according to the Wells report. Brady, meanwhile, said he recalls speaking with Jastremski that morning but does not remember any specifics — except that they were trying to figure out how much the media was covering the story and what had happened with the footballs.

Later that morning, the two exchanged texts.

“You good Jonny boy?” Brady wrote.

“Still nervous; so far so good though. I’ll be alright,” Jastremski responded.

“You didn’t do anything wrong bud,” Brady wrote.

“I know; I’ll be all good,” Jastremski wrote.

It appears to be the first cell phone communication between the two men in six months, according to the Wells report.

Later that day came more texts and calls.

Then, later:

“FYI…Dave will be picking your brain later about it,” Jastremski wrote Brady, referring to Patriots head equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld. “He’s not accusing me, or anyone… trying to get to bottom of it. He knows it’s unrealistic you did it yourself.”

Jastremski added, “Just a heads up.”

“No worries bud. We are still good,” Brady responded.

In the Wells report, Jastremski says the words “knows it’s unrealistic you did it yourself” were a joke, as cameras were on Brady during the game. “It” refers to deflating footballs.

Later, Brady asked Jastremski to meet him in the “qb room.” In his 14 years working full time for the Patriots, Jastremski had never been asked to meet with Brady in the qb room — Brady’s “quasi-office,” Jastremski said in the Wells report.

That meeting lasted a few minutes, Jastremski said.

Brady said he recalls requesting that Jastremski visiting him there because he was busy preparing for the Super Bowl and wanted to discuss how the game balls would be prepared.

Later that day, Brady texted Jastremski, asking him to call. Jastremski phoned immediately and, over the course of three calls, they spent about 12 minutes on the phone.

Brady said he does not recall what he discussed with Jastremski during these calls but said that it was “possible” that they discussed issues relating to the deflation allegations. Jastremski said there was no discussion of this during these calls.

January 20

The two men spoke by phone again in the morning. Jastremski, who had been in charge of preparing the balls for three seasons, said they discussed the Super Bowl, not the deflation issue. Brady said he does not remember what they discussed, but that he was focused on the Super Bowl and was trying to keep Jastremski focused on it as well.

That afternoon, they spoke again.

Jastremski had been interviewed by NFL security officials. Jastremski mentioned to Brady that he met with two NFL representatives for two hours, but did not tell Brady the substance of the interview, Jastremski said. He said Brady was checking in with him about the upcoming Super Bowl. Brady said he does not recall what was discussed.

January 21

Again, in the early morning — the 7 a.m. hour — Brady texted Jastremski to call him. Jastremski said they did not discuss deflation. A few hours later, they spoke again. Jastremski said he does not remember what they discussed in that call.

Brady said he did not remember specifics of the calls, but believes they may have concerned the Super Bowl.

Brady: ‘I didn’t alter the ball’

On January 22, Brady spoke with the media. “I didn’t alter the ball in any way,” he said. “I have a process that I go through before every game where I go in and pick the balls that I want… Our equipment guys do a great job of breaking the balls in … When I pick those footballs out at that point, you know to me they’re perfect. I don’t want anyone touching the balls after that.”

“I have no knowledge of anything. I have no knowledge of any wrongdoing,” Brady said. He added that he was in the locker room preparing for the game and does not know what happened “over the course of the process with the footballs.

One reporter asked him if he’d ever played with a football that he knew was too soft.

“So you’ve never knowingly played with a football that was under 12-and-a-half pounds of pressure?” the reporter said.

“No,” Brady responded.

He added, “I think part of being in this position and putting yourself under a spotlight like this and being open for criticism, I think that’s very much a part of being a professional athlete.

Brady: ‘My feelings got hurt’

Back on his weekly WEEI interview, Brady addressed the issue. “It’s all speculation,” he said.

“I’ve tried to wrap my head around it, too. I’ve done that and I’m trying to move past that, because I continue to try to rehash things. You know, I personalized a lot of things and thought this was all about me and my feelings got hurt, and then I moved past it because it’s not serving me. I think what’s serving me is to try to prepare for the game ahead, and I’ll deal with whatever happens later. I’ll have my opportunity to try to figure out what happened and figure out a theory like everyone else is trying to do. But this isn’t the time for that, and honestly I’m not interested in trying to find out right now because we have the biggest game of our season ahead.”

January 27

The deflation issue was brought up again at Super Bowl media day, when each player on a team is given an area to answer questions from the press. Stars such as Brady get their own podiums.

The quarterback was asked about the “Deflategate” story and the leaks from the NFL, which included one report that a Patriots’ staffer had taken bags of balls into a single-stall bathroom with enough time to deflate New England’s allotment.

“I have no reaction to that,” he said. “I don’t have any speculation on anything that’s happened. That will all play itself out after the season … I have no idea what to believe.”

Unknown date

Investigators questioned 67 people during their investigation. Brady’s agent, Don Yee, told the Boston Herald he thinks the Brady was the last person interviewed.

According to Yee, Brady answered questions from four lawyers over the course of one day at Gillette Stadium. It is unclear when the interview took place. Brady talked about how he likes the footballs prepared for the game, the Wells report says, but said he knew nothing about the range of acceptable air pressure measurements until after a game against the New York Jets in October.

Brady said he asked to see the rules governing the inflation of the balls after that game and decided the target number for the Patriots footballs should be 12.5 psi.

The quarterback also was asked whether he had brought up the name of Jim McNally, the Patriots’ staffer who took the footballs to the field, with Jastremski after the Jets’ game.

“I didn’t know who Jim McNally was so I find it hard to believe I could bring that up,” he said, according to the report.

May 6: Report released

At 243 pages, the Wells report takes a while to read. And in it, investigators admit there is less direct evidence linking Brady to tampering with the air pressure in the balls.

“We nevertheless believe, based on the totality of the evidence, that it is more probable than not that Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls,” the report says.

Part of the evidence against Brady is the series of phone communications. There are also text messages between McNally and Jastremski that include references to Brady and air pressure. And the report says it unlikely two employees would deflate any football “without Brady‟s knowledge and approval.”

May 7

One day after the Wells report was released, Brady made an appearance as a guest speaker at a Massachusetts university. Sports reporter Jim Gray was there to ask Brady a few questions before the Patriots start gave his prepared remarks. Gray asked several questions about the investigation, Brady said he hadn’t fully digested the report.

But he told Gray that he and his teammates earned their Super Bowl victory, he was proud of their success and the scandal couldn’t take any of that away.