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. In a report last week, the league concluded Tom Brady was at least generally aware that a Patriots staffer let air out of footballs before this year's AFC Championship. Brady plans to appeal the suspension. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us now, and Tom, let's start with the details of the suspension and the other punishments for the Patriots.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Audie, there are the punishments that you mentioned, plus the Patriots have to give up a first-round draft pick in the 2016 NFL draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft. But really, the headline, of course, is the Brady suspension without pay. The golden boy with four Super Bowl Championships now has another four associated with his legacy - a four-game suspension that won't destroy that legacy, but it smudges it probably. In a letter to Brady, 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.
Now those actions detailed in the report included Brady's alleged 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: We mentioned plans to appeal. What more have you heard from Tom Brady?
GOLDMAN: We haven't heard from him. We've heard from his agent, Don Yee. He released a statement today. Here's part of what he wrote. (Reading) The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis. In my opinion, this outcome was predetermined. There was no fairness in the Wells investigation whatsoever. There's no evidence that Tom directed footballs be set at pressures below the allowable limits.
Yee goes on to say, (reading) we will appeal, and if the hearing officer is completely independent and neutral, I am very confident the Wells report will be exposed as an incredibly frail exercise in fact-finding and logic. So very outspoken, Don Yee.
CORNISH: And back to those punishments - a million-dollar fine doesn't usually get a second glance - right? - when we're talking about the NFL. There's so much money involved.
CORNISH: But does this fine have a message?
GOLDMAN: It's a strong message, yeah. The Pats 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 it.
CORNISH: Tom, looking ahead to September when the Patriots open the 2015 NFL season, they're actually going to do it with a different quarterback. What's going on?
GOLDMAN: That's right. Jimmy Garoppolo, a second-stringer, as it stands now, will be the starting quarterback on a Thursday night when the season opens. It's usually a big celebratory moment for the defending champions 'cause the whole nation's paying attention 'cause it is a Thursday night - the only pro football game going on then. But it won't be a celebration for the Patriots, and neither will it be for the NFL for a second year in a row. Remember last season, the videotape of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee came out on the Monday of the regular season's opening weekend - so a cloudy start again for this country's most popular sport.
CORNISH: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.