The story we all hoped would die a slow, painful death resuscitated itself again this week with the news that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has decided to uphold the four-game suspension he originally levied upon Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady for Brady’s alleged role in deflating footballs prior to last year’s AFC Championship.
Goodell broke out the heavy artillery for this one, including new evidence in which it was revealed Brady destroyed his cell phone on or around the same day he was scheduled to meet with independent investigator Ted Wells. Whoops!
According to Brady, it’s just a mere coincidence his old piece of junk Samsung happened to break right around the time investigators requested access to his phone records, not to mention it’s “ordinary practice” – his words, not ours – for him to have an old phone destroyed whenever he replaces it with a new one.
You could certainly see why a high-profile celebrity would want an old cell phone completely obliterated when it’s no longer in service. There are plenty of jock-sniffing weirdo sycophants out there who’d probably find a way to hack the old device and perform some kind of cryptic Voodoo reboot to unearth photos of Gisele Bunchden in her underwear. No one needs that kind of exposure, unless they offer it unsolicited.
The problem is the whole cell phone destruction procedure really isn’t “ordinary practice,” otherwise the phone Brady used from the spring of 2014 to mid-November would not have been available to investigators. According to the NFL, that old phone was still intact and subsequently made available as part of the ongoing investigation. That, too, should have been destroyed if it had already been replaced, but it wasn’t, hence another hole in a rather outlandish theory that seems as if it was rushed to print before anyone really thought to comb through it for any potential contradictions. It’s almost less believable than the whole “deflator”/weight loss rhetoric that has since been removed from the team-mandated website dedicated to debunking the Wells Report.
Aaron Hernandez destroyed his cell phones, too. He also had a professional cleaning team bleach his house before investigators were allowed to sift through his belongings for any clues in his murder trail. We don’t need forensics or any football science to draw a logical conclusion on this one. Some things just aren’t a good look, and destroying a cell phone requested by investigators is a huge smoking gun that’s impossible to ignore, unless you are that blindly loyal to your team and can’t put all rooting interests aside.
This story could’ve gone away had the Patriots not been so defiant from Day 1. But even in that regard, they’ve waffled a bit on their defense. At first, owner Robert Kraft barked at the punishment the team received for its role in Deflategate, the loss of draft picks and the $1 million fine. Then he decided to “reluctantly” accept the punishment, citing the league’s best interests as his reason for backing off. Now in the wake of Goodell deciding to uphold the originally suspension handed to Brady despite the ridiculously long appeal process, Kraft is at it again, calling Brady’s suspension “unfathomable” and indicating that the only reason he agreed to stand down the first time was because he thought it’d help exonerate his quarterback.
In other words, Kraft wanted a favor for a favor, which really isn’t how this process works, nor should it be. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong, and it would’ve been a bad precedent for the league to reduce Brady’s suspension just because one of its prominent decided to stop issuing press releases and bold statements on his company website. This is also why the NFL needs an independent governing body to select its commissioners and not leave it in the hands of the owners, who expect whoever’s in office to grease their palms in exchange for their unwavering support.
If the Patriots believe Brady is 100 percent innocent, they should’ve stood by him from the start. Kraft should’ve never backed down in hopes that the league would throw him a bone. That’s assuming we even believe that explanation. It’s likely Kraft took his foot off the gas in May because he knew his quarterback was guilty of something and didn’t want to provoke the league into releasing even more damning evidence by engaging in an ugly, public back-and-forth squabble.
With the news that Brady’s suspension has been upheld, Brady has also become conveniently more defiant in his defense. In January, the answer was, “I don’t believe so,” when asked if he was a cheater. Now it’s, “I’ve done nothing wrong,” which makes sense since Brady has instructed the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) to take this case to federal court. You can’t be uncertain of yourself or waver under oath, nor can you lie.
At this point, Brady and the Patriots need to pray the NFL doesn’t have more clues or smoking guns in its holster. The league did a nice job keeping the destroyed cell phone story under wraps until ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith leaked it shortly before the NFL announced its decision. There’s reason to believe they have more dirt on Brady, but might be saving it for a monumental court case that’s almost certain to come at some point within the next year.
We may never know what really happened in the bowels of Gillette Stadium prior to the AFC title game, especially if witnesses keep destroying key evidence. The Patriots might as well burn down the stadium, too, to remove all doubt. What we do know is there are holes in almost every theory that has surfaced since January, some more relevant than others. We also know how guilty people act under mounting pressure and it’s just becoming more and more difficult to think Brady didn’t have some involvement when it’s all said and done.
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