TIME Football

NFL Commissioner to Hear Tom Brady Suspension Appeal

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks to pass during the first half of the NFL football AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in Foxborough, Mass on Jan. 18, 2015
Matt Slocum—AP Tom Brady looks to pass during the first half of the NFL football AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in Foxborough, Mass., on Jan. 18, 2015

The NFL suspended the quarterback for four games on Monday

(FOXBOROUGH, Mass.) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday night he will personally hear the suspension appeal of Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, who challenged the league’s punishment for his role in using deflated footballs during the AFC championship game.

The NFL Players Association filed the expected appeal about an hour before a 5 p.m. deadline on Thursday, asking for a neutral arbitrator to hear the case. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed about six hours later that the commissioner had rejected the request.

“Commissioner Goodell will hear the appeal of Tom Brady’s suspension in accordance with the process agreed upon with the NFL Players Association in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement,” he said.

Union officials declined immediate comment. Patriots team officials and Brady’s agent, Donald Yee, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment from The Associated Press late Thursday night.

Goodell’s decision was first reported by Bleacher Report.

While CBA gives Goodell control of the arbitrator, the players union said in a news release that “given the NFL’s history of inconsistency and arbitrary decisions in disciplinary matters, it is only fair that a neutral arbitrator hear this appeal.”

If the league and its investigators are truly confident in its case, the union said, “they should be confident enough to present their case before someone who is truly independent.”

The union did not detail the basis for the appeal. But in a 20,000-word rebuttal posted online by the Patriots’ lawyers earlier Thursday, the team disputed the conclusions on matters of science, logic and law.

Attorney Daniel Goldberg’s response claims the league’s conclusions are “at best, incomplete, incorrect and lack context,” claiming as one example that the “deflator” nickname used by a ballboy and cited in the discipline was about weight loss, not footballs.

Goldberg represented the team and was present during all of interviews of team personnel. Patriots spokesman Stacey James confirmed that the site wellsreportcontext.com was genuine and “approved/supported by the team.”

The NFL suspended the quarterback for four games on Monday, also fining the defending Super Bowl champions $1 million and taking away two draft picks.

Brady’s appeal only deals with the suspension and must be heard within 10 days. The team has not said if it will appeal its penalties, which include a first-round draft pick next year and a fourth-rounder in 2017, before a May 21 deadline.

League-appointed investigator Ted Wells found that Brady was “at least generally aware” of plans by two team employees to prepare the balls to his liking, below the league-mandated minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.

But the team’s rebuttal presented its own science that would explain the loss of pressure in a more innocuous way.

“The most fundamental issue in this matter is: DOES SCIENCE EXPLAIN THE LOSS OF PSI IN THE PATRIOTS FOOTBALLS?” Goldberg wrote before concluding, also in all capital letters, that it does.

The rebuttal also alludes to other incidents of ball-tampering that were not dealt with as harshly. And it says increased communication between Brady and the ballboys after the scandal broke were just normal expressions of concern, rather than evidence of the quarterback’s guilt.

Here are some more of the claims and counter-claims in the Wells report and the Patriots’ rebuttal:

THE DEFLATOR

The NFL says: Texts in which locker room attendant Jim McNally refers to himself as “the deflator” are an indication that he was taking air out of footballs after they were inspected by the referees. His texts with equipment assistant John Jastremski also include a reference to a providing him with a needle.

The team says: McNally used the term “deflator” refer to his desire to lose weight, as in the text, “deflate and give somebody that jacket.” And the needle was necessary because McNally was sometimes responsible for getting an inflation needle to referees for pregame testing.

THE SCIENCE:

The NFL says: The footballs provided by the Patriots lost more air pressure between the pregame test and halftime than could be explained by non-nefarious reasons.

The team says: The league cherry-picked readings from two different gauges to create the biggest gap between pregame and halftime measurements. That overshadowed a difference in air pressure in some of the balls that could be explained by atmospheric conditions.


WHO IS “HE”?

The NFL says: It’s Brady. A text message from Jastremski to McNally says: “Talked to him last night. He actually brought you up and said you must have a lot of stress trying to get them done.”

The Patriots say: It is a leap of logic to conclude that the stress was related to football deflation. They refer, Goldberg wrote, to “Mr. Jastremski’s friend, as the investigators were told, and the conversation involved issues relating to Mr. McNally’s stress relating to reselling family tickets.”

COOPERATION

The NFL says: Brady obstructed the investigation by refusing to turn over his cellphone records. The team refused to make McNally available for a follow-up interview. Failure to cooperate in a league investigation is considered conduct detrimental to the league, and it opens the team and player up to severe penalties.

The team says: The league already had access to Brady’s texts and calls with McNally and Jastremski through their phones. Also, if Wells’ investigators failed to ask all the questions the first time, it’s their fault.

AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.

TIME Football

Tom Brady Appeals NFL Suspension

The Patriots have not decided whether to appeal their penalties

(FOXBOROUGH, Mass.) — Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady appealed the four-game suspension he was handed for his role in using deflated footballs during the AFC championship game, and the players union urged Commissioner Roger Goodell to appoint a neutral arbitrator to hear the case.

The expected appeal was filed by the NFL Players Association on Thursday about an hour before a 5 p.m. Eastern deadline.

The league’s collective bargaining agreement stipulates that it will be decided by Goodell or a person he designates. But the players union said in a news release that “given the NFL’s history of inconsistency and arbitrary decisions in disciplinary matters, it is only fair that a neutral arbitrator hear this appeal.”

The union did not detail the basis for the appeal. But in a 20,000-word rebuttal posted online by the Patriots’ lawyers earlier Thursday, the team disputed the conclusions on matters of science, logic and law.

Attorney Daniel Goldberg’s response claims the league’s conclusions are “at best, incomplete, incorrect and lack context,” claiming as one example that the “deflator” nickname used by a ballboy and cited in the discipline was about weight loss, not footballs.

Goldberg represented the team and was present during all of interviews of team personnel. Patriots spokesman Stacey James confirmed that the site wellsreportcontext.com was genuine and “approved/supported by the team.”

The NFL suspended the quarterback for four games on Monday, also fining the defending Super Bowl champions $1 million and taking away two draft picks.

Brady’s appeal only deals with the suspension and must be heard within 10 days. The team has not said if it will appeal its penalties, which include a first-round draft pick next year and a fourth-rounder in 2017, before a May 21 deadline.

League-appointed investigator Ted Wells found that Brady was “at least generally aware” of plans by two team employees to prepare the balls to his liking, below the league-mandated minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.

But the team’s rebuttal presented its own science that would explain the loss of pressure in a more innocuous way.

“The most fundamental issue in this matter is: DOES SCIENCE EXPLAIN THE LOSS OF PSI IN THE PATRIOTS FOOTBALLS?” Goldberg wrote before concluding, also in all capital letters, that it does.

The rebuttal also alludes to other incidents of ball-tampering that were not dealt with as harshly. And it says increased communication between Brady and the ballboys after the scandal broke were just normal expressions of concern, rather than evidence of the quarterback’s guilt.

Here are some more of the claims and counter-claims in the Wells report and the Patriots’ rebuttal:

___

THE DEFLATOR

The NFL says: Texts in which locker room attendant Jim McNally refers to himself as “the deflator” are an indication that he was taking air out of footballs after they were inspected by the referees. His texts with equipment assistant John Jastremski also include a reference to a providing him with a needle.

The team says: McNally used the term “deflator” refer to his desire to lose weight, as in the text, “deflate and give somebody that jacket.” And the needle was necessary because McNally was sometimes responsible for getting an inflation needle to referees for pregame testing.

___

THE SCIENCE:

The NFL says: The footballs provided by the Patriots lost more air pressure between the pregame test and halftime than could be explained by non-nefarious reasons.

The team says: The league cherry-picked readings from two different gauges to create the biggest gap between pregame and halftime measurements. That overshadowed a difference in air pressure in some of the balls that could be explained by atmospheric conditions.

___

WHO IS “HE”?

The NFL says: It’s Brady. A text message from Jastremski to McNally says: “Talked to him last night. He actually brought you up and said you must have a lot of stress trying to get them done.”

The Patriots say: It is a leap of logic to conclude that the stress was related to football deflation. They refer, Goldberg wrote, to “Mr. Jastremski’s friend, as the investigators were told, and the conversation involved issues relating to Mr. McNally’s stress relating to reselling family tickets.”

___

COOPERATION

The NFL says: Brady obstructed the investigation by refusing to turn over his cellphone records. The team refused to make McNally available for a follow-up interview. Failure to cooperate in a league investigation is considered conduct detrimental to the league, and it opens the team and player up to severe penalties.

The team says: The league already had access to Brady’s texts and calls with McNally and Jastremski through their phones. Also, if Wells’ investigators failed to ask all the questions the first time, it’s their fault.

___

AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.

TIME Football

Patriots Lawyer Says ‘Deflator’ Text Message Referred to Weight Loss

In a May 7, 2015 file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gestures during an event at Salem State University in Salem, Mass.
Charles Krupa—AP In a May 7, 2015 file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gestures during an event at Salem State University in Salem, Mass.

It was about weight loss, not footballs

(FOXBOROUGH, Mass.)—A Patriots lawyer says the “deflator” nickname used by a ballboy and cited in the NFL’s decision to suspend quarterback Tom Brady was about weight loss, not footballs.

Team attorney Daniel Goldberg said Thursday the two Patriots employees used the term jokingly to refer to locker room attendant Jim McNally, who was trying to lose weight.

In a 20,000-word rebuttal to the league’s findings, Goldberg disputes the investigator hired by the NFL on matters of science, logic and law.

Goldberg represented the team and was present during all of interviews of team personnel. Patriots spokesman Stacey James confirmed that the site wellsreportcontext.com was genuine and “approved/supported by the team.”

The rebuttal was published ahead of a deadline for Brady to appeal a four-game suspension. The team was also fined $1 million and had two draft picks taken away.

TIME Video Games

And The Madden NFL 16 Cover Goes to … Odell Beckham Jr.

He says he isn't worried about the 'Madden Curse'

Thanks to a sensational rookie campaign and pulling off the catch of the year, Odell Beckham Jr., the speedy wide receiver for the New York Giants, will be gracing the cover of EA Sports’ “Madden NFL 16” video game, EA announced via Twitter.

The 2014 Rookie of the Year won the fan vote by beating out New England Patriot’s tight end Rob Gronkowski, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Pittsburg Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.

Beckham is the youngest player and first New York Giant to be featured as a Madden cover athlete and he expressed his gratitude on Twitter.

Fans of the New York Giants and Beckham may be worried about the infamous “Madden Curse,” which is the theory that after a player lands on the video game’s cover he has a rough year ahead. It certainly held true for Michael Vick (who broke his leg a day after the game’s release) and Brett Favre (he left the Green Bay Packers that year). However, fellow wide receiver Calvin Johnson had a career year afterwards and last year’s cover star (the Seattle Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom”) made the Super Bowl. Plus, Beckham himself is clearly not a believer in the curse.

Despite missing four games due to injury, Beckham had 1,305 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns during the 2014-15 season.

TIME olympics

U.S. Relay Team Stripped of Olympic Medal in Tyson Gay Doping Case

In this Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 file photo, USA's Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey celebrate after receiving their silver medals for the men's 4x100-meter during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London.
Matt Slocum—AP In this Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 file photo, USA's Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey celebrate after receiving their silver medals for the men's 4x100-meter during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London.

Entire men's sprint relay team stripped of silver medal from London 2012

(LONDON) — The entire U.S. men’s sprint relay team was stripped of its silver medal from the 2012 London Olympics on Wednesday as a result of Tyson Gay’s doping case.

The International Olympic Committee notified the U.S. Olympic Committee by letter that the 4×100 relay team has been disqualified and all the medals withdrawn. The letter asks the USOC to collect the medals and return them to the IOC.

“As expected, following USADA’s decision in the Tyson Gay case, the IOC today confirmed that the U.S. team has been disqualified from the 4×100-meter race that was part of the athletics competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games,” USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement.

“We will begin efforts to have the medals returned, and support all measures to protect clean athletes.”

The USOC statement came after The Associated Press broke the news of the disqualification.

Gay returned his own medal last year after accepting a one-year doping suspension and the loss of results going back to July 2012, but the status of the U.S. second-place finish in London and the medals of Gay’s relay teammates had remained in limbo until now.

Under international rules, an entire team can be disqualified and stripped of medals because of doping by one member.

Gay was a member of the American team that finished second in London behind a Jamaican team anchored by Usain Bolt. The Americans set a national record in the final with a time of 37.04 seconds.

The other U.S. team members losing medals are Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin, Ryan Bailey, Jeffery Demps and Darvis Patton. Kimmons, Gatlin and Bailey ran in the final with Gay.

Gatlin, who is in Qatar for the opening Diamond League meet of the season on Friday, told the AP he was not aware of the decision and had no comment. Gatlin, who won the 100-meter gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games, served a four-year doping ban from 2006.

Gay tested positive for steroids at the U.S. championships in 2013. He received a reduced suspension — rather than a two-year ban — because he cooperated with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation that led to an eight-year ban for his former coach, Jon Drummond.

Gay’s results were annulled going back to July 15, 2012, the date when he first used a product containing a banned substance.

If the London medals are reallocated, the silver will go to Trinidad and Tobago, which finished third in 38.12 seconds. The bronze would go to the French team which placed fourth in 38.16 seconds.

The rules of track and field’s world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, mandated that the entire U.S. team be disqualified, but the final decision was up to the IOC.

Drummond was the coach of the U.S. relay team in London and placed Gay on the team. According to the USADA decision in Drummond’s case, the athlete took a banned substance in July 2012 with the coach’s knowledge.

The IOC has previously stripped U.S. relay teams of medals retroactively for doping, including three teams from the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The U.S. was stripped of gold in the women’s 4×400 and bronze in the 4×100 following Marion Jones’ admission of doping. Jones returned her medals, but her teammates appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to keep theirs and won their case in 2010. The court said IAAF rules at the time did not allow entire teams to be disqualified because of doping by one athlete.

The IOC also stripped the U.S. men’s 4×400 relay of their Sydney gold after a doping admission by Antonio Pettigrew.

In 2012, American runner Crystal Cox was stripped of her gold medal from the 4×400 relay at the 2004 Athens Olympics after admitting to doping. The IOC did not disqualify the rest of the team because it was unclear which rules were in effect at the time.

___

AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray in Doha, Qatar, contributed to this report.

TIME Auto Racing

Watch: Race Car Driver Survives Terrifying Accident

"I’m counting on my guys, my boys, to put the car back together and go back to work"

A top race car driver survived a terrifying accident Wednesday, flipping the vehicle during a practice run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but somehow emerging from the wreck unharmed.

Footage posted to the speedway’s official Facebook page shows three-time Indianapolis 500 champ Helio Castroneves losing control of the wheel as his car spins off of a bend in the track, careens off of a wall, flips, bounces upside-down against the pavement and lands back on its wheels. Castroneves walked away shaken, but uninjured.

“The accident was most impressive, but the good news is I am feeling very good,” Castroneves said in a statement. “I’m counting on my guys, my boys, to put the car back together and go back to work.”

Castroneves ran the fastest lap in the second day of practice on Tuesday, outpacing his rivals at 227.5 mph.

TIME Baseball

Jorge Posada Says A-Rod Shouldn’t Be in the Hall of Fame

Former New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, left, in camp as a guest instructor, sits with New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi before a spring training baseball game against the Miami Marlins in Tampa
Kathy Willens—AP Former New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, left, in camp as a guest instructor, sits with New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi before a spring training baseball game against the Miami Marlins in Tampa, on March 15, 2013.

"I don't think it's fair. I really don't"

Former New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said Wednesday that his longtime teammate Alex Rodriguez and others who are known users of performance enhancing drugs shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.

“I don’t think it’s fair. I really don’t. I think the guys that need to be in the Hall of Fame need to be a player that played with no controversy,” Posada told CBS This Morning. He told the show that he has not told Rodriguez his position, and that he thinks the current Yankees star would be surprised to hear it.

Posada also said he thinks the incident may have harmed his own career. “The only thing that I can think is 2003. You know, I was close to the MVP. Didn’t happen. Alex won the MVP and, you know, I think second, either Carlos Delgado or David Ortiz, I don’t remember. But you know, I was almost there,” he said. “You know what could have happened if, you know it’s tough. It’s really tough.”

Posada was also interviewed about his new book, The Journey Home: My Life in Pinstripes.

[CBS News]

Read next: Yankees Slugger A-Rod Apologizes for Misconduct

TIME Athletes

Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers Scored on Celebrity Jeopardy!

The quarterback won $50,000 for his selected charity

An astronaut, an entrepreneur-TV personality and a football player walking into a room sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it happened on Tuesday’s Celebrity Jeopardy!—and the athlete came out on top.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers bested Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank and Mark Kelly on the trivia game show with a final score of $8,399, which means $50,000 will go to the charity of his choice, Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, Yahoo Sports reports. (Kelly and O’Leary won $10,000 for their causes.)

Rodgers’ victory wasn’t without a few missteps: he missed questions involving his college (the University of California, Berkeley) and Harley-Davidson (one of the most well-known companies in the state he now plays for). But without his participation, we wouldn’t have this Vine of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek doing his finest Rodgers imitation.

[Yahoo Sports]

TIME Football

Deflategate: Get to Know Jimmy Garoppolo, Tom Brady’s Substitute

Divisional Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots
Jim Rogash—Getty Images Jimmy Garoppolo of the New England Patriots warms up before a game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., on Jan. 10, 2015

With the suspension of NFL superstar Tom Brady for four games, the top quarterback in the league will cede the spotlight to his untested backup — 23-year-old Jimmy Garoppolo.

Who is this Garoppolo fellow? Here are some of the basics:

He was better than Romo

Garoppolo, a native of the Chicago suburbs, played college ball at Eastern Illinois University, alma mater of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Garoppolo broke several passing records set by Romo. He won the small-college version of the Heisman in his senior year, when he passed for more than 5,000 yards and 53 touchdowns in 14 games …

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Football

NFL Investigator Says He Found Direct Evidence Against Tom Brady

The evidence suggests that Brady knew about planned deflation of footballs

(NEW YORK) — The lawyer who investigated the New England Patriots insisted Tuesday that he found direct, not just circumstantial, evidence to show quarterback Tom Brady knew team employees were deflating footballs.

Miffed by criticism from Brady’s agent, Ted Wells decided to take the unusual step of holding a conference call with reporters, a day after the NFL suspended the Super Bowl MVP for the season’s first four games based on the report.

Wells said his findings would have been strong enough to convince a jury under the “preponderance of evidence” standard, which is used in many civil cases.

Wells released his report last Wednesday, asserting it was “more probable than not” that Brady “was at least generally aware” of plans by two team employees to prepare the balls to his liking, below the league-mandated minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.

His voice frequently rising Tuesday, Wells testily rebutted assertions from Don Yee, Brady’s agent, questioning Wells’ independence because his firm does other business with the NFL.

“What drove the decision in this report is one thing: It was the evidence,” Wells said. “I could not ethically ignore the import and relevancy of those text messages and the other evidence.”

Wells specifically mentioned two series of text exchanges between officials’ locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski. In one, McNally referred to himself as “the Deflator” and joked about going to ESPN. In another, Jastremski mentioned speaking to Brady the previous night, saying the quarterback knew McNally was stressed out by needing to deflate the balls.

“That is not circumstantial evidence,” Wells said. “That is two of the participants in a scheme discussing what has taken place.”

On Thursday, Yee had called Wells’ report “a significant and terrible disappointment,” suggesting that it “reached a conclusion first, and then determined so-called facts later.”

Along with denying any bias, Wells derided the idea that the NFL wanted the investigation to implicate a quarterback he described as “one of the most popular, iconic players in the league.”

“That does not make sense,” Wells said. “It’s a ridiculous allegation.”

Wells has conducted several other high-profile sports investigations in recent years, including the NFL report on the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal. To Yee’s assertion that he omitted key statements from Brady, Wells challenged the agent to release his full transcript of the interview.

“Nothing, I guarantee you, in his notes would make any difference in my decision,” he said.

He also disputed Yee’s characterization of the investigation as a “sting,” noting that NFL officials initially didn’t take the Colts’ complaints seriously during January’s AFC Championship game.

The Patriots wound up routing Indianapolis 45-7 that day, then went on to beat the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl 28-24 for Brady’s fourth title. In the quarterback’s only public comments since the report’s release, he said that the scandal hasn’t taken away from the team’s accomplishments.

Brady plans to appeal his four-game suspension. The Patriots were penalized $1 million — matching the largest fine in league history — and docked two draft picks. Owner Bob Kraft has declared his “unconditional support” for his two-time MVP quarterback.

Wells said the Patriots were cooperative, with two major exceptions: declining a request for a second interview with McNally, and Brady’s refusal to turn over phone records. Wells said he had told Brady and Yee he did not need to see his phone and would have accepted a list of communications.

Wells, who said he bills by the hour, wouldn’t estimate how much his investigation cost the NFL but said “no question it’s in the millions of dollars.”

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