Time to hear from Tom Brady. Though I doubt we will anytime soon.
As many have pointed out in the last few hours (and weeks), Brady has had a strange reaction since the story broke that the Patriots may have doctored the footballs before the AFC Championship Game in January. Brady’s response has been more bemusement than outrage, more pleasantly dismissive than feisty and defensive. Why?
Actually, there are a lot of questions Brady needs to answer if America—and not just the six New England states—is to begin to believe that he’s innocent of the charges from the NFL, charges that resulted in a four-game suspension for him and a $1 million fine for the organization and the lost of first- and fourth-round draft picks.
If I have a chance to talk to Brady, these are the 10 questions I’d ask, for starters:
1. Why have you not taken any of the chances to more strongly proclaim your innocence, if you’re innocent? There was the post-AFC title game press conference, the Bob Costas NBC interview, the Jim Gray interview at Salem State. For someone on whom Patriots owner Robert Kraft has staked his personal and professional reputation, Brady’s been a monk on this topic, leaving everyone to wonder: Why doesn’t an innocent man, if he’s innocent, proclaim his innocence?
2. Are you a cheater? Peter Alexander of NBC News asked this question in that January press conference, and Brady had a most curious response: “I don’t think so.” It’s a simple yes or no question.
3. Did you ever tell Patriots employees John Jastremski or Jim McNally, directly or through an intermediary, to deflate game footballs to your liking? This is the crux of the case, really. If I had one question, this would be it. Of course, I’ve suspected that if Brady were involved in tampering with the balls, it might not be in a direct way that leaves his fingerprints on the process. So ...
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4. The text exchanges between Jastremski and McNally certainly make it sound as if they were illegally and deliberately deflating footballs. What reason would they have to do that? How else would you explain those texts? One of the things that goes through my mind is that Brady would be loath to give direct orders to low-on-the-totem-pole people who later could spill the beans on him if charges of football-deflation ever came to light. Could the two handlers, knowing Brady’s preference for footballs at the lower end of the inflation scale, have acted on their own, despite never have been told to so directly?
5. Some of those texts came across as pretty disrespectful to you. Why do you think that is? On October 16 of last season, according to the Wells report, Jastremski texted McNally, "Tom is acting crazy about balls." The next day McNally texted Jastremski: "Tom sucks...i'm going to make that next ball a f------ balloon." On several other occasions in the following days, McNally texted Jastremski, "F--- Tom" and seemed to suggest that he was purposely going to overinflate the balls to get back at the quarterback for something. What reason would these two low-level employees have for talking about Brady in such terms?
6. Do you think other teams’ quarterbacks tamper with the ball, either underinflating or overinflating it beyond the regulation pressure?
7. What are your biggest problems with the Wells Report? We’ve been hearing from the Brady and Patriots camp that significant aspects of their responses to investigators were not in the Wells report. Now would be the time to provide details of what they claim was left out.
8. Why not give up your cell phone for forensic examination if you have nothing to hide? In hindsight, should Brady have been more cooperative with the investigation? Particularly with so much on the line, if you’re innocent and know there could be severe consequences for not submitting the cell phone to be examined, it would seem the logical thing to do. And particularly given that the Wells team said Brady could have a lawyer or agent present so that only football-relevant texts or emails would be examined.
9. How does it feel for an NFL investigation to conclude that “more probable than not” you were aware of activities that were against the rules? Or, more simply, what is it like for you to know the NFL has bashed your integrity and character? To have Brady’s honor besmirched, forever, has to be life-rattling for someone who was previously such a golden child.
10. Does it hurt to know that, forever, a significant portion of American football fans will look at Tom Brady and associate the word “cheater” with you?
Bonus question: If you had a chance to ask Roger Goodell one question right now, or to say one thing to him, what would it be?
Brady often is professionally evasive with his answers. If he doesn’t want to answer a question, rather than saying, “No comment,’’ he usually veers off in a different direction and says something, but not an answer to what you really want to know. Not sure I’d do a great job keeping him on track, but I’d try.
At some point, Brady’s got a lot to answer for. I can’t wait to hear it.
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