AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
A four-game suspension for Tom Brady and a million-dollar fine for the New England Patriots. Those are the punishments handed out today by the NFL in the deflategate scandal. Last week, the league released a detailed report on the affair. It concluded that Tom Brady was at least a generally aware that a staffer for the Patriots let air out of footballs before this year's AFC Championship. NPR's Tom Goldman is on the story, and he joins us now. Hey there, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.
CORNISH: Let's start with the details of the suspension and the other punishments for the Patriots.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, well, the ones you mentioned - a million-dollar fine for the Patriots, the suspension of Tom Brady - also, the Patriots have to give up a first-round draft pick in the 2016 draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft. But really, the headline, of course, is the Brady suspension for the first four games of next regular season. The golden boy with four Super Bowl championships - now he has another four associated with his legacy - a four-game suspension that won't destroy his legacy, but, you know, it smudges it. In a letter to Brady, the disciplinarian here, NFL official Troy Vincent, wrote this. (Reading) Your actions as set forth in the Wells report clearly constitute conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football.
End quote. Now those actions detailed in the report, Audie, included Brady's general awareness of the balls being deflated and his lack of total cooperation in the Wells investigation. He refused to provide relevant emails and texts to investigators.
CORNISH: But for a player at that level, a million dollars doesn't really seem like a big deal, right? We're talking about the NFL. Does this fine have a message?
GOLDMAN: Well, the million-dollar fine for the Patriots, certainly. Yeah, it's a strong message that, you know, while the Wells report said Patriots ownership and head coach Bill Belichick and other members of the coaching staff weren't involved, the Patriots got slapped for a couple of reasons. They're considered repeat offenders. Remember in 2007, the spygate scandal when the club and several individuals were sanctioned for videotaping signals of opposing defensive coaches. And then the Patriots weren't fully cooperative during this Wells investigation. Investigators wanted to do a follow-up interview with one of the principals, officials' locker room attendant Jim McNally. But Patriots lawyers wouldn't allow that. So these are a couple of reasons why the Patriots got hit with that pretty sizable fine.
CORNISH: Looking ahead to September when the Patriots open the 2015 NFL season, they'll do it with a different quarterback. I mean, how significant is that?
GOLDMAN: Say hello to Jimmy Garoppolo, Audie. He'll - as of now, he's the second stringer. Of course a third stringer might be inspired by what happened today and really, you know, make a move - try to make a move to become the starter. Opening night against the Pittsburgh Steelers next year on a Thursday when everyone's watching - normally a celebratory night for the defending champions. It won't be for the Patriots. Pregame.com out of Las Vegas already says the Patriots are favored by one point hosting the Steelers. They were favored by six before the deflategate report.
The Patriots are a smart team. They'll be ready and you can actually maybe see a big win. But they are a different team without Tom Brady, and it could be a challenging start to the season. After Pittsburgh, New England plays Buffalo, Jacksonville and the Dallas Cowboys.
For the NFL, a second year in a row that the league starts under a cloud. Last season, of course, the videotape of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee came out the Monday after the regular season opening weekend. So another rough start for the NFL next year.
CORNISH: That's NPR's sports correspondent, Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: My pleasure, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.