FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft had demanded an apology if the NFL couldn't definitively determine that his organization tampered with the air pressure of the footballs. He didn't get it. Not even close.
Instead, Kraft, quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots have received a blistering penalty from the league.
Knowing how steadfast the club has been in its stance that it did nothing wrong, I have little doubt that this ruling sent shock waves through the team's facility on Monday.
A few initial things stand out to me:
Harsh sentence. No sugarcoating it. The NFL just crushed the Patriots. This is an extreme reaction despite not having definitive proof.
Brady's first game would be against the Colts. While Brady is likely to appeal, and could potentially have his suspension reduced, if the four-game penalty holds it would mean that the first game he is eligible is against the team that blew the whistle on the Patriots, the Indianapolis Colts. That game is scheduled to be played in Indianapolis. The Patriots open the season with a home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a road game versus the Buffalo Bills, a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and then, after a bye, a road game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Past history and lack of cooperation cited as factors. NFL Executive President Troy Vincent cited the club's prior record, specifically videotaping signals of opposing defensive coaches, as a "strong consideration" in determining the severity of the punishment. Vincent also said another important consideration was level of cooperation with the investigation, and the league came down hard on two things -- the club not making officials locker room attendant Jim McNally available for an additional interview and Brady not producing any emails or text messages. The third factor cited by Vincent was the belief that equipment assistant John Jastremski and McNally weren't fully candid. When the league first announced that it was conducting an investigation, the Patriots pledged full cooperation, but the league felt the franchise fell short.
NFL supports Wells report. While some were critical of parts of the Wells report (hand raised), the NFL was not. Commissioner Roger Goodell cited the "thoroughness and independence of the Wells report" in helping the league reach its level of punishment. How Goodell can call it an independent investigation warrants considerable scrutiny from this viewpoint, but make no mistake, he holds the hammer based on the way the league is structured. We now wonder how the Kraft-Goodell dynamic plays out. Kraft has been one of Goodell's biggest supporters. Does that now change?