The New England Patriots could be losing their quarterback, with rumors that Tom Brady’s four-game Deflategate suspension will very likely be restored by a federal court of appeals.
The NFL has been appealing the ruling last year that rescinded the suspension originally handed down to the Patriots quarterback for his alleged role in a scheme to deflate balls to below league standards. The NFL had compiled a report showing that team equipment managers likely conspired to deflate game balls at Brady’s request, and the league came down hard on the former MVP.
The controversy was sparked after the Patriots 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the 2015 AFC Championship Game. An investigation found that the Patriots game balls measured below league standards. After an offseason report, the league fined the Patriots $1 million and docked them a first-round draft pick, then handed Brady the four-game suspension that was later overturned.
Now it appears that suspension may be back again. The Associated Press noted that Thursday’s court proceedings pointed to bad signs for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
“The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan gave a players’ union lawyer a tough time, with one of three judges even saying evidence of ball tampering was compelling, if not overwhelming.
“The appeals court did not immediately rule and a decision may be weeks away.
“All three judges put NFL Players Association attorney Jeffrey Kessler on the defensive with multiple reasons why they thought NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might have been within his rights to order the suspension of Brady after finding the quarterback knew about the deflation of game balls before the January 2015 AFC Championship game between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts and that he had obstructed the league’s investigation.”
The judges reportedly took aim at Tom Brady’s decision to destroy his cell phone before a meeting with NFL investigator Ted Wells. The league had been seeking evidence of text messages between Brady and the equipment personnel that could have implicated Brady in the scandal.
Instead, the league relied on circumstantial evidence connecting Brady to the alleged plans.
In Thursday’s hearing, Judge Barrington Parker, Jr. pounded Tom Brady for destroying the cell phone.
“Anyone within 100 yards of this would have realized that the cell phone issue raised the stakes in this thing,” Parker said (via the Boston Herald), adding that Brady’s explanation that he routinely destroyed old cell phones “made no sense whatsoever.”
Another judge, Denny Chen, also questioned Brady about destroying the cell phone.
If the rumors are true, it could represent a major blow to the New England Patriots. The team failed to return to the Super Bowl this season as it lost pace to the Denver Broncos, and losing Brady for four games would put them at a severe disadvantage in the race for one of the top spots. Though he is well beyond the age when most quarterbacks retire, Tom Brady is still the focal point of the Patriots offense and has been able to avoid the abrupt drop that Peyton Manning saw in his play over the last two seasons.
The rumors could also mean the New England Patriots will be doing some quarterback shopping this offseason. Though the Patriots have groomed backup Jimmy Garoppolo to eventually replace Brady, there are some indications that the team may not be fully confident yet moving him into a starting role. That could leave the Patriots searching for some veteran help until Brady is able to return.
[Picture by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images]