The New England Patriots have decided to accept their punishment for the Deflategate scandal, leading to rumors that the league may be willing to slash the four-game suspension given to Tom Brady.
Earlier this month, the league released a report from investigator Ted Wells that concluded the team had intentionally deflated balls to below league regulations, and that Tom Brady was more than likely aware of it. The NFL handed Brady a four-game suspension and docked the Patriots a first-round draft pick and $1 million.
Though the Patriots challenged the findings and even commissioned their own report casting doubt on the NFL’s investigation, this week team owner Robert Kraft announced that the team would not appeal after all.
“Although I might disagree what is decided, I do have respect for [commissioner Roger Goodell] and believe that he’s doing what he perceives to be in the best interests of [all 32 teams],” Kraft said, while speaking to the media at the NFL owners meetings. “So in that spirit, I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months.”
Many speculated that Kraft had hoped other owners would stand with him in his fight against the NFL, but found out that wasn’t the case when he showed up to this week’s owners’ meeting. It wasn’t long after the meetings started that Kraft gave up his fight, after all.
But the change of course from Kraft has also led to rumors that the New England Patriots may be getting Tom Brady back sooner than expected. Reports had indicated that Kraft and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had been talking through back channels before Kraft’s announcement this week, which many took to mean the NFL is giving up something as well.
Yahoo Sports speculated:
“Considering Kraft took the Patriots through the cleanest exit, it’s worth wondering whether Goodell will be the next to follow suit. It’s not lost on the league’s fraternity of owners that Kraft did them all a solid. Win or lose, he could have crippled Goodell’s already maligned image by declaring open war on the commissioner. The owners don’t want that. And they don’t want to be at odds with Kraft, either. He’s too important in the brotherhood, and choosing sides between a guy like that and the league office is a brutal balancing act.”
If the rumors regarding the New England Patriots are true and Tom Brady does return sometime before four games, the damage may already be done. Brady’s popularity has taken a nose dive, and polls find that many fans agree with the league’s punishment, saying it is appropriate.
[Image via Getty Images]