New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2015 NFL season for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the NFL, the league announced Monday.
The team will also lose its first-round draft pick in 2016 and its fourth-round draft pick in 2017.
Team employees James McNally and John Jastremski, at the suggestion of Patriots' owner Robert Kraft, were both suspended indefinitely without pay effective May 6. If either McNally or Jastremski are reinstated by the team, which would require the approval of NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent, Jastremski will be prohibited from "having any role in the preparation, supervision, or handling of footballs to be used in NFL games during the 2015 season," the announcement said.
Brady has three days to file his appeal.
The suspension means Brady will miss games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys. The first game on the Patriots' 2015 schedule that Brady will be eligible to play in will be on Oct. 18 against the Colts.
After the Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game, there were accusations the New England used footballs that were inflated below league requirements.
In a letter to the Patriots, Vincent suggested that the AFC championship game was not the first time that the Patriots had knowingly deflated footballs, citing undisclosed evidence dating back to before the start of the 2014 season. A separate letter from Vincent to Brady that accompanied the NFL's announcement chastised the two-time MVP.
"The [Wells] report established that there is substantial and credible evidence to conclude you were at least generally aware of the actions of the Patriots’ employees involved in the deflation of the footballs and that it was unlikely that their actions were done without your knowledge. Moreover, the report documents your failure to cooperate fully and candidly with the investigation, including by refusing to produce any relevant electronic evidence (emails, texts, etc.), despite being offered extraordinary safeguards by the investigators to protect unrelated personal information," Vincent wrote.
"Each player, no matter how accomplished and otherwise respected, has an obligation to comply with the rules and must be held accountable for his actions when those rules are violated and the public’s confidence in the game is called into question."
Attorney Ted Wells released an investigative report Wednesday into the allegations. The report found that "it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules" and that it is probable that Brady "was at least generally aware of... the release of air from Patriots game balls."
In a previously scheduled appearance Thursday night at Salem State University in Salem, Mass., Brady largely deflected questions about the report, saying it did not "taint" the Patriots' Super Bowl XLIX victory.
The Most Talked-About Footballs in NFL History
With the NFL investigation into Deflategate concluding that it is probable the Patriots deliberately deflated footballs and that Tom Brady was "generally aware," here is a gallery of the most talked-about footballs in NFL history, beginning with Brady looking to pass in the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts.
Tom Brady gestures before the snap in the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts.
Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola cannot catch a pass while being defended by Darius Butler during the first half.
Tom Brady hands the ball off to LeGarrette Blount in the first quarter.
Tom Brady throws a pass in the first quarter.
Tom Brady looks to pass during the first half.
Shane Vereen makes a catch in the first quarter against Jerrell Freeman.
Shane Vereen makes a catch in the first quarter against Jerrell Freeman.
Rob Gronkowski cannot make a catch in the end zone over Colts cornerback Greg Toler during the first half.
Julian Edelman tries to make a catch during the first half.
Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson intercepts a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski during the first half.
D'Qwell Jackson intercepts a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski.
D'Qwell Jackson is congratulated by teammates after his interception.
Julian Edelman is tackled by cornerback Darius Butler during the first half.
James Develin scores a touchdown in the first quarter.
James Develin celebrates his first-quarter touchdown.
Julian Edelman runs with the ball against Greg Toler.
LeGarrette Blount runs with the ball in the first quarter.
Tom Brady looks to pass in the first half against the Colts.
Tom Brady runs for a first down in the second quarter.
An official has a ball handed to him during the AFC title game.
Tom Brady has a ball tossed to him during warmups before the AFC Championship game.
At a press conference in January, Brady said he "didn't alter the balls in any way" and "would never have someone do something that was outside the rules."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he was shocked to hear about the Deflategate controversy and initially had no explanation for the under-inflated footballs. He later posited that the difference between atmospheric conditions on the field and in the locker room could be to blame. He also floated the idea that rubbing the footballs could alter their pressure levels. Belichick's theories were disputed by representatives from Wilson, the NFL's football manufacturer, and scientist Bill Nye.
The league launched the investigation into Deflategate in January and interviewed Patriots personnel, game officials, and third parties, as well as New England players after the Super Bowl. The NFL also obtained evidence in the form of video and other electronic information.
"When I addressed the media at the Super Bowl on January 26—over 14 weeks ago—I stated that I unconditionally believed that the New England Patriots had done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of the NFL rules and that I was disappointed in the way the league handled the initial investigation," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement after the Wells report was released. "That sentiment has not changed."
GALLERY: TOM BRADY AND CONTROVERSY
Tom Brady and Controversy
With commissioner Roger Goodell refusing to reduce Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his role in the Patriots using deliberately deflated footballs in the 2014 AFC Championship Game, here's a look back at Brady and controversy.
Tom Brady drew a $10,000 fine for a cleats up slide late in the first half of the 2013 AFC Championship Game. Brady slid to avoid a hit from Ravens safety Ed Reed with his right foot high and cleats exposed to Reed, almost like a baseball player breaking up a double play. "You've got to keep the legs down," said Ravens safety Bernard Pollard. "We all know and understand what's going on there. When you come sliding, and your leg is up in the air trying to kick somebody, that's bull crap."
A triumphant Richard Sherman taunted Brady after Seattle beat the Patriots on Oct. 14, 2014. Sherman intercepted Brady in the third quarter, which prompted Brady to tell the second-year cornerback to "see him after the game when they win," Sherman said. When the Seahawks came out on top, Sherman called the Patriots "a gimmick offense" and posted a photo of himself with a dejected Brady, along with the caption "U MAD BRO?"
On second-and-11 with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVI, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker found some space on a go route but couldn't haul in the pass from Tom Brady. Although Brady's throw was high and to Welker's outside shoulder, the pass hit Welker in the hands, leading to a debate weeks after the game over who was more at fault, Brady or Welker. The New York Giants took advantage of the miscue to come back and defeat the Patriots 21-17.
Following the Super Bowl XLVI loss to the Giants, Brady's wife, Gisele Bunchen, vented her frustrations with the play of her husband's receivers. After being heckled by Giants fans while waiting for an elevator, Bundchen told people in her group, "My husband cannot f-----g throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can't believe they dropped the ball so many times." Bundchen's remark was caught on video and posted to the insider.com, a gossip website.
Before New England's 2011 home opener, Brady had a message for Patriots fans to ensure the team has a strong home-field advantage. "Start drinking early," Brady said. "Get nice and rowdy. It's a 4:15 game, a lot of time to get lubed up." Quick to avoid promoting heavy drinking, the Patriots attempted to clarify that Brady meant "Stay hydrated, drink a lot of water. Be loud, drink responsibly."
While it may be no surprise Brady wouldn't have fond feelings for the rival New York Jets, the quarterback made clear how he felt about them when asked if he was watching their season of the HBO series "Hard Knocks" in 2010. "I hate the Jets," Brady told WEEI 93.7 FM, a Boston sports radio station. "So I refuse to support that show."
Brady expressed his disappointment with the Patriots faithful after New England's 2010 home opener. "The road environment is very different than our friendly home crowd who, when I looked up, half the stadium was gone when we were up 21 points in the early fourth quarter -- which I wasn't so happy about," Brady said after the game. "I don't think Jets fans leave early. They're going to be loud the whole game."
Brady had a little fun with his least favorite team in 2010, when the Patriots dominated the Jets 45-3. The New England quarterback jawed at the New York sideline after two touchdowns, including once in the direction of Jets head coach Rex Ryan. Ryan was not amused with Brady's taunts. "[Brady] took a shot at me by his antics on the field," Ryan said. "He always points [to everybody] after he scores."
In the last of Brady's memorable dustups with Gang Green, the quarterback took some added satisfaction in the success of Danny Woodhead because the running back had been released by the Jets prior to joining the Patriots. "We saw him [his first week] in practice, what he was capable of doing, and said, 'Why did the Jets release that guy?'" Brady said after Woodhead scored two touchdowns against the Bills on Nov. 11, 2012. "They had him playing receiver, and he was a running back in college."
Never has the distinction between "attempting to tuck" and "has tucked" been more controversial than in the AFC divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Raiders on Jan. 19, 2002. With the Patriots driving toward a game-tying field goal, cornerback Charles Woodson knocked the ball from Brady's hands, and linebacker Greg Biekert recovered it. The game-sealing fumble was overturned however, when upon review the referees ruled that Brady was still in the process of tucking the ball even though it had already made contact with his non-throwing, left hand. The Patriots won the game in overtime, while the Raiders fumed.
It may be hard to recall now, but Brady wasn't always the quarterback icon he is considered today. Head coach Bill Belichick had quite the quarterback controversy in 2001, when the second-year quarterback Brady shined while filling in for an injured Drew Bledsoe. After Brady led the Patriots to a 5-2 record following their 0-2 start under Bledsoe, Belichick stuck with Brady even after the three-time Pro Bowl incumbent was healthy again. Perhaps controversial at the time, the move clearly paid off for the Patriots.
- Chris Johnson and Will Green