NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rejected the suggestion Wednesday of a quid pro quo between himself and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
“The decision that Robert made was his decision,” the commissioner said of Kraft dropping the idea of appealing the NFL’s punishment of his team. “I admire and respect Robert. We’ve had plenty of discussions over the last couple of weeks, and this was his initiative and something he wanted to do.”
The NFL fined the New England Patriots $1 million and snatched first- and fourth-round picks in upcoming drafts as a result of a “more probable than not” finding by Ted Wells that team employees conspired to deflate balls used in the AFC Championship Game. The league also suspended quarterback Tom Brady four games, a punishment on appeal, for a general awareness of such a scheme. Speculation mounted after Kraft made his decision known on Tuesday that he dropped his appeal, which had put the league in a negative light, in exchange for a promise that the commissioner would reduce or drop Brady’s suspension.
Goodell said Thursday afternoon in San Francisco that he would keep an “open mind” on Brady’s appeal and look for new information from the player’s lawyers and the NFLPA that didn’t find its way into the Wells Report.
Therein, Ted Wells rejects referee Walt Anderson’s testimony of what gauge he used to measure the balls pregame and presents pregame pressure levels at a uniform 12.5 psi for the Patriots despite Anderson’s admission that the levels varied somewhat and that he never documented the pressure in the individual balls. The inability of Wells to present accurate pre-game measurements, and his inexplicable outright rejection of what an NFL referee entering his 20th season told him, figures to factor into any argument Brady’s representatives make. Had Wells gone with the referee’s memory of what gauge he used to measure the balls pregame, for instance, then eight of 11 Patriots balls measured at halftime would have fallen to where scientists employed by Wells told him they would have sunk to given climactic conditions. Rejecting the referee’s recollection, when Wells relied on it elsewhere, allowed the investigator to come to his “more probable than not” finding of guilt.
“I have great admiration and respect for Tom Brady,” Goodell told reporters, “but the rules have to be enforced on a uniform basis and they apply to everybody in the league. They apply to every club, every individual coach, every individual player and that is something that we put the game ahead of everything.”