Tom Brady smiled and laughed. He worked the raucous crowd that came to hear him speak.
But when Brady was asked to comment on the “Deflategate” scandal and the recently released report that said it was likely he knew New England Patriots staffers were altering footballs outside NFL rules, the four-time Super Bowl winner dodged.
“I don’t have really any reaction,” he told sports reporter Jim Gray, who asked Brady a few questions before the Patriots’ star quarterback spoke at Salem State University in Massachusetts.
“Our owner commented on it yesterday. It’s only been 30 hours so I haven’t had much time to digest it fully but when I do I’ll be sure to let you know how I feel about it,” he said to loud cheers.
He added he hopes he will be able to address the issue more fully soon.
“There’s still a (NFL disciplinary) process that’s going forth right now, and I’m involved in that process, whenever it happens it happens, and I’ll certainly want to be very comfortable in how I feel about the statements that I make,” he told Gray, who asked Brady a series of questions before the quarterback spoke to 4,000 people, many of whom chanted “M-V-P! M-V-P” before the program began.
Brady said the controversy has “absolutely not” detracted from the joy of winning the Super Bowl, and said he’s thankful for the support of his teammates and family.
“We’ll get through it,” he said.
The superstar quarterback’s agent, Don Yee, was direct when asked whether his client was involved in having footballs deflated after the balls were approved by officials before the AFC championship game in January.
When asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper if Brady had any knowledge of footballs being deflated, he said, “No.”
Cooper asked, “So you are saying he’s completely innocent in whatever happened to those balls?”
And Yee responded, “In my opinion, yes.” Investigators hired by the NFL came to a different conclusion.
The investigation, led by attorney Ted Wells, found that “it is more probable than not” that Brady was “at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities” of locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski. Jastremski has been with the team for 14 years, the past three as the staffer in charge of preparation of the game-day footballs.
The 243-page report also said that Brady, who answered questions from investigators over the course of one day, did not turn over personal information like texts and emails. Furthermore, the report doubted the quarterback’s claim that he didn’t know the name of McNally, the part-time Patriots employee who investigators think most likely improperly deflated footballs just before the team faced off in January’s AFC Championship game.
Yee told Cooper that Brady didn’t agree to hand over text messages because that would set a bad precedent for other players involved in disciplinary investigations. The agent said he and his client have not heard from league officials about where the NFL is in the process of determining if Brady and others should be suspended and/or fined.
In a written statement earlier Thursday, Yee characterized the Wells report as “a significant and terrible disappointment.”
He questioned the role of the Indianapolis Colts in the scandal. The Colts played the Patriots in the January AFC Championship game, and the Patriots won, 45-7, before going on to win the Super Bowl.
“What does it say about the league office’s protocols and ethics when it allows one team to tip it off to an issue prior to a championship game, and no league officials or game officials notified the Patriots of the same issue prior to the game?” Yee said. “This suggests it may be more probable than not that the league cooperated with the Colts in perpetrating a sting operation.”
Brady’s agent went on to challenge the integrity of the investigation, noting that “the league is a significant client of the investigators’ law firm.”
“This was not an independent investigation and the contents of the report bear that out — all one has to do is read closely and critically, as opposed to simply reading headlines,” he said. “The investigators’ assumptions and inferences are easily debunked or subject to multiple interpretations.”
Yee concludes, “This report contains significant and tragic flaws, and it is common knowledge in the legal industry that reports like this generally are written for the benefit of the purchaser.”
While he didn’t responded immediately to Yee’s claims, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did applaud the work of Wells’ team.
And when asked in late January by CNN’s Rachel Nichols about a possible conflict of interest, Goodell said that “Ted Wells’ integrity is impeccable” and claimed the NFL has “done an outstanding job of bringing outside consultants in.”
“These are professionals who bring an outside expertise, an outside perspective,” the commissioner said. “And their conclusions are drawn only by the evidence and only by the attempt to try to identify that truth.”