When New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady visits NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on June 23, to appeal his four-game suspension handed down by the league over the so-called “Deflategate” affair, Brady and his National Football League Players Association lawyers will launch a direct attack on the credibility of the “Wells Report,” the study purportedly containing the evidence that led to Brady’s suspension.
NFL correspondent Sal Paolantonio said on ESPN Tuesday that Brady and the union have already sent a letter to Goodell basically outlining their plan for the hearing, and in that letter they blast the study — paid for by the league and conducted by New York attorney Ted Wells — as filled with “dubious, contradictory and mischaracterized circumstantial evidence that does not prove that Tom Brady deliberately ordered the illegal tampering with the footballs.”
The strategy appears to be a high-stakes gambit by Brady and the union, one which — by attacking the very premise on which the league based its discipline of Brady — would appear to leave no room for compromise.
If Brady can show that the evidence used by Wells was itself “deeply flawed,” as found by an independent analysis conducted by Washington think tank the American Enterprise Institute in its own report last week, then there would appear to be no basis for any penalty against Brady at all.
“Brady wants the entire suspension removed and he wants to be exonerated,” the ESPN report said. “He feels he has done nothing wrong. And if you listen to Bob Kraft, it’s pretty clear that they believe they will have Tom Brady for the Thursday night opener.”
The Deflategate scandal surfaced in January when a series of media reports insinuated that Brady had used deliberately deflated footballs in the January 18, 2015, AFC Championship Game, in which the Patriots easily defeated the Indianapolis Colts by a lopsided score of 45-7.
The NFL commissioned Wells to investigate the claims, and on May 6, the NFL-appointed lawyer published his 243-page report, but concluded only that it was “more probable than not” that Brady was “generally aware” of Patriots employees who illegally deflated footballs.
Nonetheless, the league slapped Brady with a suspension of four games — 25 percent of the 2015 NFL regular season. Brady and the player’s union filed an appeal, which is set to be heard by Goodell on June 23.
But according to the new rumors, Brady will not simply deny knowing about the allegedly deflated footballs or plead that his suspension was excessive — he will attempt to discredit the evidence used by the Wells report, saying that in fact, no footballs were ever deliberately deflated, that in effect the case against him is trumped-up and he was suspended for nothing.
The report by AEI — a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt research group devoted largely to conservative political issues — concluded that the evidence in the Wells Report provided no basis for a suspension of Brady.
“When the NFL hears Brady’s appeal of his suspension later this month, it should proceed with the knowledge that the Wells report is unreliable.”
While New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in May gave up the team’s fight against the league’s penalties in Deflategate — in which the NFL stripped the team of a First Round and Fourth Round draft pick — the latest rumors reported by ESPN appear to say that Tom Brady will take exactly the opposite approach and fight the allegations to the end.
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