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Checkdown Audible: Punishment for ‘DeflateGate’ Appears As Mainly Hot Air

New England Patriots - Tom Brady and Bill Belichick photo: RTA Sports Photography, All Rights ReservedCheckdown Audible

The revelations are out as to what the National Football League and commissioner Roger Goodell is handing down as punishment after the Wells Report and DeflateGate investigation – and so far the news looks more like hot air than anything substantial. In this version of the ‘Checkdown Audible’ feature,  Sheldon Dean and Christina Rivers break down the verdict, its implications and how fans are currently viewing the actions of both Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots and the league itself.

S Dean:  In the 96-year history of the NFL, no player who is a higher-profile player than Tom Brady has ever been suspended by the league.  Whether the Wells Report truly proved that Brady was aware that the balls in question had been tampered with in relation to air pressure, the presented information illustrated it was highly likely that he was.  “More probable than not” doesn’t nail him red-handed, but the wording is such that you could deem it as damning.  That the league handed down a four-game suspension without pay also illustrates, at least initially, that they are convinced that Brady was aware.  Word is that Brady will appeal, but how much will he get back?  He may get to play in more games in 2015 if he wins that appeal, but he won’t be able to repair his image, and shouldn’t.

C. Rivers:  In this case, I think that a four-game suspension is more than appropriate for Brady.  In fact, I would go so far to say that his suspension period is much too lenient.  Common infractions for four-game suspensions have, in the past, included violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.  In fact, Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers was expected to receive a four-game suspension that was later dropped to three (he will serve them at the beginning of the 2015 regular season unless he wins an unlikely appeal).  In my opinion, being involved in a scandal that includes manipulation of game equipment (footballs) in order to gain an advantage should not only be viewed as ‘cheating’, but an outright affront to league rules in general.  If a player isn’t interested in playing within the regulations, would it not be appropriate to excuse that player from the league?

Sean Payton, as head coach of the New Orleans Saints, was suspended without pay for an entire season for the crush-for-cash bounty system he allegedly employed.  The team’s defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, was indefinitely banned from the league. General manager Mickey Loomis was also banned for the first eight regular-season games and assistant coach Joe Vitt the first six games (in 2013).  The Saints lost a second-round draft pick (in 2012 and 2013) and were fined $500,000.  Goodell said the Saints showed a “particularly unusual and egregious” disregard for league rules.  If paying players to break league player conduct rules on the field was so serious, it begs the question:  What can be more serious than breaking rules in order to advance in the playoffs and a Super Bowl berth?

S. Dean:  The fact that the league fined Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, $1 Million also suggests that after letting the Patriots slide, for the most part, after they were caught breaking rules in the ‘SpyGate’ scandal, repeat offenses are going to be taken a lot more seriously.  The league’s statement says: “Here, there are several factors that merit strong consideration in assessing discipline…The first is the club’s prior record.  In 2007, the club an several individuals were sanctioned for videotaping signals of opposing defensive coaches in violation of the Constitution and Bylaws.  Under the Integrity of the Game Policy, this prior violation of competitive rules was properly considered in determining the discipline in this (the ‘DeflateGate’) case.”  $1 Million isn’t going to break the Patriots’ bank account.  It may affect the ability of signing one player possibly, but it unlikely.  The biggest question that remains is why, if Belichick, is considered a repeat-offender, he wasn’t suspended or banned himself.  The Saints are probably bellowing for consistency from the league as far as rulings go.  I would if I were any of the other 31 teams in the league.  I’d be telling Goodell to treat these incidents as equal at the least.

C. Rivers:  To be clear, Goodell isn’t the one actually handing anything down.  The league’s executive president for football operations, Troy Vincent, is doling out the punishment.  Goodell just supported it.  The incident was termed as “conduct detrimental to the integrity of the N.F.L.”  The Patriots didn’t just conduct themselves in such a way as to ignore the integrity of the league, but were uncooperative with a league-commissioned investigation.  They circumvented the rules, went behind the backs of game officials and did what they wanted.  This screams of an outright disregard towards the league, its rules – and smacks of a self-righteousness that teams in the league should be quick to point a finger at.  Other team owners absolutely have a right to call the ruling (announced today) on the table.   Get caught once (Saints) – get completely destroyed.  Get caught twice (Patriots) – get hammered on the most-recent infraction only?  This stinks of nepotism.

S. Dean:  This DeflateGate issue appears to go beyond any other cheating incident in the history of the NFL.  Belichick certainly should be involved in discussions on any punishments.  He hasn’t been and that is giving this whole deal an even bigger black eye.  Until everyone is held responsible, the league can’t just sweep this under the carpet.  As head coach, Belichick may not have known about the purposeful removal of air pressure, but he did know that an investigation was underway – and he didn’t cooperate.  He denied the whole thing ever happened.  Should a coach skate when his players are found to have been in direct conflict with policies and regulations?  In my opinion, no.

C. Rivers:  I realize that Patriots fans have absolutely got to be tearing their hair out.  This incident now paints their team in a very unfavorable light – as it should.  They may not be happy with the results, but it could be worse.  They could be suffering the agony that the New Orleans Saints fans did.  Instead, a bandaid has been applied.  As for fans of other teams – the verdict isn’t pleasing them in any way, shape or fashion.  They’ve seen the Patriots allowed to keep their Super Bowl Championship and walk away with some slapped hands for the most part.  How many times does one team have to be found in violation before they are regarded as abusing the privilege of being in the NFL?  In my opinion, the Patriots got off easy and the league knows it.  Now we wait to see if the league gives in any more with talks of appeals.  If appeals are won, I expect the NFL to not only lose more fans but for team owners around the league to balk. DeflateGate is a travesty.  It is embarrassing.  The Patriots don’t deserve to be considered champions if they have to go to such extremes to win games.  I look forward to seeing the Indianapolis Colts offer New England payback in 2015.


S. Dean is a lifelong Pittsburgh sports fan. The former owner of 'The Beam in Pittsburgh', Dean has worked in the sports media field for several years. S. Dean graduated with a degree in physical therapy and sports medicine, has a minor in journalism and is a Mt. Lebanon, PA, native. His favorite Steelers players (all-time) are Jerome Bettis, Lynn Swann and Joey Porter. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLHotTopix and Google Plus. To see his full bio, please visit the Meet Our Staff page.



  1. jeff wiiliams

    May 12, 2015 at 12:04 am

    You are just laying Steelers fan you expect us to believe he ask these guy to deflate the football after the refs checked the balls check the tape jealousy fills your heart just like the rest of this sad country my only wish is that he sue the NFL have all 32 owners turn over there emails and all phone records on this matter and you will find out who’s lying put everyone on the stand fraud is what we have here and your visa opinion don’t count stop your quarterback from raping girls in the bathroom and give us a shred of facts that lead you to believe Brady need to cheat you or this tainted business they call the nfl

  2. DaveB.

    May 12, 2015 at 5:09 am

    When this story first broke if Brady had stood up and said , look , I like my balls a certain way and Ive told that to the equipment guys . They were doing what I had asked them to do . Bottom line , this is on me . At worst , he might have gotten a one game suspension , possibly two at the most and that would have been the end of it . No four game suspension and no first round draft pick lost . Instead , he did the opposite , he covered it up . He stood at his own press conference and said he knew nothing and he did nothing . He even claimed he didnt know one of the equipment guys directly involved in the deflation of the balls . We now know , that yes , he did know him and they were texting back an forth after the story broke . Bottom line , Brady had a chance to do the right thing and he chose not to . He played dumb , then lied about it and then tried his best to cover it up . At the end of the day , he’ll go down as one of the all time greats but at the end of his name there will be an asterisk next to his name . It will be they’re forever . It didnt have to be , if he would have taken the high road , but he just couldnt do it .

  3. DrGeorge

    May 12, 2015 at 11:28 am

    As usual, Mr. Dean and Ms. Rivers have got it right. Acts of cheating undermine the integrity of the game and are far more damaging to the NFL’s image than the isolated misbehavior of a single player (such as Bell’s recreational use of weed). This is particularly true when the cheating involves an apparent conspiracy among several employees of the Patriots’ franchise. Considering the team’s past rules violations (think Belichek’s $500,000 fine for videotaping opposing signals) and an apparent organizational delight in and tolerance for bending the rules, the Patriots actually got off lightly.

    Yet, in the national media, there is much dismay over the League office’s supposedly arbitrary and draconian punishment of Brady. Mr. Kraft is considering litigation, they say, because Goodell acted like a Russian czar in exiling Brady to football Siberia for four games. (The league Constitution grants him such broad powers, by the way.) Some reporters are even daring to say that Goodell is bad for football. I’ve been saying that for years and obviously agree with that sentiment. But where was all this media outrage a few years ago when Goodell inflicted the same arbitrary and draconian punishment on James Harrison and Ryan Clark for simply tackling too hard? Or on Tomlin for inadvertently stepping on the field during play. Their offenses — if it were offenses — pale in comparison to Brady’s. I have no love for Mr. Goodell, but on this occasion, the league actually got it right. And the media outrage is pure grandstanding for the sake of eyeballs and ratings.

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